When You Can’t Pray for Yourself

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Was there ever a time you felt so hopeless you couldn’t even summon the will to ask God for help?

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Even the great leader Moses had days when he needed others to hold him up–sometimes literally. God never meant for us to carry all our burdens alone. And while He Himself is the ultimate Burden Bearer, He understands there are days we need someone we can see, hear, and touch on the physical plane. “The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:13-14, NLT).

If you’re too worn down to pray for your own needs, find someone who can pray for you:

  • A loyal Christian friend
  • A spouse or adult relative
  • An organized small group
  • A pastor or Christian counselor
  • A church class

And if you feel there’s no one: you have no home church, no friends close enough to confide in, no family members who understand? Look up Bible-believing churches and Christian ministries in your area–or, if you’re desperate for immediate help, prayer hotlines. They always have someone available to pray for and with anybody who asks. It’s not good to depend indefinitely on the kindness of strangers, though (and it can be used as an excuse to avoid confessing weaknesses to those who know you personally), so among your other requests, include “find the right church/small group/prayer partner to support me spiritually and hold me accountable for the long term.”

Besides what you need prayers for and whom you should ask, you may want to consider how others will pray for you:

  • The submit-written-requests approach. Usually done in the context of a social-media group, email list, or official prayer ministry. This can be useful with one immediate problem, or as a supplement to other prayer support. Unless you know the prayer partner(s) well and personally, however, relying exclusively on written communications tends to lack the comforting power of hearing someone pray for you in real time.
  • The over-the-phone approach. This is standard with prayer hotlines, of course; but it can also be useful when prayer partners live far apart or when “I need to talk now” emergencies are likely.
  • The face-to-face approach. This is the best kind for serious needs, as it provides the full three-dimensional experience of audible, visible, and physical contact. Count it a special blessing when you find someone who is able to regularly pray for you in person.
  • The laying-on-of-hands approach. A form of the face-to-face approach that involves (usually) several people gathering around one member and making physical contact at once, then offering verbal prayers (in turn or as led) for a specific need. Particularly helpful for anyone facing difficult challenges, this is a traditional part of commissioning missionaries for overseas work. When you feel especially discouraged, it can also be the best means of receiving assurance that others–including God–care about your hardships.

One more thing. However difficult and persistent your troubles, don’t expect to always be all take and no give. Ask for prayer; take some time off to rest; but do expect to regain your own prayer power eventually. Always remember the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT): “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” Much of that comfort comes in the form of prayer.

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Benefits of Being Alone With God

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In the past two posts, I’ve talked about options for arranging private time with God. This post is for those who wonder whether that time is really necessary. What if you’re a natural extrovert who feels most spiritually alive worshiping God in a group? What if you get claustrophobic at the sound of silence? Would it really benefit you to meet with God in private?

It would, because:

You Need Private Time With God to Maximize Your Spiritual Growth

Praying as a team certainly has power (Matthew 18:20), but if you never pray alone, you may start letting others do all the work while you fall into the role of passive listener–or you may slip into praying to impress your peers rather than communicate with God. He has one-on-one things to say to everyone about their spiritual walk and individual purpose, and it’s hard to give your full attention to any one person (or Person) when you’re only two of several people in a larger conversation.

You Need Private Time With God to Sharpen Your Spiritual Hearing

Sometimes, even the prayers of others make too much “noise” for us to hear what God is saying to us. And sadly, many people prefer it that way: if they aren’t surrounding themselves with the chatter of other humans, they’re listening to audio broadcasts or watching video or indulging in the “mental noise” of reading/playing games/working on projects. Perhaps all that input you’re devouring is fully Christian and fully Biblical; but it still may be hurting your spiritual hearing by making human-generated words more obvious than God’s private words for you.

You Need Private Time With God Because the Spiritual Giants Did

Moses spent time alone with God. Elijah spent time alone with God. Paul spent time alone with God. Jesus spent time alone with God. If we genuinely want to do great things for God and become more than another face in the congregation, it makes sense to follow the example of those who accomplished the most spiritually.

You Need Private Time With God So He Can Help You Take a Good Look at Yourself

Blaise Pascal said many people are very good at making themselves unhappy by refusing to practice the art of quiet solitude. While times in a group or with loved ones can certainly be happy times, many people use the social-butterfly life as a means of running from their own selves: they fear that if they ever were alone and quiet, they’d find themselves in front of a metaphorical mirror and seeing the reflected image of a failure, a nobody, or a complete nonentity. Or that they’d hear a whisper telling them to let go of something they’re desperately addicted to.

The truth is, getting alone with God and really listening to Him can mean He’ll show you things you didn’t want to see or changes you don’t want to make. But He doesn’t consider you a nobody or a failure. And whatever He might ask you to discard, He won’t leave you with a hole in your life: He wants that space open so He can fill it with much better things, things of eternal value, great opportunities only you can make the most of.

Time with other Christians is important. But to fulfill your true potential, you also need time alone with God.

  • For naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at www.PositiveContentFactory.com.

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See http://www.biblegateway.com/ for copyright details.
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