When It’s Hard to Pray



Four-part series: Pursuing an Effective Personal Prayer Life. Our foundational goal here at Sweet Selah Ministries is to encourage daily quiet times with God. We are all about the sweetness that comes when we selah (stop) and simply choose to be with God for a short while—or a long while. Our time alone with Him fuels us for the rest of the day. We meet God through the pages of His living Word, the Bible. We read and meditate and write to Him about what He says to us in the pages of the Book of books. And then we pray. In this series on pursuing an effective personal prayer life, we are going to look at three different types of prayer and help you incorporate all three into your personal prayer life: God-focused prayer (look up), self-focused prayer (look within), and other-focused prayer (look around). The fourth lesson looks at those times when it seems impossible to pray. We hope this revolutionizes your prayer life and makes you eager to meet with Him in prayer each day.

Today, we look at those times when it’s hard to pray.

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying,
“My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.
Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
—Matthew 26:39 NLT

Sometimes it is hard to pray. I can remember times of such great weariness that even forming coherent thoughts—let alone prayers—was totally beyond my ability. Other times, I’ve been so devastated by a crisis that I’ve felt too numb to pray. This last Musing in our four-part series is all about those times. The “too hard to pray” times when you actually need to pray more than ever.

For times like these, I offer you three simple prayers that I have found to suffice—and help me. I learned them in a novel by Elizabeth Goudge called The Scent of Water, and I have prayed them with great relief time and time again. I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to me over the years when I am in a desperate place. Here they are:

Lord, Have Mercy. Thee I Adore. Into Thy Hands.

Lord, Have Mercy. For this prayer, we have Jesus Himself as our example. Jesus met with God in the Garden of Gethsemane and pleaded for another way. His heart and soul cried out against the “cup of suffering” ahead of Him that awful night in the garden. Not only was He going to experience the excruciating and inhumane pain of crucifixion, He was also going to experience the weight of our sin on Him. He was the sacrificial Lamb, taking on Himself all our sins and receiving the just punishment for them in His body. He was going to be separated from God the Father—who was literally a part of Him as Trinity. I don’t think we can quite fathom the depths of that kind of agony. It was so raw that He sweat blood as He prayed. Jesus was facing a crisis, and He went to God with His agony of soul.

When we are faced with hardship, whether it be an unwanted diagnosis, the sudden death of a loved one or of a marriage or relationship, a destructive fire or hurricane … whatever the cause … we ought also to run to God in our own agony of soul. But what should we say when the prayer just will not come? I suggest these three simple words: “Lord, have mercy.” This says it all in a time of tragedy. It reminds us of the One who is in charge—and the one who is in need of mercy, doesn’t it? It looks to the only One who can help us in body, mind, and soul. It’s direct and simple and places our need at His feet. It’s a great place to start.

Thee I Adore. King David is a shining example of dealing with a crisis. Over and over in the psalms, we read David’s anguish, and then we read his praise. When David finds himself in a desperate place crying out for help in God’s Presence, it’s almost as if simply drawing near to God in prayer reminds him just how awesome God is! In Psalm 63, we read David’s prayer while hiding in the wilderness. Hear his praise in this time of distress: “Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings” (vs. 7 NLT). Right in the middle of trouble, David remembered who would help him and under whose wings he could take refuge.

When we are in crisis, just whispering “Thee I adore” helps. That declaration of our love for Him seals a truth in our minds right in the midst of disaster. No matter what, Lord, I love You. I adore You. Come what may. I have found that this simple declaration brings such a strong joy to my heart as I obey the greatest commandment—to love Him!

Into Thy Hands. This is a prayer of surrender and trust. With his dying breath, Jesus prayed on the cross: And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, “into Your hands I commit My spirit.”’ Having said this, He breathed His last” (Luke 23:46 NKJV). Back in that time of agony in the garden, Jesus had already poured out His heart that He did not want this cup of suffering, but He surrendered to God’s will if this was the only way. This enabled Him to commit Himself to God as He died.

When we pray this prayer of surrender, we are acknowledging the God who knows the past and the present and the future far beyond what we can possibly comprehend. We are entrusting ourselves to His good care even in the midst of trouble. We declare ourselves no longer in control, no longer responsible to fix whatever mess we are in. Instead, we turn it over to God. I always discover that praying “into Thy hands” brings me great peace.

I’ve prayed my three simple prayers. I’m resting in Him and counting on Him to make sense of it all. I just want to be held by His big and competent hands.

Lord, Have Mercy. Thee I Adore. Into Thy Hands.

Three simple prayers to pray when it’s just too hard to pray any other prayer. May they help you, friend, when trouble finds you. We can expect help. In John 16, we were told by Jesus Himself, “… ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world’” (vs. 33b NIV). What an amazing verse to comfort us as we lean on Him! Expect trouble. And then expect His comfort and His peace as you run to Him in the middle of it all.

Dear Heavenly Father, how I thank You that You have overcome the world and therefore I can “take heart” even in the midst of trouble. Help me to always run to You in the hard times, Lord. No matter what pain or grief is swirling around me, I can pray these three simple prayers: “Lord, have mercy. Thee I adore. Into Thy hands.” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You are loved,



Sweet Selah Ministries

To inspire a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth of God’s Word that stillness and knowing
Him matter most—and will be reflected in more effective work and service

To offer biblical resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

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