On the Journey
By Rick Hamlin

7 Ways to Pray When You Can't Pray

How to pray when you can’t pray? A couple of us editors were discussing this problem when someone brazenly said, “You know, I think if you’re trying to pray it is praying. To try to pray is to pray. You can’t fail.”

Perhaps prayer is the only human endeavor where trying to do it is doing it. I mean, if God is God, he’s got to hear us no matter what, even if we don’t feel like we’re praying when we are. We don’t feel all peaceful and in touch with something beyond ourselves.

I know what that’s like. You bow your head, close your eyes, you mutter something and your mind is flying in a thousand directions. You’re worried about your health, your family, your work, your lack of work. You’re thinking about the grocery list and the checkbook and the laundry when you want to be praying. Can’t pray? Here are some things I do. Try 'em.

  1. Go ahead and say it to God anyway. Say whatever is on your mind. Say the worst. It can’t be any worse than anything he’s heard. He’s God, after all.
  2. Breathe. Take some deep breaths. A friend of mind uses the phrase “God is love” as he breathes. In and out. “God is love.”
  3. Too disgruntled to pray? Start thinking of what you’re grateful for. Make a mental list. Write it down if you want. As Joel Osteen writes in his latest book, “Seeds of discouragement can’t take root in a grateful heart.”
  4. Pray for someone else. Pray for lots of other people. Log onto OurPrayer.org and read through some prayer requests. Praying for others always helps focus me. My problems always fall into perspective.
  5. Say the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm. I once met a businesswoman who would say the Lord’s Prayer to herself whenever she became angry. It was one surefire way to calm herself down.
  6. Sing. Sing to yourself. It could be a hymn, a praise song, but it could also be some rock number that always makes you feel up and inspired. Music always works on the spirit. The psalms, after all, were meant to be sung.
  7. Go for a walk. Go for a run. Look at a tree. Look at a flower. Climb a mountain. Sit in a chair absolutely silent.

Remember, to try to pray is to pray. You can’t do it wrong. There are probably as many different ways of praying as there are people on this earth. Each one of us has our way of communicating. Each one works.

Rick Hamlin is the executive editor of Guideposts magazine and the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without. To learn more about the book and explore your own prayer journey, watch this video.