7 Ways to Pray When You’re Not in the Mood

These tips may not only usher you into a focus on prayer but may revive your passion for it as well.

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Posted in , Apr 8, 2021

Struggling to pray

Don’t always feel like praying? Join the crowd. 

I don’t think I know anyone who is always in the mood. After all, prayer can be hard. It can be boring. And there often seems to be so many other things—easier things—to do. Like watching television or listening to a podcast. 

But God never said to “pray when you feel like it.” The Bible contains no commands to “pray when you’re in the mood.” Often prayer is most beneficial and most necessary when we feel the least like it. So the question isn’t should we pray when we don’t want to—it’s how. As a partial and imperfect answer, I suggest seven ways to try: 

1)  Pray Bible prayers.
Having a few prayers from the Bible committed to memory or marked in your Bible helps tremendously when you don’t feel like praying. I recommend especially Ephesians 3:14-21, Psalm 8, as well as any of these.

2)  Pray “breath prayers.”
Breath prayers are short and simple prayers that take no more than a single breath to pray, such as, “Lord, hear my heart” or “Have mercy.” Check out this post for 10 suggestions.

3)  Count your blessings.
There’s a precious song in the movie, White Christmas, in which Bing Crosby tells Rosemary Clooney that he chases away sleeplessness not by counting sheep but by “counting my blessings.” That’s also a great way to pray when you don’t feel like it. Start by counting your blessings. If it doesn’t send you off to a relaxed state, it’s at least likely to lift your spirits.  

4)  Pray the prayers of others.
I keep a few books near my “prayer chair” that I turn to often, especially when words fail me: John Baillie’s A Diary of Private PrayerThe Private Prayers of Lancelot Andrewes and Presence Prayers for Busy People. I’m often amazed at how a quick turn of the page leads me to the perfect prayer for my “don’t feel like praying” heart. 

5)  Pray one-word prayers.
As it is sometimes with a close friend or spouse, it can take only a word to express yourself to God. I’ll occasionally pray one word repeatedly or adopt a one-word prayer for the day as a way of keeping the lines of communication open between me and God, even when I don’t feel like praying.

6)  Pray a hymn or spiritual song.
My small stack of books by my prayer chair also includes a favorite hymnal, which I turn to often to find a hymn to sing—or speak—that expresses more than I can put into words. Other times, I pray in song without looking up the words, as “Great is Thy Faithfulness” or “My Jesus, I Love Thee” spring easily to mind.

7)  Call on the Holy Spirit to pray on your behalf.
The Bible says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27 NIV). I rely on that promise often, simply asking the Spirit to say what I can’t pray—or don’t feel like praying—at the time. 

In my experience, turning to one or more of these measures not only helps me to pray when I don’t feel like it, but sometimes even ushers me into a spirit of prayer that I hadn’t expected, reviving my passion and renewing my soul.

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