How to Pray When You’re Tired

Even when you’re worn out and used up, there are ways to approach God in prayer.

Posted in , Mar 24, 2020

How to pray tired

These days, with disrupted routines, disturbing news, and daily uncertainty, we may feel the need to pray, perhaps now more than ever. Unfortunately, it’s easy to feel so exhausted by the onslaught of emotions that it seems harder to pray, also perhaps now more than ever. But it can be done, even when you’re feeling completely spent.

First, we can at least know that we’re not alone. Remember the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? He told them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38, NIV) and asked them to “keep watch” in prayer while He prayed too. But “their eyes were heavy” (v. 43). They couldn’t stay awake. Praying-when-tired clearly wasn’t in their skill set.

We can learn from their experience, nonetheless. We can pray even when we’re worn out and used up. Here are a few ways to pray when you’re tired:

As I said, I’ve fallen asleep when praying—but never while standing. So, if you’re tired but still want or need to pray, stand. Like Abraham, who “remained standing before the Lord” (Genesis 18:22, NIV). Like Moses, who stood with his staff in his hands until God’s people defeated the Amalekites at Rephidim (see Exodus 17). Like the humble tax collector, who stood in the temple and beat his breast and “went home justified before God” (Luke 18:14, NIV).


Maybe one of the reasons God’s people are so often told in Scripture to “sing to the Lord” (Psalm 96:1, NIV) is that singing our prayers to Him not only engages heart and mind but also awakens them (or keeps them awake). In fact, when we sing, we breathe deeply and thus invigorate body and brain with oxygen, endorphins and other good stuff. “How good it is to sing praises to our God” (Psalm 147:1, NIV)—right?

I’ve written before about the blessing I find in praying Compline prayers, the nightly liturgy of “pre-bedtime prayers.” That practice has taught me to surrender my weariness and sleepiness to God. To let Him wrap His loving, everlasting arms around me, as I leave myself, my loved ones, and the world in His hands and surrender to sleep. “He grants sleep to those He loves,” the Bible says (Psalm 127:2, NIV), so it’s okay to accept His gift and lie down in His embrace.

When you’re “too tired to pray,” let standing or singing or surrender be your prayer. God will be there for you no less when you sleep than when you’re awake.

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