7 Easy Prayers for When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Are you swamped, stressed and strung out? Remember, He’s only a prayer away. 

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A teenage girl praying with the Bible open.

If you’re anything like me, life catches you by surprise. One moment, you feel as if everything is going fine, the next you’re overwhelmed at every turn. When those times come, as they do for us all, there is one can’t-fail solution. It’s easy, doesn’t cost a penny, and it only requires that we turn our hearts toward God.           

Prayer. I have discovered many variations that I use in different situations. I hope my examples will help you as well.

A Centering Prayer. Once, when life had me scurrying on every level, I received a card from my friend Debbie. Her mother had just passed away and this prayer had fallen from her well-worn Bible. The prayer permeated my being, helping me place my circumstances in God’s all-capable hands. Still today, I feel healing in my body, mind, and spirit whenever I pray it:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Look upon me with your eyes of mercy. Lay Your healing hand upon me, letting Your life-giving power invade every cell of my body to the depths of my soul; cleansing, purifying, and restoring me to strength for work in Your kingdom.

Praying the Scriptures. I love to recite the words of a treasured Bible verse, inserting myself in the passage of promise. Two of my favorites paraphrases are:

Psalm 46:1: Lord, you are my refuge and strength, always ready to help me in times of trouble.

I Peter 5:7: I cast all of my anxieties on you, Lord, for you care for me.

The Stitchery Prayer: I collect antique samplers with special phrases that I keep around the house. Perhaps there’s even a plaque or picture in your home that contains words you hold dear. Why not change them into a personal prayer the next time you feel overwhelmed? One of my favorite age-old verses from my collection is this one:

“Dear Lord, you’re just in all your ways

And holy are your works each one

You’re near to all that on you call

I call in truth on you alone.”

Praying a Favorite Quote. A.W. Tozer was an American Christian pastor, author, and spiritual mentor, whom many felt was a modern-day prophet. When it comes to insights, I’ve found there’s nothing like recounting some of his words—or other poetry of the past—when I’m feeling stressed out, such as: “Sometimes when we get overwhelmed, we forget how big God is.” I reshape his time-tested wisdom into a prayer and remind myself that God’s grace is always sufficient for me, that His power is made perfect in my weakness. It helps me to stop working so hard in my own strength and rely on God and his eternal word. I simply pray: “When circumstances overwhelm and seem too much to bear, I depend on You, Lord, and trust Your precious care.”

The Breath Prayer: This is the simplest petition of all and one I used during my darkest time, when I was in withdrawal from medically-prescribed opioid pain medication. My body felt like I suffered from the worst imaginable flu, my legs moved involuntarily and my mind replayed every mistake I had made in my entire life. It was absolute torment. All I could do was breathe in “Je” and exhale “sus.” Jesus. The very Giver of breath. Over and over again. My prayers for restoration of health, and relief from pain that had plagued me for five decade, were answered in a miraculous way. Later, when I marveled that I hadn’t uttered a lofty prayer at all, I learned that the idea of “The Breath Prayer” actually dates back to ancient Christianity. Throughout time, people have spoken prayers that could be communicated in a single breath. “Lord, have mercy.” “Touch me, Lord.” “Help me cope.” These are sacred expressions linked to the rhythm of breathing, and are a way to pray without ceasing, as the Bible admonishes, whenever we feel overwhelmed.

Pray a Song. Classic hymns and old gospel tunes are great ones, but you’re sure to have your personal favorites too. I love “In the Valley He Restoreth my Soul” and “Sheltered in the Arms of God,” both by Dottie Rambo and “It is Well with My Soul,” penned way back in 1873 by Horatio Spafford, during a time of great personal tragedy. Sometimes, I sing these song-prayers at my piano, and take a trip back in time to my childhood church. That journey in itself is restorative.

The In-Basket Prayer: Once, while I was tossing and turning and sleep would not reach me, I found myself thinking of the overflowing in-basket on my desk. That’s what my life has become, I grumbled. A never-ending in-basket. Right then and there, God spoke to me, “Relabel that in-basket, Roberta. Put My name on it.” I did just that. I took my every burden to my Lord and left them there. It changed me from being overwhelmed to over-grateful, the most wonderful place to be!

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