By Sarah Morrison
Former Staff Writer for The Daily Grace Co.
Prayer is one of the most deceptively difficult tenants of our faith. In the same moment that we bow our heads in silent prayer, erroneous thoughts flood in and distract. Likewise, though the Lord’s posture is always readied to receive prayers, we frequently find ourselves out of time or effort at the end of the day. Prayer is always available but depends on us to partake in that availability in time and in diligence.
I say all of this because I’ve found myself soured on prayer. Something that should be so easy and accessible to me—something that changes me and allows me to place cares before God— has become something so wearying, so exhausting, so inconvenient. There’s ample reason why we fall into these ruts of prayerlessness—spiritual battles, busyness, deep wounds of life. None of them are good reasons though. And as I’ve dwelt on my own prayerlessness, I’ve come to realize the futility of these seasons.
I’ve found myself in a drought of prayer, namely because I’ve felt ignored. Chaotic life circumstances have led me into extreme weariness, and I’ve painfully come to kneel before God’s throne only to be met with (what I’ve only perceived as) silence. It isn’t that I think God doesn’t hear me. Instead, it’s that it feels that He isn’t concerned with my prayers. Perhaps He doesn’t see my circumstances as dire. Maybe there are more important requests He’s handling. Or maybe, He just doesn’t care. When my heart is overwhelmed with grief and terror, I can’t bring myself to pray because it seems as though He’ll never answer.
Of course, I know these things to be untrue, violations of Scripture. But that doesn’t stop them from feeling true. And when I can barely lift my head from my pillow in the morning, I can even more seldom seem to bow my head in prayer, particularly when it seems as though it would be a lost cause. I couldn’t seem to pray because I just couldn’t bear to continue not seeing fruit. The effort of pleading to God through salty, bitter tears couldn’t reconcile with the silence I received. But in my delusion and depression and desperation, I remembered the incredibly important verse, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings” (Romans 8:26, CSB).
Even if God was ignoring me, even if He became unconcerned with my circumstances, even if I couldn’t muster any strength to kneel before His throne—the Holy Spirit still advocates for me. What great solace there is in this truth!
Though my mind might consciously know that the Father hears, sees, and knows me, it isn’t infrequent that I feel as though I’m invisible. I know I can’t be alone in this. We are creatures living in a world where if our own flesh doesn’t seek to destroy us, the devil surely will. It is a lie that God shuts His ears to His children. But in those moments, however brief or long, if it seems He’s paying no mind, vigorously remind yourself that God is incapable of shutting His ears to His people’s cries. It’s impossible. He hears our prayers.
When we cannot pray as we ought to, when the words don’t form on the tips of our tongues, when our tears muffle our sentences—the Holy Spirit gathers our formless prayers and places them before the Father’s throne on our behalf, pleading through the power of Christ’s blood in groans too deep for our ears to hear. With the indwelt Holy Spirit, we have an advocate who will forever speak when we don’t have the words.
Despite my ineptitude to pray right now, I need only to trust the Holy Spirit in humility and submission. Instead of turning away from prayer altogether, I cry out to God. He hears. By the work of the Spirit, He understands even though I don’t. And the Spirit intercedes on my behalf, petitioning my concerns to the Father. When the fog of life is far too thick and weighs too heavily, distorting my sight, the Holy Spirit is still at work, counseling and guiding me. We can rest abundantly in our prayer life because we can rest assured that God hears.