Do you ever suffer from “prayer’s block”– those times when you bow down, and your prayers seem stilted, or your mind keeps wandering, and you find yourself coming to God with…less. Not necessarily with nothing– you can always thank God for your daily bread, or worship the fact of his majesty or holiness or search your heart for confession or praise. But you’re left feeling like you really want to bring more…
Am I the only one who ever feels this? I don’t think so; and I don’t feel it often, but when I do, I just wish I had something like a prayer prompt to take the conversation to another level.
That’s when I find books extremely helpful. I recommend a personal prayer journal– one that has pages for each day, and lots of space to write requests and reminders as you pray. I’m on my third year through a journal, and it has names of people who are celebrating birthdays or anniversaries on that day– including sad anniversaries of losses or challenges. But even if you don’t have a journal, there are other great and creative ways to jump-start a great conversation with God. See the page on my ideas for a Prayer Journal, or search for other wonderful ideas online to get you started.
Have you ever prayed a page from the phone book? (or your personal address list? or another list?) It can feel awkward and impersonal to pray for people simply by name and without knowing anything about them, but it can also be instructive. How so? It reminds you that:
- You are one person in a larger community of people you may not even know. We live in a world that is more connected than ever before; yet we can be more isolated than ever before. Neighbors come and go, communities grow (or shrink) without our awareness, unless we make ourselves look around.
- Your problems are part of a larger reality. Sometimes, our prayer life becomes narrow as we focus on our own struggles and needs. Looking around doesn’t mean that our struggles are any less painful, important, or real; it does remind us, though, that we live in a big world– and that we have an even bigger God!
- You may be the only Jesus another person will ever know… your prayers for a stranger may have unexpected consequences for them, as well as for you.
Similarly, you can pray through an old yearbook, or your friends list on Facebook or LinkedIn, the members of your favorite band or the cast of your favorite movie or TV show, the members of your local government..the list goes on. Rummage through your closet or look at old photos– are you finding anything to be thankful for, or reminded of times when God or others blessed you? Pray the newspaper (or your news feed)–there’s plenty of fodder there!
There are days when my heart is just too full (or maybe too empty) to concentrate. And it’s not that God doesn’t know or understand such times. But in this pursuit, I want to bring my best, and if “prayer’s block” comes, I don’t want it to be an excuse for missing out on the best that God has for me.