How do you pray when you’ve lost hope? Sometimes it’s hard to keep praying. I know. A few years ago I was disenchanted with prayer. My heart was broken and weary. I was angry and confused.
My best friend, my only sister, lost a battle to cancer despite trillions of prayers and faith that could move mountains. “Why do we pray if it doesn’t make a difference?!” I yelled to the sky. (Just keeping it real.) It’s okay to be upset with God and ask questions. Didn’t Mary of Bethany throw herself down at Jesus’s feet and ask why He didn’t heal her bother?
That was me.
I had to ask, “Why do we keep on praying when we see no answers?”
The answer I found to my rant after months of anguish and wrestling was very simple. We pray because Jesus told us to pray.
It’s that profound my friends. We pray because we are told to pray. Paul told the church to “pray without ceasing.” Jesus instructed his followers to go into their prayer room and petition in secret. He promised God would reward them.
The Perks and Perplexities of Prayer
I could tell you that prayer is our opportunity to bring heaven to earth—it’s an opportunity to partner with God. We’ve also been taught that prayer changes us in the process and draws us closer to the Life-Giver. Both of these statements ring true. Yet, for every perk of prayer, there are perplexities.
- Not everyone is healed:
You know prayer heals people on this side of heaven and sometimes it doesn’t. (But you know this all too well.)
- Faith isn’t the magic key.
Scripture tells us that faith is essential for answered prayers. The people Jesus healed were often healed because of their great faith.
But sometimes the answer does not come despite great faith. Sometimes we have all the faith in the world but other factors, like God’s will or the will of the person for whom we are praying, alter the answer. The dichotomy of the sovereignty of God and free-will betrays my comprehension.
- Suffering plays a role in our faith.
I’ve begun to notice that for each healed person in the Bible you can find a scripture about persevering through suffering.
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray” (1 Peter 4:7 NIV).
The Greek words under the English translation “clear minded and self-controlled” mean “sane and sober”. So we need to be sane (I’m not sure how we can control that) and not drunk (I do know how we control that). But we need to be that way so we can pray.
Every Prayer Matters
Peter wrote this because, whether we see the evidence of our prayers working on this side of heaven or not, our prayers have got to be making a difference somewhere. Our prayers matter.
If they didn’t, I don’t think Peter would’ve written this. Nor would John have written about this vision in Revelation:
“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (Revelation 5:8 NIV).
Golden bowls collect every. single. prayer. Because of your prayers, heaven smells sweeter.
Lost Hope Causes Prayer Fatigue
But I know when you’ve petitioned for twenty years for healing, or for a loved one to know Jesus, or your marriage to improve, or ______________________ (you fill in the blank), it becomes harder to pray with hope.
Doubt seeps in.
We have doubt of God’s goodness.
We doubt God’s love.
I really think this is what Peter referred to when he wrote the instruction to be clear minded and self-controlled. Our prayers get muddled when we begin wondering why they aren’t being answered. We begin to doubt the Bible, ourselves, and/or God.
When this happens we need to strengthen our faith, not in receiving answers to prayer, but faith in the goodness, faithfulness and wisdom of God. There are two reasons for this.
- Satan wants us to be mad at God. He works to place a wedge between God and his children. He is delighted when we become embittered in prayer.
I wrote this a few years ago in a post on spiritual warfare:
I am learning to take this new perspective when I feel under attack or life seems to be unraveling and pray: “Okay, Daddy-God, what are you showing me? You be glorified in this hardship, this pain, this wound, this grief, this fear.” . . . Our trusting God’s goodness and faithfulness is Satan’s kryptonite.
- We are in the middle of the now and the not yet.
Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, but we are waiting for everything to be placed at his feet. Therefore, we must pray. Before you begin, don’t forget to ask God how to pray, especially if prayer fatigue is setting in, and discouragement paralyzes your petitions.
Be released to pray whether you see your prayers answered in our reality or not, and turn your mind to Scripture–the sword of the Spirit. We can’t trust our feelings, but we can trust God.
7 Scriptures to Help You Pray When You’ve Lost Hope
1 Corinthians 15:58: Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Hebrews 10: 23: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
2 Thessalonians 3:5: May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
Galatians 6:9: Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
James 1:12: Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Hebrews 10: 35-36: So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.
Romans 5: 3-5: Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Are you suffering in prayer? Have you lost your hope to pray? Romans gives us an answer to such waiting. If you are struggling, stop petitioning the same prayer. Rather than petitions, worship and ask for God to fill you with His love. I pray you can feel it. He is our true hope.
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