Back in college, I was on a worship team with my friend, Paul. He played the guitar, and I played piano. Every week, our small four-member team practiced so we’d be ready for the Thursday night Bible study in the student center.
We usually ended each rehearsal with prayer. One night, though, the bass player and the drummer had already left. So prayer time was just Paul and me.
At the time, Paul was the most spiritually mature guy my age that I knew—and that evening, he began to pray in a way I’d never heard before. He stretched himself across the floor—his nose so close to the ground that I was sure he was inhaling carpet fiber.
I sat on the piano bench with my head bowed, startled and still, wondering how I could pray with this guy. He was obviously more connected with God than I was. In my mind, my posture of crossed legs and hands wasn’t nearly as spiritual, and for that reason, it had to be less acceptable to God. If my position wasn’t sufficient, then there was no way that my words would’ve been.
I just listened to Paul pray. When he finished, I muttered something like, “Me too.” I was a ball of mixed emotions and conflicting thoughts.
Prayer had left me feeling confused and silent instead of secure and conversational, as God intended. Was it Paul’s fault? No way. It was all about my being more concerned with the method and mechanics of prayer than the motives and meaning.
The truth was, I was intimidated by prayer. I’d become so preoccupied with my own perceived deficiencies that I lost the joy of simply connecting with the God Who loves me. And, sister, though I’m mostly over all that at this point in my life, sometimes I can still get that twinge of self-awareness. Sometimes I can still feel a little intimidated by prayer—you know, like, what to say, how to say it?!
Maybe you can relate. Do you ever find that when you pray, you just don’t know what to say? If so, you and I aren’t the only ones.
On this episode of the 4:13 Podcast, we talk about how prayer is one of the most powerful, life-changing things you can do, and yet sometimes it feels like one of the hardest things to do. The good news is there are simple, powerful ways to reignite your conversation with God—and Sheila Walsh is with us to guide you through them.
Sheila’s a powerful communicator, Bible teacher, and bestselling author with more than 5 million books sold. She co-hosts the LIFE Today TV show and lives in Dallas, with her husband, Barry, and their son, Christian. She’s been on the 4:13 Podcast before, and we just had to have her back!
So, pull up a chair and get ready to be blessed. You’re going to learn three ways to pray when you don’t know what to say. Plus, you’ll hear a beautiful song to reassure you that God hears you so that you can pray the way you pray.
3 Ways to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say
- Pray with heart. When Sheila was 19, she attended seminary. She remembers hearing many wonderful messages on prayer, but it wasn’t until she found herself at her lowest point in life that she realized what it means to pray with heart. As she lay on the floor of her room in a psychiatric hospital, she says the only two words she could squeeze out through her tears were, “Help me.” It was at that moment that Sheila says she felt God’s presence closer than ever before.
Author and poet John Bunyan once wrote, “In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” When you and I feel brokenhearted and crushed in spirit, we don’t have a lot of words. But that’s okay. As David writes in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” God’s not looking for your words when you pray. He’s looking for your presence and your heart.
- Pray the name of the Lord. Years ago, Sheila was asked to speak to her then six-year-old son’s class at school. The subject was prayer. She remembers telling them, “There might be moments in your life where you can’t think of a fancy prayer. Maybe you’re on the playground being bullied. I want you to know there’s power in the name of the Lord.” Later, she received thank you notes from the kids and one of them touched her deeply. It was from a little girl who wrote, “My mom and dad are going through a divorce, and sometimes they get angry with each other. And now I know I can go into my bedroom and just say the name Jesus.”
Sister, the same is true for you. The most powerful prayer on this earth is simply the word “Jesus.” You may be in a situation where you can’t come up with a long prayer. In those moments, remember that there’s power in the name of the Lord.
- Pray hardest when it’s hardest to pray. After recently returning home from traveling, Sheila says she found herself with a headache that grew increasingly worse. Because headaches are unusual for her, Sheila’s husband decided to take her to a drop-in clinic. Once the doctor learned that Sheila’s father had suffered a brain injury as the result of an aneurism, he determined she was at risk and ordered a CAT scan. As Sheila lay in the tube, she found herself praying even when it was the hardest.
Friend, you don’t have to get rid of your pain to pray. You can process your pain in His presence. Because of who He is, you don’t have to be afraid. You can trust Him and talk to Him in the darkest places. When you do, He helps you have peace even in the not knowing.
Sister, God is listening, God hears, and God loves to bend His ear from heaven at the sound of your voice. So, just pray.
And remember, even if you don’t know what to say, pray anyway because you can. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.
Missing Pieces Bible Study
- You can join me for my Bible study, Missing Pieces: Real Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense. For a limited time (through June 30), LifeWay has made the teaching videos available for FREE. If you want to wrestle through the messy, mysterious uncertainties of faith and find real hope, I’ve saved you a seat in my Bible Study Bistro Facebook group. Learn more and sign up here.
Books and Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
- Missing Pieces: Real Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense
- Take Courage: A Study of Haggai (LifeWay July 2020, Pre-Order Today!)
More from Sheila Walsh
- Praying Women: How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say
- Praying Women Study Guide: How to Pray When You Don’t Know What to Say
- Can I Be Okay With Not Being Okay [Episode 43 With Sheila Walsh]
- Visit Sheila’s website
- Follow Sheila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
*** You can hear from amazing women like Sheila at a Fresh Grounded Faith event near you! Find an FGF in your area here.
Song Shared in This Episode
- The song, “Pray the Way You Pray,” was performed by Coldwater Jane. It was written by Brandon Jane, Leah Crutchfield, Kevin Kadish, and Nathan Chapman. You can listen to it here.
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What’s one way you pray when you don’t know what to say?