Can I Tell God How I Feel in Prayer? With Suzanne Eller [Episode 253]

Tell God Feel Prayer Suzanne Eller

GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book Prayer Starters by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!

In hard times, lots of us shy away from God, unsure of how to talk to Him about what we’re feeling. But today, author and podcaster Suzanne Eller explains why prayer is not about the number of words that come out of your mouth or how eloquent you sound. It’s about being in God’s presence. Simply showing up.

Suzanne will give you some practical prayer starters based on Scripture to unintimidate talking to God. Plus, you’ll discover how those raw, honest, messy prayers connect with Him, so that means you can cast off any expectations and pressure you put on prayer and on yourself.

Sounds freeing, right?

And then, we’ll end this episode with a song I love called “Pray the Way You Pray” by Coldwater Jane. So, be sure to listen to the very end.

Don’t let your hurts, fears, or doubts keep you from freely talking to God, my friend. Listen in, and you’ll see why the best way to pray is to just show up.

Meet Suzanne

Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a bestselling author, Bible teacher, speaker, and co-host of the More Than Small Talk podcast with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Watson. She’s also the host of Prayer Starters on the KLRC podcast network. Suzie and her husband live in beautiful northwest Arkansas where her favorite things to do are hiking and kayaking.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

When You Pray: A Study of Six Prayers in the Bible

In this 7-session study, join Jennifer Rothschild and five other beloved Bible teachers who will help you study prayers in the Bible that can inspire your own. Learn More…

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I Tell God How I Feel in Prayer? With Suzanne Eller [Episode 253]

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, 4:13ers! This is Jennifer Rothschild, and I just have a question... Do you need luggage? Because if you need luggage, I have the luggage you need. I have used it for years, and I affectionately call it my hugging luggage. It is actually called TACH, as in attached, T-A-C-H. TACH is a small business, smart concept, and great product. The luggage is designed with these innovative velcro wings that extend from either side of one piece of luggage and will attach or wrap around the sides of the piece of luggage that you place in front. And so what happens is that they attach and they move as one unit, smooth and easy to maneuver. I travel between 30 and 40 times a year and TACH is always with me. I love it! They come in a light version. They come in a hard shell version also. Either one is excellent! So since I love TACH, I thought you might love it too. So, go to, which is T-A-C-H, to check it out. And now, the podcast...

Suzie Eller: And there's freedom in that, Jennifer. There's absolute freedom. So find a safe place, you and God. Know that he's your refuge and say all the things that have taken on a room inside of you to allow God to have that place instead.

Jennifer Rothschild: In hard times, lots of us shy away from God because we're not sure how to talk to him about what we're feeling. Well, today author and podcaster Suzanne Eller will show you why prayer is not about the number of words that come out of your mouth or how eloquent you may or may not sound. But instead, it's about being in God's presence, simply showing up. Suzie will give you some very practical prayer starters based on Scripture to unintimidate talking to God, and we'll end this podcast with a song I love called "Pray the Way You Pray" by Coldwater Jane. You do not want to miss it. So don't let your hurts, your fears, or your doubts keep you from talking to God. He loves you and he wants to hear what's on your heart. So let's get this conversation started.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live what we call the "I Can" life, because you can -- truth -- do all things through Christ who gives you strength.

Now, welcome your host, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Glad you're here today. I'm Jennifer. My goal is to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you're living, along with us, that "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. And that, thankfully, falls under the category prayer, because some of us feel like we can't. We don't know how. And, you know, K.C., when we have prayer podcasts, they're always our most popular.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because it's a thing. We always are wanting to learn. And you're going to learn some really very practical stuff today about prayer. Plus, you're going to hear one of my favorite songs that will encourage you to pray. So stay to the very end.

But I know a lot of you got a lot going on. I got a lot going on. It's the middle of summer. Life's good. Life's warm. Hot outside. But I am packing already, even though I'm not leaving for two more weeks, or three --

K.C. Wright: Yeah?

Jennifer Rothschild: -- I can't even remember now -- for Italy. I'm so excited. But can I tell you what I've done?

K.C. Wright: Goodness.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, here's what I've done. So every time I do a special trip, I buy a special fragrance that I don't wear -- like a perfume -- that I don't wear until that trip. So then I wear every day on that trip so that then when I get home, every time I wear it after the trip, it reminds me of the trip.

K.C. Wright: I love that.

Jennifer Rothschild: Right? Because your olfactory system --

K.C. Wright: It's so true.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- it's connected to memory.

K.C. Wright: It's so true.

Jennifer Rothschild: So when you smell something, you remember.

K.C. Wright: Yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. Well, I have gone a little bit -- how shall I say -- obsessive. Because I'm going to Italy, so I wanted an Italian fragrance.

K.C. Wright: Come on.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because it's Italy, right? So then I had to do all this research because I love the fragrance -- the essential oil patchouli, and all the fragrances that I love have patchouli in them. That's usually a base note. You know, they have the base note, the middle notes, and the top notes, fragrances do.

So I had to do all this research. Like I'm a chemist. Like I know. I don't know nothing. Okay, but I'm doing all this research. Well, these are expensive. You can't just buy 14 perfumes that are $80 to $100 a bottle.

K.C. Wright: Oh, it's so true.

Jennifer Rothschild: It's ridiculous.

K.C. Wright: It's crazy.

Jennifer Rothschild: I said something to my mom that I was trying to do this. My sweet mother found something I didn't even know they made. I opened it. It was a box with four little tiny bottles of Gucci fragrance, four different ones.

K.C. Wright: Oh.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I have been, over the last couple weeks, wearing them to see which one I like best. And then when I choose my favorite one -- which I still haven't chosen -- I'm going to buy a full bottle and that's what I'm going to take on my trip.

K.C. Wright: I love it.

Jennifer Rothschild: Isn't that fun?

K.C. Wright: I love it.

Jennifer Rothschild: I know. So I will put a link on the Show Notes to this sample box that my mom gave me, because it's really cool. And if you travel or just want to keep it in your purse to help you smell better in the summer when we are sweating from morning till night. I'll put it on the Show Notes and then I'll let you know which one I choose to actually take to Italy with me.

K.C. Wright: Now, let me ask you this question. Because when you were talking about perfume just now, you touched your wrists.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh.

K.C. Wright: Now, I was told that if you put a little Vasi on each side of your neck, then spray, the Vasi, the Vasi, the little dab will do you, it holds in the fragrance. And you want to put it on your neck because when you hug or -- you know, it's closer to your nose as well.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. Well, see, I put it everywhere. But I've never heard of putting Vaseline on your neck to help keep the fragrance in.

K.C. Wright: And then I've also heard that you spray it in the air and you walk through.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, so I've heard that.

K.C. Wright: I've heard that stuff.

Jennifer Rothschild: No way. I'm not -- listen. if you're a fragrance expert, please offend me -- please don't let me offend you, but that is wasteful.

K.C. Wright: I think so too.

Jennifer Rothschild: I mean, I just think it's wasteful.

But, K.C., you know what I do?

K.C. Wright: Your house will smell nice.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Your carpet.

I actually put some in my hair.

K.C. Wright: Oh.

Jennifer Rothschild: Because think about it, your hair holds fragrance. Like, you go to a Chinese restaurant and you're like, ooh, I got to shampoo my hair. Well, it does the same thing with good fragrances. So I'll put a little on my hands and I'll just rub it through my hair and --

K.C. Wright: Okay, that makes more sense than the Vasi.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. I'm just saying. And I'm short. So if you hug me, you're like, Ooh, you smell so good, little elf.

Okay. So anyway, I'm getting ready for Italy, and it's all about the fragrance with me.

K.C. Wright: And now I'm craving spaghetti and meatballs and eggplant.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. But this has nothing to do with what Suzanne and I were talking about today, but it's fun, it's fun. And now we might need to pray about something. I don't know what. Okay. But anyway, let's introduce Suzanne. I loved this conversation. Y'all are going to love it.

K.C. Wright: Pray that we can win a trip to go to Italy with you --

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, that would work.

K.C. Wright: -- on The 4:13.

Jennifer Rothschild: That would work.

K.C. Wright: That'd be a great contest.

No, prayer is so important. You know, Jesus -- his disciples, they never said, "Lord, teach us to preach." They said, "Teach us to pray," because they saw the power. So the more prayer, the more power. The more prayer, the more power. So I'm excited about today's podcast. Let me introduce Suzie Eller.

She's a best-selling author, Bible teacher, speaker, co-host of the More Than Small Talk Podcast with Holley Gerth and Jennifer Watson. She's also the host of Prayer Starters on the KLRC Podcast Network. Suzie and her husband live in beautiful Northwest Arkansas, where her favorite things to do are hiking and kayaking.

Now, let's tune into this conversation between Suzie and Jennifer. It's going to be so good. Let's go.

Jennifer Rothschild: Suzie, I want us to start this conversation with the basics, because a lot of people -- prayer can get complicated. We feel intimidated. And so let's just start with this. Why should we pray, and is there a correct way to do it?

Suzie Eller: Well, okay, let's start with the second half of that question, which is no. Raw, honest, messy prayers connect with God, and so we never want to shy away from the encounter with God because we feel like we have to be formal or eloquent. And the first half of that question is that -- and it's our source, Jennifer. It's where we find healing, it's where we find comfort, it's where we find insight and direction. And I didn't want to get teary right off the bat with you, and hadn't planned to, but, you know, I look back over these last three years in my own life, and where would I go but to God, you know?

And so I feel like that we have an enemy. John 10:10 speaks very clearly about him, calls him a thief that wants to come in and distract us from the goodness that God has for us when we talk to him often. And so prayer is a lifeline, it's a source, and it's faith giving and life changing.

Jennifer Rothschild: Reminds me when you said that too, Suzie -- I don't remember if it's Psalm 73, but the psalmist asks, "Who have I in heaven but you? There's nothing else on earth that I desire besides you." Because he is our strength and our portion. And that's what you're describing. It is our lifeline. So if that's the truth -- or shall I say since that is the truth, why do you think women struggle so much in prayer? Because I do. I have friends who do. What's the reason or what's the biggest struggle that women face in prayer?

Suzie Eller: Sure. I sat down with around 200 women and I began to ask that very question. And it was interesting, Jennifer, because whether they were new believers and this was a new adventure with God, or they'd been walking with him for a long time, many of them felt like prayer was complex. I think that some of it stems from maybe pressure that we put on prayer, expectations that we put on prayer. The expectations that we may put on ourselves is that we have to be like someone else when we pray. And the expectation might be that it has to be big every time or that it has to be a formula. Like, if I miss a part of the three P's of prayer, that somehow I miss God.

And honestly, prayer is a series of conversations with God over a lifetime of living faith and its connection and its community. And there were times when we go into prayer that we walk away and we have encountered God on such a level that it is just overwhelming. But there are also times when we sit in God's presence and maybe he feels a thousand miles away. But the faith in our heart says this. When I come to you -- your Word says, "Come boldly and I will meet you there."

He also says in Matthew 6:8, "I know what you need before you even ask." And that takes a ton of pressure off for me, because there are times I can't clarify for myself what I'm thinking, feeling, much less clarify that to God. And so I can take the pressure off. And I feel like that's the -- as I walk with women in ministry -- and I love watching them encountering Jesus. One of the first things that I feel is our invitation together is, Hey, sis, let's take the pressure off. Whatever that pressure is, if it's past teaching, if it's your expectations, if it's a feeling that you don't measure up because you yelled at your son yesterday, let's take that pressure off and look at the character of God instead. Let's take the focus off of us and put it on who he is and run boldly to him. And I love that word "boldly." It actually means without shame. And we just run boldly to the throne of God.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and I think that Scripture you're alluding to says because we will find help and grace in our time of need.

Suzie Eller: We'll find what we need, yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: We will. We will. I appreciate you saying too that sometimes you can't even articulate what you need. What a beautiful word for all of us that the pressure's off. We don't have to know because God does know.

Yet in your book, I know also, Suzie, you do give us some real practical stuff and some specifics. And so one of the things I would love for you to address is what contemplative prayer is and how we use that.

Suzie Eller: Sure. You know, I could go all geeky on you and give you a ton of information about that, but I'm not going to.

Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, okay. All right. All right.

Suzie Eller: I'm actually not going to. It's a deep breath of prayer.

Have you ever been in a place where you know that you want to talk to God but you also want to hear back from him? And I remember being in that place as a new believer. I wasn't raised in church and I wanted to talk to God. But I also -- from what I was reading in Scripture, it said he bent down to listen. I wanted to hear back from God. And so sometimes we go at prayer or Bible study, or even our faith, like we have to do it in a To Do list. Contemplative prayer allows us to slow down, to take a deep breath of prayer. To understand that not only do you have something that you long to say to God, but he wants to talk to you too. And so you rest in prayer, you reflect in prayer.

But you also respond in prayer. And for me, as I began to do that, I threw out all the formulas, I threw out all -- because I didn't know anything. I didn't have a name for what I was doing. I just wanted to talk to God and I wanted to hear from him. And so I started slowing it down and just said, "Lord, I'm going to show up every day."

And if I could leave three words that eclipse everything we say for the next 20 minutes, it would be this: Just show up. Just show up. And so I started just showing up with a hard understanding that I mattered to God and he matters to me. And I wanted to know God, and he already knew me. And so as I began to show up with a heart receptive to the relationship that God and I had and were forming and was growing, that something good could happen in that place.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and I think like any relationship -- because that's the word you used several times. Like any relationship, it is not just transactional. There is a sense of just being together. And when you're describing that kind of prayer, that's what you're describing, the togetherness, the with-ship of it. But just to be very clear, what does one contemplate when one is involved in contemplative prayer?

Suzie Eller: One contemplates the character of God. And I want to give just an example of that. One day I was reading in Scripture -- and have you ever been reading, Jennifer, and suddenly, like, the words just seemed to leap into your heart, you know?

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes. Yes.

Suzie Eller: And when that happens, sometimes what we do is we'll take a highlighter and we'll highlight, and we just keep going. And what I've come to understand is that those are moments where God is wanting to show me something, whether that's going to be in my everyday life, whether that's about the character of God, whether that's something that I need in that moment that I don't even know I need.

And one day I was reading the story of the prodigal son and that happened. So I stopped and I thought, okay, I'm going to rest. I'm going to take a deep breath here because, God, you're trying to show me something. And as I began to look at that story, I saw this son who had been given everything he needed and he wasted it. And not only did he waste it, he found himself without friends, in a strange land, in a pigpen. And not only was he covered in the filth from the pigpen, but he was cloaked in shame. And he had no other place but to go home, and his hope was that he could serve in his father's estate. And then I see this father, this dignified man, and he hitches up his tunic, his robes -- which a dignified man would never do -- and he runs toward his son. And as he runs toward him, the son, cloaked in shame and the filth of the world, he literally puts his arms around him and welcomes him home.

There are times -- when I read that that day -- I wasn't raised in church. I didn't have all the accolades or the things that maybe others had, but I was God's girl. I was God's girl. And I was also a new mama trying to learn how to be a good mom when no one had shown me how. And that day, I sensed the character of God. That when I found myself in a place saying, God, and I messed up again. I have all these things I want to be, all these things I want to do, and I'm growing and I see that, but, Lord, I just -- and I feel such shame. I want to go in the other direction because I don't feel worthy. And God spoke to me through that Word.

See, I talked to him. I was resting in His Word, but he began to show me his character as a Heavenly Father. And that is, rather than turn from him, God runs toward me, his arms open wide to welcome me right where I am so that I can find the love of God that transforms me. I can grow through my mistakes. And so that prompted me to then begin to talk to him, to say, right where I was, "God, I don't feel worthy, but this is your character." And, "God, I'm tempted to turn the other way, but, Lord, I'm going to run towards you because you welcome me and you'll change me and you'll grow me."

And that's how the power of contemplative prayer, to rest in prayer, to respond in prayer, can really change the view of God that we have, which changes us.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Well, and the fact that -- I love that example, Suzie, because it's Scripture. And I think that does give us a sense of security when we're not sure how to pray. And, in fact, in your book, you actually use what you call prayer starters.

Suzie Eller: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And I think they're biblically based. So tell us what a prayer starter is and how we use it.

Suzie Eller: Sure. So again, years ago when I was searching out and just saying, "God, I just want to talk to you and I want to hear from you," that's when I began to -- there's a lot of different ways we can pray, Jennifer. This is just one. But as I was in the Word and I began to take those pauses, those deep breaths and just say, "Okay, God, for whatever reason you're slowing me down here. Is there something you want to say?" And it became a prayer starter. Because I would look at that Scripture within context, what was being said to them, but then asking God, "Is there something you want to show me today?"

And those prayer starters allowed me then to turn around and talk to God from that very concept of truth. This is who you are. This is what you do. This is the insight you gain. Or maybe, "Lord, I feel you correcting me here, course correcting me. I feel you growing me here, I feel you stretching me here. And, Lord, help me to respond to that. Help me grow in that."

And so prayer starters became something I started sharing in ministry years and years ago with other women who said, "God didn't talk to me." And they would say it. I mean, it was just straight out, "God didn't talk to me, Suzie. I know he talks to you, but he doesn't talk to me." And I would just give him a really gentle challenge and just say, "Let's sit in the Word together for a bit. Let's begin to unpack this and stop in those deep pauses for a moment." And those prayer starters became something as a part of ministry.

And I went to my publisher a year ago and I said, "You know, I know I've written a lot of books for you, and they've all been Christian living books, but I don't want to do that with this book." I don't want to tell people how to pray, I want to write something that helps women connect with God through prayer, you know, right where they are, whether that's 3 AM, in the middle of the night when they have no words but they long to talk to God, or in that quiet time where they just show up and they long to be able. And this is the thing. There's all kinds of room for them to turn around then and write their own prayers. But if they end up just sitting that day in the Word of God and seeing the character of God in a little different light, that's beautiful too.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Well, and what I love about what you're describing, too, is it becomes a companion, a resource.

Suzie Eller: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: And we need each other in our spiritual life, in our spiritual growth, and your book in many ways, it's just a way to have Suzie there saying, Here, let's do this together. And the fact that you use Scripture, that it is Scripture centric, I love.

And so beyond, of course, your book, what's a creative way that a woman right now, when she listened to the podcast and she stops and she's like, okay, I want to use Scripture, what is a creative way she could use Scripture to talk to God?

Suzie Eller: Yeah. So there's a lot of fun ways to do that. One of the things that I've been doing with some women in ministry recently is we're showing up to pray with all kinds of beautiful watercolor markers. And God created us so uniquely, Jennifer. I think about this fact -- and I shared this on another podcast recently. But our God created 17,500 distinct species of butterflies alone. That blows my mind. Because we serve a creative God. So it's interesting that we think that we all have to show up in prayer in the same way.

So for some women, showing up with a marker in their hand and reading Scripture and praying. And whether it's in the margins of their Bible or their journal, or there's places within prayer starters -- I offer this as well -- where you could just take that word and creatively begin to splash color on the page as you talk to God. That's one way.

Walking in nature is another. I see God in the ocean every time. It's just like, there you are. This is who you are.

But there's also that woman who says, "Suzie, I was born structured, I need structure." Well, God created you too.

So whatever that structure is that allows you to feel like you encountered God, whether five minutes or longer, whatever it might be, allow yourself to be who God uniquely created.

Jennifer Rothschild: I love, Suzie, that you really are giving such a safe invitation that represents the heart of God: Come as you are. I really appreciate it because I think -- you described it earlier in our conversation. I do think women feel a little bound up by, "I don't pray like her," or, "Is this right?" or, "I don't want to forget to adore him before I ask him something," and we get all freaked out. So you're reminding us that it's safe. We're safe with our Father. It's a beautiful thought.

Suzie Eller: Yeah. "I'm mad" is a prayer. "I'm mad." "I'm angry, God, and I don't know what to do with this anger." That's a prayer. That is a beautiful prayer, and God hears it. And he steps into that with you to show you, to reveal, to unfold, to give you next steps. So prayer is not limited to those things that we think they are.

Jennifer Rothschild: To the neat and tidy things.

Suzie Eller: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. Well, I'm glad you said that. Because you mentioned next steps, and that leads me to our last question, which would be some next steps. So let's get real practical. Can you give us some very practical ways to deal with our fear of not knowing what to say when we pray, so that we can just, as you mentioned earlier, show up in God's presence.

Suzie Eller: Yeah. So I would just invite you to sit with God and say all the things. Now, for some of you that's going to feel really scary because you have been pushing those things down until they have made a room in your heart, in your thought life, in your view of who you are, and your view of God. But when we make room, when we allow those feelings to come up -- and God calls himself a refuge over and over again in Scripture. That's a safe place. When we tell God all the things, what we're doing is -- that room that has taken up residence inside of you, God takes up residence instead. And he's allowed to shine a light on there, to go in to begin to do his work of healing and wholeness inside of that room. And there's freedom in that, Jennifer. There's absolute freedom. So find a safe place, you and God. Know that he's your refuge and say all the things that have taken on a room inside of you, to allow God to have that place instead.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, sit with God and say all the things. Like Suzie said, it may be hard, but when we make room for the feelings to come up in prayer, we find that he really is our refuge.

K.C. Wright: Yes, he is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble. This book sounds so great. You need it, I need it. And we're giving one away right now, so go to Jennifer's Instagram @JennRothchild. Or you can also get one through the Show Notes, if you're not on Instagram, at We hope you win.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yes, we do. Because I just love how practical this book is, so I do hope you win it. And if not, go purchase one, because it is a great investment in your prayer life.

All right. Now, I do want us to end this podcast with a song called "Pray the Way You Pray" by Coldwater Jane. I'm so grateful they're allowing us to use this and let it bless you. So enjoy as you listen and be blessed as you hear all these lyrics.

K.C. Wright: All right, you awesome people, we hope you have a great week. Keep trusting, showing up in God's presence. You can tell God how you feel because he's always listening. And you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: I can.

K.C. Wright: And you can.

Coldwater Jane: (Singing) Pray the way you pray, doesn't matter what you say. Might be a quiet little voice that barely makes a noise, or a hot-cry bended knee begging, "God, answer me." He listens either way, so pray the way you pray. Because every time he hears from you is a hallelujah. When you lay it at his feet, there's no sound quite as sweet as an Amen.

Pray the way you pray, anytime, any place. In a worn-out wooden pew or alone, God and you. Go ahead and punch the wall, you know he's heard it all. He listens either way, so pray the way you pray. Every time he hears from you is a hallelujah. When you lay it at his feet, there's no sound quite as sweet as an Amen.

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Because every time he hears from you is a hallelujah. When you lay at his feet, there's no sound quite as sweet as an Amen. So Amen.


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