The One Thing to Do When Our Prayers Feel Flat
In recent weeks I found myself in a prayer "funk."
It’s a gift to be able to pray without ceasing––while we drive, do dishes, or walk the dog. Because we can pray while we simultaneously move through life, we get to be in constant communication with God.
While we’re “chatting” we also have the privilege of offering intercessory prayers. Scripture is quick to remind us of the call to pray for others and the power that lies within it.
However, if I were to compare my prayer life to the necessity and constancy of breathing, I'd have to admit that lately, I've been struggling with prayer asthma.
I finally had to "fess up" to God. Which, of course, is a humorous thought because He was the first to notice my gasping.
"God, I'm struggling. Something feels flat. I trust the prayers You've laid on my heart–– for people I love and people far away that I don't even know. But in recent weeks something’s been missing, and I can't put my finger on it."
Then one morning, I ran across this verse:
"Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise…." Psalm 89:15
I knew in an instant that was the missing piece. I had neglected to incorporate praise into my prayers.
Psalm 89 is a great place to park if we need to be reminded of the power of praise and why we dare not neglect it.
This particular Psalm is recognized as a maskil. A term denoting Psalms that were written to make a person wise or prudent. The thinking is rooted in the idea of enlightenment.
I can't think of a better word than enlightenment to describe what happened to me. I literally felt like a light bulb had gone off. The reason behind the vague feeling that something was off became crystal clear.
Praise was the password that would unlock the door where I felt stuck.
About four years ago, I came across a woman who encouraged three-day fasting. I had never been one to fast. Mostly because I'd never found the book "Fasting for People Who Like to Eat!"
In all seriousness, fasting has always intrigued me. Still, it also felt like one of those things that, in theory, was a great idea but would be a terrible idea––at least for me.
And then I tried it. A three-day fast in which I just skipped lunch. The woman who developed the fasting protocol said to use Day One to Confess, Day Two to Petition, and Day Three to Praise.
I began the practice of doing a three-day fast once a month. At first, Day Three, the day of Praise, felt like a cheat. The hard part was over.
What do I need to confess, Lord? That can require some soul-searching.
How and for whom should I petition? That question implies a burden, and burdens have a reputation for being heavy.
The praise part felt like no big deal. Until it was a big deal.
Over time, I realized that ending my confessions and my petitions with praise put me in the position of grasping who I had just focused on the past two days––the One whom I had just bared my soul to, the one in whom I had placed my trust.
Praise evolved into my favorite part of the practice, clearly, until today. Years later, it would seem I'd forgotten that lesson.
My praising parts got rusty.
If that has happened to you or if you wonder if you have ever experienced resounding praise for God, we're in luck. God is an expert at fresh starts. He offers them every single morning.
During our 35-year marriage, hubs and I (like any average couple) have experienced one or two hiccups. When we would hit a road bump, we would do our best to push the re-start button as soon as possible.
We often noticed that the morning after a conflict, the issue looked much better in the light of a new day. And so, my husband coined the phrase "new day". We learned that we could call for a "new day" any time of day. Sometimes we'd look at one another at 11pm and ask, "New day?"
Any moment, every moment is the perfect moment to tell God we would like a "new day" when it comes to praising Him.
When we humble ourselves and let Him know that we're not sure what the password is, He's the first to slide over the slip of paper that reminds us of the single most important thing we need to know about praising Him.
He is worthy.
For who He is.
For what He has done.
For all the ways He has provided for us.
Another way we crack the praise password is to explore the many creative expressions our praise can take.
Play music and maybe even sing along.
Observe nature and soak in the wonder of creation.
Play with children or grandchildren.
Plant as we get our hands dirty.
Face down, palms up, on the floor (or yoga mat) as we still ourselves before Him.
I can't think of a better way to grow in praise than by drinking in these words from Psalm 89:
“God! Let the cosmos praise your wonderful ways, the choir of holy angels sing anthems to your faithful ways! Search high and low, scan skies and land, you’ll find nothing and no one quite like God. The holy angels are in awe before him; he looms immense and august over everyone around him. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, who is like you, powerful and faithful from every angle? You put the arrogant ocean in its place and calm its waves when they turn unruly. You gave that old hag Egypt the back of your hand, you brushed off your enemies with a flick of your wrist. You own the cosmos—you made everything in it, everything from atom to archangel. Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise, who shout on parade in the bright presence of God. Delighted, they dance all day long; they know who you are, what you do—they can’t keep it quiet! Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us—you’ve been so good to us! We’re walking on air! All we are and have we owe to God, Holy God of Israel, our King!”
Would you pray with me?
Oh my friend….How do you always know what I need? I have been struggling with prayer since Sutton’s emergency and I continue in that struggle today. My brain knows that I’m looking for answers I’m not going to find. It also knows I desire a formula to “get it right”. But my heart……it’s struggling to catch up with my brain. Maybe I need to let it all go and begin with praise. I will be pondering this. Thank you!
And now, my friend I will be praying for you. Cindy, there is not a word I write that isn’t born out of my own struggles. Flat prayers are not fun prayers, but they’re real sometimes aren’t they? You and your precious family have been through so much. Maybe there is such a thing as Prayer PTSD. We’ll call it PPTSD! Love you, friend, hang in there.