Do You Feel Like You Can’t Pray Anymore?

By Jill Briscoe   •   September 9, 2010   •   Topics:

pray

Have you ever felt as if you have run out of prayers? When and where did you experience your low point? Was it after failure or success?

This month, let’s take a look at 1 Kings 19:1-9, where Elijah felt much the same way.

We pick up the story of Elijah just after God had vindicated him by fire on Mt. Carmel in front of the prophets of Baal. But now Jezebel has vowed to kill Elijah, and the contrast is incredible. The Bible says, “Elijah was afraid and fled for his life” and ran away to collapse under a broom tree (1 Kings 19:3).

I could imagine Elijah as exhausted, lonely or angry, but not afraid! Yet, I have to admit that this particular verse encourages me to keep hoping, because I, too, am so often afraid.

Have you ever had a “broom tree experience?” What took you there? Can you identify with any of the factors that took Elijah down? Have you ever run away because you were afraid?

It has been my experience that when you run into fear, you can run out of faith in a hurry. Fear paralyzes you. In a moment we can go from faith to fear and end up under a broom tree waiting to die. But such failure is never final for the people of God. It might look and feel that way, but it can lead to a whole new dimension of ministry and experience in prayer.

What Fear Does to Faith

Doubt is faith in distress, and it is very hard to pray when you are doubting God. The Bible says, “Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Elijah couldn’t see God anymore, but worse, he could see Jezebel very clearly. And she looked so much bigger than God.

There are two ways of looking at a problem. You can look at your problem through God, or you can look at God through your problem. If God is in front of the problem, it appears insignificant. But if God is behind the problem, then the problem dominates everything.

What God’s Presence Does for Us

Do you find it hard to tell God how you feel? Have you ever told God that you’ve had enough?

The first thing to do when you arrive under the broom tree is quit everything. Give yourself permission to collapse. Elijah simply said, “God, I’ve had it!”

Think of a parent dealing with a child who is extremely upset. If only we can get the child talking, we can do something to resolve the issue. God feels like that about His children. It is not that He needs information, just dialogue. It is for our sake, not His, that we should try to tell Him how we feel.

The Lord Jesus never tired of inviting, encouraging, exhorting, even commanding people—especially His disciples—to pray. He said that they “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV). When you are under the broom tree, that is very hard to do, but at these times, we are not praying intercessory prayers. These are prayers of desperation. Keep talking to the Lord, even if you are mad at Him or doubting His very existence.

Where was God in Elijah’s situation? Read 1 Kings 19:5-7.

God was there in the person of the angel of the Lord. God is always present and waiting to help His exhausted servants. Jesus promised that a sparrow would not fall to the ground without the Father knowing it (Matthew 10:29). God is never surprised by our visits to the broom tree. Knowing all things, He waits to strengthen us by the appropriate means, just as He waited for Elijah and had a meal prepared for him. In your broom tree situation, have you sensed an “angel of the Lord’s presence?” Look up Genesis 16:7 and Exodus 3:1-16 for other examples of when the Lord appeared. What were the occasions? To whom did He appear? What did He do? What resulted?

Every time we pray, the angel of His presence is as much with us as He was with Elijah through His Holy Spirit. In fact, He dwells within us!

What the Broom Tree Gives to Us

Broom tree experiences introduce us to a new way of praying. It’s not verbal praying but rather total abandonment of ourselves in despair at God’s feet. It is a silent scream for help. Sometimes we cannot even shout at God. We are spent.

When you run out of prayers, God still hears you. Even though no words are formed, God looks at you and reads the language of your longing. At that moment, you are the prayer. So be content just to be a desperate prayer under your particular broom tree and wait and see what happens.

You may wonder how long you’ll be there. You’ll remain there as long as it takes for you to be strengthened. Try not to take on anything extra until things begin to be resolved. Once Elijah was off and running again, God went ahead of him, preparing his future.

If you’re not at the broom tree right now, you will be someday and there is probably someone else there right now. Pray right now for people under the broom tree and make a list of practical ways you could help them. Take action on this list soon. Then, pray and ask God about your own pressures, loneliness and exhaustion. Is there a broom tree ahead of you? Spend some time in prayer.

The journey can be too great for all of us, for all sorts of reasons. Maybe you have been left to care for a sick person for far too long, with no relief. Or you have been in school and also working to support a family and have burned out. Maybe you have been in a wilderness spiritually, with little or no fellowship over the long haul. There are all sorts of reasons that we run out of prayers. Yet, when that happens, God has only just begun!

As Elijah was to find out, God gives more grace, more help, more joy, more hope and more strength to all of us in our weakness than He ever does when we are strong. We just need to bank on it. It was the Lord Jesus, the captain of the Lord of hosts, who came to Elijah’s aid, and the same captain of our salvation will fight for us against all our enemies, even the enemies called desperation and depression.

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181 Comments

  1. sinesipho says:

    I honestly think this is the best advice and post… I really relate to it and I feel like my faith and relationship with God isn’t strong anymore. I can’t pray,I feel like God isn’t answering my prayers. But I feel much better after reading this. Beautiful.

  2. Linda McCord says:

    Seems as hard as I pray the worst things become…..

  3. Patricia McGraw says:

    I am under the broom tree, so tired, I am at my lowest point, please pray for me…

  4. ezeonyia lilian says:

    I love this page

  5. Beatrice says:

    I have given up on everything. I can not even pray

    1. Muss says:

      I feel a similar way Beatrice. Recently my whole life is crumbling and there is nothing I can do. My depression is getting worse because my wife of over 10 years left me and gave no real reason why. Instead she brings up old issues of 3 years ago. She is leaving the country with my son. I am unemployed, hurt, confused and I have no energy left for fighting. As much as I pray things seem to get worse by the day. Suicide has been on my mind everyday and I can’t take it anymore.

    2. BGEA says:

      Muss,

      We are very concerned that you have considered suicide, and we urge you not to take this drastic, final step. God loves you and wants what is best for you. He has a future for you — both on this earth and in eternity. Remember that you are important to Him. He says, “You are precious to me . . . and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4). The very reason Jesus Christ came to earth to offer Himself in sacrifice is so that we might have life in all its fullness. It is His desire that we are set free from depression, fear, frustration and hurt so that we might experience this abundant life.

      Thoughts of taking your life do not come from God but from Satan. Jesus said, “The thief’s (Satan’s) purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness” (John 10:10). We are warned in 1 Peter 5:8-10, “Be careful – watch out for attacks from Satan, your great enemy. He prowls around like a hungry, roaring lion, looking for some victim to tear apart. Stand firm when he attacks. Trust the Lord. . . . He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever.”

      Give all your problems to Jesus and “cast all your anxiety on Him” (1 Peter 5:7). Then center your attention upon His love for you and His wonderful plan for your life. Rest in the assurance that Jesus will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

      God wants to help you if you will let Him, and so do others. God knows about your problems, and He also knows the answer to them. By yourself you may feel helpless, but with Christ’s help there is hope for tomorrow. He can bring good out of even the toughest situations.

      We urge you to begin by giving your life over to Jesus Christ (click the link below). Then share your problems with a pastor or with someone else who can help you and encourage you. We just said a prayer for you and will continue praying.

      http://bit.ly/GodLoved

  6. Helene says:

    I understand all this but I feel like God is so far away! I long for joy and I know I should just be happy with where I am. I have a home, a good job and great kids but I feel like my prayers don’t get heard. I prayed for a dear friend to be healed from cancer. Within 8 months the Dr said he must have been misdiagnosed and that there was not more cancer. He is not a believer but I kept telling him this was a miracle. I believed it was a miracle until the CANCER returned 4 mon later. Then I felt like a fool in front of my friend because here I had professed my belief in his miraculous healing only to have that miracle reneged. I had honestly had NO DOUBT that he was healed. I’m so disheartened.

    1. Arvind says:

      Dear Helene,
      I know its very hard for you at such times when you are not able to justify your faith to non-Believers i too have felt such things when i am also gone through such situation when i know that our god is true god but not able to justify it. But we must always remember god does everything for a purpose and his plans will never fail i believe that god have some purpose for your friend also