Do You Feel Like You Can’t Pray Anymore?

By Jill Briscoe   •   September 9, 2010   •   Topics:

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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  1. Darlene says:

    I feel encouraged and inspired today. Thank you for those words of hope!!

  2. Claudia says:

    I’m going through that

  3. Sue says:

    You asked a question in this article. What brought you to the broom tree experience? I would say my life has been a series of unending pain, serious trials and disappointments. While at the same time, I can truly say, “God has been good in so many ways”. I am at a place and have been for a couple years where I am struggling to pray when that has been the mainstay of my life. I was saved at a young age and I’ve walked with the Lord my whole life. I’ve given my heart and life to Him in ministry. But, I’m at a place I am numb. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is like I am shell shocked and I cannot recover. I has taken my desire to live and to continue on from day to day, but no one knows. I know the Lord will make a way for me.

  4. Phyllis says:

    so much encouraged

  5. Purity says:

    so encouraged

  6. barbara says:

    Thank you for these encouraging words I am under the broom tree….I am weary I will try to keep this message from the lord even though I am living from moment to moment I will try to be still. ..I really feel I can take no more….I pray you will show me lord where from here

  7. Keith M says:

    I’m done, I have nothing left to give, and my prayers are ineffective. I have searched and searched Gods word and can find nothing. It’s not Gods fault, it’s mine , but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

    1. TC says:

      I have felt this way…infact I wanted to die. I contemplated suicide so many times. But somehow God brought me through it with a miracle ypu just would not believe. He used another trial to drive me through my Red Sea. Now I am through it, I can see how God was with me and how He was working His purpose out. I had many a dark day, believe me. But hold on to God with your fingertips!! He is with you! Cry out to Him! He understands your tears…joy is coming!! Please hold on!! I still have dark days but now I am confident that God will never leave me or forsake me…that He can amd will work things out even when it’s me that has put myself on the predicament. God is merciful beyond our thinking and He will work things out! Hold on! Victory is ahead! I thought I was crying out for far too long…maybe I was too sinful or something…but in actual fact God was working all things together for good and after years of desperation, my life was
      changed in a moment at His appropriate time! Now my long test has become my lifelong testimony! Hang on in there!

    2. Mickey says:

      Right there with you, Keith. Although I do know what I’m doing wrong, and I’m having the hardest time trying to change my heart. There are passages about when sin is too deep and the heart becomes hard. I’m battling that every day lately. I want God. I want Jesus. I want to stop sinning, but have been unable to. I want – sometimes – to step out in front of a bus. I am the prayer…

  8. Sunday says:

    Let me categorically, thanks God for his unending favour he shows to me in all my ways,I thank God for His miraculous work in my life I say may ur name be praise forever, one thing am asking of God is for his perfection over what He has started, dt I should see an ending result, also dis perilious time I should trivial amen in Jesus name

  9. Paula says:

    Liz: I am going through the exact same thing. Please let me know your outcome. Please pray for my situation as it is bad. God bless.

  10. Cindy says:

    I am there right now. I have been standing for the reconciliation of my marriage after my husband divorced me. I have seen some signs in the past that has given me hope but now nothing and the doubt has set in. Please pray for my marriage.

    1. CB says:

      Cindy I’m there myself. My husband only wants divorce. No hope for working things out. No explanation for his actions. Have you seen anything get better? I pray that you have peace!