5 Ways to Pray When You're Too Stressed to Know How

Originally published Monday, 16 June 2014.

I didn't know that I was hiding. I've always been good at praying. 

Or so I thought.

My daddy left when I was seven. I've always looked to God as my Father, my provider. I didn't realize that God wanted to be more than just my provider. God longed to be my soul's confidante -- deep where I feel lonely, where I struggle to receive and make space for me.

I find it easier to take care of others and do things for God, rather than be vulnerable with my needs.

But God is showing me prayer is an intimate soul conversation to be loved and known, rather than a spiritual transaction to be made better.

This journey of restful prayer began in the most unexpected way:  my first panic attack.

At the cusp of a life-long dream -- writing a book -- painful childhood memories re-ignited as live events.  I began reliving them. Even though I was married to my soulmate hubby, mom to two beautiful boys, even traveled halfway across the world as a missionary to tell others about Jesus, I couldn't stop my heart from pounding like a jackhammer, unable to breathe. I couldn't stop endless nights of insomnia or fatigue so thick I laid in bed by day.

I felt ashamed.  It seemed the peace of Jesus I've always prayed for others and myself was out of reach.

I knew how to pray to be competent and strong.  But I didn't know there were deeper, beautiful prayers for broken me.

Instead of abandoning me, Jesus whispers --

"Come to me, weary and heavy-laden. And I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28

Sometimes, it takes more faith to fall apart with Jesus than praying for faith to stop it from happening. I began praying new intimate prayers.

I began finding spiritual whitespace:  making room for rest instead of ignoring my wounding and exhaustion.

As I took the journey to find rest, I uncovered Five Soulful Ways to Pray When You Don't Know How:

1.  When you're overwhelmed, whisper His name.

Remember receiving a first love note?  It didn't have to be long. Yet your heart felt known seeing your handwritten name.  It kept you company in the daily grind, the mention of your name.

Whisper His name and listen for his echo in the quiet moments in your day.

God names the stars and He whispers your name.

"He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them."
-Psalm 147:3-5

2. When you don't have words to pray, rest knowing Jesus is praying for you.

Your silence will not drive Jesus away. Nothing can separate you from His love. Not even your unrest. He'll never get tired of you. Sometimes, the greatest prayer we can experience is God's complete understanding and compassion. His presence.

"Who then is the one who condemns?
No one. Christ Jesus who died...is also interceding for us."
- Rom 8:34

3. When you are too stressed to pray, take care of you.

Extend yourself the kindness and comfort you so generously give others. Ironically, the times we most need God's comfort are the times we deprive ourselves of soul-nurturing time.

We feel selfish. Yet, God says, we can only comfort others, with the comfort we first receive ourselves. (2 Cor 1:4)  

Instead of layering on guilt, head in the opposite direction. Let God love you through your choices to prioritize taking care of you.

4.  When you are numb and don't want to pray, invite Jesus into your world.

Instead of struggling to reach Jesus, invite Jesus to enter your world.

Let us strive to enter that rest. . . . For the word of God is living and active. . . It penetrates dividing soul and spirit.." Heb. 4:11–12

The “the word of God” used here is the Greek word logos—translated as living voice. This means God is not limited to the written word.

God uses everything living to speak into our lives. He knows what’s on your heart and the everyday life you are living. God leaves us love notes in that everyday life to let us know: you are God's living prayer.

Take a walk outside.  Listen to music.  Read a good book.  Confide in a friend with a cup of coffee.

 5.  When you're too exhausted to pray, stop and rest.

"Arise and eat.
For the journey is too great for you."
- 1 Kings 19:7

Elijah had done everything he knew to do—even defeating the prophets of Baal.   Yet, his problems did not go away. Stress broke Elijah's spirit.  In despair, Elijah woke up to find fresh bread baking on hot stones and water—left just for him.

Not only that. God sent an angel — to touch him -- twice. God knew Elijah needed physical rejuvenation first — in order to hear His gentle voice, whispering in a gentle breeze.

No more hiding.

You’re loved.

You’re worth it.

Just rest.


What is one way you are going to carve out time for whitespace and rest today?

Pull up a chair. Share a comment. This is a quiet space for you & me.


 For inspiration and encouragement to explore new ways to renew prayer and intimacy with God, order a copy of Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul To Rest . This memoir-driven guidebook for rest is for anyone longing to create space in life to draw closer to God, to rest and discover who they can become when rest becomes their heart's home. Learn how a life-long dream unexpectedly launched Bonnie into a debilitating anxiety and painful childhood memoires to discover a better story of rest. Visit TheBonnieGray.com to learn more. 

"Whitespace is soul grace. Bonnie Gray ushers weary women into the real possibility." Ann Voskamp, NY Times bestsellng author of One Thousand Gifts

"If you want to hear Jesus speak more tenderly to your soul than ever befrore, this is the book for you." - Lysa TerKeurst, NY Times bestseller author of Unglued

Bonnie Gray is the soulful writer behind FaithBarista.com serving up shots of faith for the daily grind.  She is a contributor at DaySpring (in)courage, her work spotighted by Christianity Today and nationally syndicated through McClatchy-Tribune News Services. After graduating from UCLA, Bonnie served as a missionary, ministry entrepreneur, and Silicon Valley high-tech professional. She lives in Northern California with her husband, Eric, and their two sons.

Today's post is part of Bonnie Gray's special Book Launch Blog Tour Series -- {21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace}.  Click here to read Day 1 and the entire series on rest.