“I don’t want to take a nap! I don’t need one! I’m not even tired!” All this said through tears and yawns. One of those mornings and one of those moods. Why won’t he just give in and take a nap? It’s so easy to see the need from my perspective, but I know it’s hard to recognize and accept it on his own. The mood, the fussiness, the fighting, the “I don’t want to do that” attitude – it’s all because he’s tired. A nap would reset his mood and he’d wake up feeling so much better.
Sound familiar? It’s a scene that plays out in every home, with every child. It’s not just kids who don’t always want to do what’s needed, though. How many times have you said, “I know I’d feel better if I worked out, but I just don’t feel like it today.” Or, “I know I need get that task done today, but I don’t feel like it right now.” “I’m not in the mood to eat healthy.” “I don’t feel like going to church this morning.” We let our moods and feelings drive our behavior all too often, even to the point of neglecting the very things that could make us feel better.
We know a nap helps when we’re tired, but don’t want to stop long enough to take one.
We know exercise will energize our minds and bodies, but we think we’re too tired.
We know eating a healthy snack is better, but our mood leads us to ice cream and cookies.
We know our to-do list is piling up and deadlines are approaching, but we get pulled into a TV show or reading Facebook.
Often prayer is the first victim when we “don’t feel like it.” When we’re feeling too tired, too busy, too stressed, too sad, too angry, too disappointed, too anything, we use that as our excuse not to set aside time for prayer.
When you don’t feel like praying, that’s EXACTLY when you need prayer the most!
Just as my son desperately needs a nap when he starts crying and fussing, we desperately need prayer when we don’t feel like praying. And just like the nap scene plays out for every mother, we all face this struggle with prayer at times. Some days we just don’t feel like praying.
“When you cannot pray as you would, pray as you can.” ~Dean Goulburn
Prayer won’t always be a ‘mountaintop’ experience. Sometimes you may connect deeply with God and feel his presence in extraordinary ways, but most often you won’t. You’ll receive his guidance in smaller ways, but some days in prayer will be more mundane and ordinary.
Prayer is persistence and patience through the ordinary hours
Peter, James, and John witnessed the Transfiguration of Jesus, their mountaintop experience. As much as Peter wanted to stay in that moment, these extraordinary moments with God are fleeting. We’re meant to be filled, inspired, and renewed, but then to come down from the mountain and continue the work God has set us to do. We cherish the mountaintop moments but learn to pray through the ordinary, commonplace hours.
Don’t be discouraged if your prayers aren’t breakthrough moments each time. The truth is, they won’t be. Most days, prayer is ordinary, but you won’t have the mountaintop moments unless you enter into the ordinary. Peter, James, and John didn’t go up the mountain expecting to see Moses and Elijah and to see Jesus transformed. They went up the mountain because they followed Jesus where he called them to go. Yet because of their ordinary obedience, they experienced the extraordinary.
3 Ways to Pray When You Don’t Feel Like Praying
1) Just do it.
Forming a habit and routine of prayer helps with the days you’re not in the mood for prayer. Allow your routine to take over and just pray, even though you don’t feel like it.
Add prayer time to your calendar and make an appointment with God. Give this time priority in your day. Show up and pray, and see how God will meet you where you are.
2) Use a devotional or prayer book to get you started
If you’re not feeling inspired to pray, “prime the pump”. Use a devotional or prayer book to get started. Some days you won’t have the words or inspiration. Allow the words of someone else to get your prayers started and get you in the “mood” for prayer. Praying through the prayers of others will expand your prayer language and shift your focus to topics you may not pray on your own.
You may find it easier to develop a habit of prayer, too, by regularly working through a prayer study or daily devotional. The desire to “accomplish” the program or complete the book will drive you to pray more consistently as you build prayer into your daily routines.
3) Use the “don’t want to” feeling as a prayer prompt and pray about whatever in your life is causing you to not feel like praying
Setting “prayer prompts” for your day can help prayer more regularly, even when you don’t feel like it. Using everyday sights as prayer prompts encourages brief prayers throughout the day. Once established as a routine, the prompt acts as a trigger for prayer, removing the decision of whether to pray or not. Your reaction to the prompt is automatic, especially if you’ve engaged others to share in the same prayer prompt.
I once used red lights as a prompt for prayer because they were causing frustration and stress as I drove to work. Use the “don’t want to” feeling as a prayer prompt, no matter what you don’t want to do. When you begin to feel the “don’t want to” feeling come over you, stop and pray about the thing you don’t feel like doing (even if it’s prayer itself). Share with God why you don’t want to do the thing and ask for his guidance on whether to push forward and do it anyway.
How do you push through the days you don’t feel like praying? What helps and how is your mood affected when you pray anyway? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.