Three Actions To Take When You Feel Ill-Equipped To Pray

The blessing of prayer should be nurtured and exercised by all God’s children. 

prayer when you feel ill-equipped


Confession time, I struggle with words. Sometimes they spill out a jumbled mess, leaving me feeling ill-equipped to properly express myself. 

It’s a bit ironic to admit since I’m an editor and writer, but when it comes to voicing a thought, I struggle with clarity. Explaining a situation unrehearsed often lacks focus. I find myself ending with, “well I hope you know what I mean.”

But where my jumbled mess of thoughts most bothers me is during prayer. Reminders and questions swirl in my head as I attempt to pray, and I find my conversation with God going something like this:

Dear Father in heaven, 

You are holy and all powerful. Thank you for your guidance in my life, for your wonderful blessings. (Forgot to plan for supper.) You are most gracious to me and my family. (Did I switch the laundry?) Thank you for Your provisions. (What time do I need to pick him up?)

Please, Lord, I ask You to strengthen my husband. Help Him to draw nearer to You, to tap into Your strength. (Rats, I forgot to stop in and visit Max again!). I pray for the same for my children … That You would become central in their life (I’ll have to get that writing done tomorrow)….  

This might be a bit extreme, but you get the picture. My prayers often become a cycle of intentional praise, thanksgiving, and petitions punctuated by inerrant thoughts that slip out. 

As I’ve tossed around what to do about this, three things come to mind.

(1) Continue to pray anyway.

(2) Petition the Holy Spirit to help in this matter.

(3) Experiment with writing down my prayers and thoughts.

Continue to Pray

Countless books have been written about prayer and more will certainly come. A few that quickly come to mind are Max Lucado’s Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer; Mark Patterson’s The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears; Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God; Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life; and of course Stormie Omarian’s bestselling series, The Power of a Praying.

I’ve read a few of them, and they offer great inspiration to pray and even tips on how to do it. Prayer is obviously an important and powerful tool in a Christian’s life.

So powerful, in fact, that in 1 Thessalonians 5, the Apostle Paul commanded us to “pray without ceasing” (vs. 17) because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vs. 18). 

However, prayer is also a unique expression of our faith. An opportunity to come unveiled before our Father and King. 

Prayer is a unique & individual expression of our faith: an opportunity to come unveiled before our Father & King. Click To Tweet

Don’t give up on praying simply because you’re not the most articulate person. God created your unique personality and abilities.

Furthermore, He knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8). By voicing it, however scattered it comes out, you’re demonstrating your faith in Him.

Petition the Holy Spirit to Help

Still we’re not left to stumble through our prayer life (or any part of our life) alone. God presented us with a great and glorious gift of Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit, the Helper.

I’ll be specifically asking the Holy Spirit to give shape and clarity to my prayers. But those times my thoughts and words still fly heavenward a jumbled mess, I’m trusting He’ll intercede as promised in this passage:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

When your thoughts and words fly heavenward a jumbled mess, trust the Holy Spirit to intercede for you. Click To Tweet

Write Down Prayers

Still desiring clarity in your prayers? Consider writing them down.

Okay, I’m a writer, so it makes sense for me to write. However, writing out prayers is a great practice for anyone.

Putting pen to paper brings clarity to our thoughts. It helps us present them in a logical manner. It prevents us from forgetting that “one more thing” we wanted to lay in God’s hands or that blessing for which we want to give thanks.

Writing down and even memorizing prayers isn’t the only way or the best way to pray, but it can certainly be a powerful one.

And if you feel ill-equipped to write your own, adopt and adapt the template Jesus gave us:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,

your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:8-13)

Never Ill-Equipped for Prayer

We should never feel unworthy or ill-equipped to draw near to God in prayer. He welcomes, commands and encourages) all of His children — the articulate, the stutterers, the mute and the jumblers alike — to come before Him “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.”

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT

Prayer is a key component of our relationship with God. It’s evidence of the intimate bond we have with the Father, thanks to the Son’s sacrifice. And it should never be neglected. 

So when the enemy whispers in your ear that you lack the finesse it takes to present your heart to God, tell him to take a hike. Then continue to nurture the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Continue your conversation with your Father in heaven. 

You should never feel unworthy or ill-equipped to draw near to God in prayer. Click To Tweet

Reflections: Have you struggled with coherently expressing your thoughts to God? Do you find your prayers to be a jumbled mess of words? What have you found helpful? 

It’s been 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5231–5251. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Great feeling I experienced after forcing myself to get out and do my morning exercise; Rachel’s renewed desire to go outside by herself to push her stroller; ‪#‎everydaypraise‬ book release date set!
  • Cool beauty of a waking day; Visiting elderly ladies who are homebound; Hanging with some great ladies from church at our monthly meeting
  • Morning of games with Joey, Mom and Aunt Marlys; Yummy, easy berry buckle dessert; Listening to Rachel’s giggles as our car radio spit out all 6 CDs in succession
  • Carving out time for ‪#‎amwriting‬; A relaxing couple hours at the Fish Hatchery with Rach and Hubby; Getting grilling done before the storm hit
  • Morning sun shimmering off the lake; Unplanned lunch with Mom; Supper over a fire, finished off with smores and outdoor fun
  • Bright red of nearly ripe rose hips; Strawberry patch cleared out; Ending the day with a little Olympic action
  • Beautiful weather and great turnout for a day in the park; Reconnection with cousins at our family reunion; Having a little time with Danny

By His grace ≈


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Find hope in your real-life struggles. We'll chase it together! I am a wife; mom of 4 (including a young adult daughter with special needs); miscarriage mom of 5; author & follower of Jesus Christ. I write, edit, speak and enjoy everything outdoors.

10 comments on “Three Actions To Take When You Feel Ill-Equipped To Pray
  1. Julie, I chuckled when I read your prayer example. (no disrespect) It sounded like mine! (haha) I’m so glad God notices our hearts more than our words.

  2. Eva Evans says:

    Thanks for the thoughts. I’m reading 3 books on prayer at the moment but reading books is not enough! The 20 gifts you listed – I assume this is over several days, otherwise you are superwoman!! Do you record every day?

    • Julie Sunne says:

      Hi Eva, congratulations on making prayer such a priority. You’re right, it takes developing a habit of focusing (something I’ve struggled with as you’ve read) and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our prayers. I have recorded 3 gifts every day since August 23, 2011, and post them in Twitter and FB and then on Mondays I post them here. It’s been lifechanging! I highly recommend making it a daily habit. Blessings.

      • Eva Evans says:

        Thanks, Julie for your reply. Thanks for explaining about recording the gifts. Such a great habit to be alert to God’s blessings, especially when struggling with sickness or other troubles but also great when everything is going well. Psalm 103: 1-3. 🙂

  3. Cecelia Lester (Quiet Spirit) says:

    Julie; I have done the same thing, mind wandering, when I pray. I used to scold myself about it. But one night, I told God I was sorry and now it doesn’t happen as often.

  4. Cindy Sims says:

    I wish I could express just how much a blessing to me your blog is. I sometimes feel as if I am the only person who has this problem during prayer time. Another great book on prayer is “Too Busy Not To Pray” by Bill Hybels.
    Thanks for your encouraging words. God is using them and they will not return void. ☺

    • Julie Sunne says:

      “I wish I could express just how much a blessing to me your blog is.” You just did, Cindy, bless you! I’ll have to check out the resource. Thanks for sharing.

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