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What to Do When Your Prayer Practice Is Stuck

Sometimes heaven seems closed. Your prayers go nowhere. Try these tips for a spiritual reboot.

Prayer block
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Maybe it’s never happened to you. Maybe it never will. But if it feels as if you can’t pray, or your prayers are going nowhere, here are a few things you might try to overcome your “prayer blockage”: 

1)  Face the blockage
Don’t ignore reality. Don’t make excuses. Call it like you see it and tell God all about it. You may be surprised to find (as I have a few times) that in the act of complaining about your prayers going nowhere, they suddenly start to go somewhere. But even if not, it’s usually unhelpful to pretend or deny that you’re experiencing a prayer blockage.  

2)  Confess
Sometimes a prayer blockage is due to unacknowledged or unconfessed sin. So let this be a lesson: get to confessin’. A sincere heart-search and confession of sin, whether in thought, word or deed, may break through the blockage.

3)  Try silence
“We are not reservoirs, but channels,” wrote theologian E. Stanley Jones. Sometimes we get “all prayed out” because prayer has flowed from us but not into us. Half of prayer is listening, so not talking may help. Sit. Be silent. Listen. Stop the outward flow; open yourself to hear and receive.  

4)  Pray the Psalms
Your prayer blockage may need a boost of fresh expression, creativity or thought. If so, turning to a psalm or two and praying the inspired and honest words of others, such as David or even the contemporary Christian band Sons of Korah, can supply what you lack. You may select a psalm randomly or purposefully. You may turn to a psalm of lament or confession or choose one that expresses faith and trust. In any case, a psalm—or several days’ worth of psalms—may be just what your heart needs.

5)  Pray someone else’s prayers
In addition to regularly praying the psalms, I often find that the recorded prayers of others grease my prayer wheel, so to speak, and clear that “stuck” feeling. The prayers of Peter Marshall, John Baillie and Lancelot Andrewes are just some that have broken through for me.

6)  Change your posture
Shake things up. Take a walk. Pray on the treadmill, in bed, at your bedside. Pace. Stand. Kneel. Bow. See if a simple change of posture can make a difference.

7)  Change places
If your prayers are going nowhere, go somewhere. A simple change of scenery may help. Go to the park to pray. Spread a blanket by a lake and instead of praying with your eyes closed, lie on your back and let your prayers ascend into the cloud-filled heavens. Pray in your car. Pray in a bubble bath. 

Sometimes I think an effort—even a small one—tells my mind and heart that this is important, and that reminder contributes to a breakthrough. At other times, I wonder if God smiles on my little exertions and adds His efforts after giving me a chance to make mine. Either way works. Most important, I know from long experience that prayer blockages don’t last; even if it takes some time, the clouds will part and the channels will open, sometimes in a trickle, sometimes in a flood. And a new season of prayer will begin.

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