What To Do When You're Too Discouraged To Pray

What do I do when my faith weakens, my heart sags, my spirit sinks, and my trust evaporates?

How do I respond when the idea of prayer makes me sigh instead of act? Doubt shakes his finger at me and Despair laughs in my face. How do I still pray then?

In Jeremiah 47:3b, Jeremiah writes: "The fathers have not turned back for [their] children, Because of the limpness of [their] hands,” [Jeremiah 47:3b, NASB]

 When my hands are too limp to raise and my knees to weak to bend, I must find a solution. My kids NEED me to keep praying for them!

When my hands are too limp to raise and my knees to weak to bend, I must find a solution. My kids NEED me to keep praying for them!

The condemnation Jeremiah gives to these ancient, weary Dads also rebukes my too-tired-to-pray attitude. Think of a visual picture of a dad who DID “turn back." That is a great picture of prayer. We can reach back, grab them our kids, even when they're grown, and take them to the throne of grace. THAT is prayer. Yet, when my Doubter is stronger than my Grabber, not much prayer actually happens.

So, when my hands are “too limp,” I need to find a solution. Because complaining that I am too tired and too discouraged is not going to get the job done.

What To Do With Weak Hands

Hebrews 12:12 gives me another exhortation: Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble[Hebrews 12:12, NASB]

When hands are too weak to take my child to the throne, and knees are too feeble to bend in petition to my Lord, the straightforward instruction compels me to first, strengthen my hands and my knees so that, THEN I can pray.

But, how? If I am too tired to pray and too discouraged to kneel, how in the world will I find the gumption to get myself stronger? Am I supposed to just try harder? Dig deeper? Get those old bootstraps in my hands and tug until I have managed on my OWN to strengthen myself?

Well, I hope not, because that just makes me more tired. Thankfully, that is NOT God’s plan.

He honestly tells us in 2 Cor 3:5: Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, [2 Corinthians 3:5, ESV]

So, I am not strong enough or sufficient enough on my own. Check.
But, I need to strengthen my hands and knees. Check. Um……how do I do that?
Oh yes, my sufficiency, my ability to obey and do the work of Jesus, comes from Him. It always has.

This is why I need the whole counsel of God’s Word. His answer is ALWAYS there. In HE is the answer.

The Rest Of The Story

Seventy years after the dads-too-weak moment Jeremiah condemns, the Israelite captives are returning to Jerusalem. At this point, the city is torn down and surrounded by enemies. King Artaxerxes allows Nehemiah, a Jew who served in his court, to bring supplies and men to rebuild the wall so the city can be protected. Jerusalem's enemies are not thrilled with this development.

They taunt and threaten the Israelites. Just like Doubt and Despair and Weariness taunt me, condemn me, and tell me to stop my work of prayer, these enemies try to end the Israelites’ work of wall building. Listen to what Nehemiah says, "For all of them were [trying] to frighten us, thinking, "They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.”  [Nehemiah 6:9a NASB]

Nehemiah and all the people who worked under him are in danger of stopping the work out of fear. The work seems too hard to finish, BUT…

(I LOVE when there is a “but” to bad news. It mean there is a “rest of the story” still to come.)

BUT Nehemiah responds by crying out: 

  • But now, [O God,] strengthen my hands. [Nehemiah 6:9b, NASB]

Nehemiah’s response to having weak hands and a discouraged heart? ASKING GOD to strengthen his hands. Nehemiah didn’t try to rustle up his own strength, because remember- he wasn’t sufficient in himself- his sufficiency for the task would only come from the Lord.

We are the same. Like Nehemiah, we have work to do. And like Nehemiah, we aren’t sufficient for the task we are given. We aren’t building a wall around a city, but we are building a wall of prayer and petitions around our kids.

And LISTEN how the Lord answered Nehemiah’s cry for help!

  • So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of [the month] Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard [of it,] and all the nations surrounding us saw [it,] they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. [Nehemiah 6:15-16 NASB]

WITH THE HELP OF GOD. That is how the work is completed, whether Nehemiah's work or our work. With the help of God.

That is the only way we will accomplish our prayer work: with the help of God. The Lord God of the universe, to whom we pray, gives us the strength to keep praying. Wow- just wow.

We have one difference from Nehemiah, who finished the wall in 52 days. We will never complete our work. That shouldn’t be a discouragement though. We have the PRIVILEGE of praying for our kids, no matter how old they are and no matter how old we get, until our very last breath.

And with the help of God, we can do just that.

What do you find discouraging about prayer right now? Do you doubt if it is doing any good? Do you find your hands feeling weak or your knees feeling feeble? Leave a comment below, and I will pray for the Lord to strengthen your hands, because your kids need you and your prayers! And we need to help each other keep going.

What do I do when I'm too discouraged to pray? I ask God to strengthen my hands, and He does- every time.

So, ask the Lord for help and then, KEEP PRAYING!