You walk into Sunday Service, but feel drowned in discouragement.
You reluctantly open up your Bible, only to be burdened to appease God’s supposed disapproval of you.
Thinking about God stresses you out.
Worship is frustrating.
You feel blocked. Afraid. Pressured. Apathetic.
All of these are common soul issues that keep us from diving into the pleasures of prayer. And, by soul, we are referring to our mind, will, and emotions (1 Thessalonians 5:23).
If you are resonating with any of the above, I pray you find encouragement in knowing that this merely a stepping stone in your journey with Jesus. As long as you breathe, God is not done with your life!
In the meantime, the following are some practical steps to navigating through the deep waters of your soul.
1. Acknowledge your true feelings.
God is no stranger to the darkness within you. He knows about whatever bitterness, judgement, or idolatrous desire you may harbor within your heart. Why else do we see such violent and negative language time to time in the psalms?
The conflict within a Christian is the instinctual need to deny or undermine our emotions. We know that we shouldn’t be angry at God, so we bury it with a cold-hearted obedience. We know that our idolatrous desires are despicable, so we cover it with apologies without addressing the heart of the idolatry in the first place.
For you to acknowledge the biblical truth without also acknowledging the tumult within you would be merely a lie to yourself, and Christians do this quite well.
“Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)
“Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. May they be blotted from the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.” (Psalm 69:27-28)
Start with honesty. God can handle it.
2. Acknowledge God.
The psalmist of Psalm 73 details the frustrations of being righteous among the wicked. He was troubled. He had doubts.
Then, he made a choice. In the midst of all the spiritual tension, his choice was to enter into the sanctuary of God (Psalm 73:17). Did you know that, no matter how you feel, your choice to open that Bible, attend that worship service, and turn your heart towards prayer are powerful choices to enter into the sanctuary of God?
The psalmist’s choice, regardless of his inner turmoil, led him to the Presence of God. And in the Presence of God, the psalmist was able to discern and understand.
Entering into His sanctuary means acknowledging Him, acknowledging who He is and what He’s done so far. It is a choice to give Him praise, to remember old testimonies, and even go to Scripture. Anyone can make that choice no matter how they feel.
3. Acknowledge the lies.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
If there is anything keeping you from activating the above verse, it is most definitely a lie. Some of these lies can be convincing.
“I’m afraid that if I trust Him with my life, then He would make me go through hardship.” “What’s the point of praying, if I’m just going to make the same mistakes over again?” “I just don’t want to give Him half-hearted prayers, so I don’t try.”
The fruit of all these thoughts is just increased distance with God. They may sound righteous and fair, but you must begin with acknowledging that they are, in essence, lies.
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
4. Acknowledge the warfare.
Prayer is an active way to participate in spiritual warfare. If you are not fighting, then you are losing.
Sometimes, when we cannot pray, we relegate the issue to our own weakness or guilt. However, there is only one being in the world that truly does not want you to pray and that is the devil.
In Daniel 10, you see that Daniel receives a visitation from an angel, in regards to what he’s been fasting and praying about for weeks – three weeks exactly. The angel explained that there was warfare, which is why it took 21 days for the angel to reach Daniel. There were 21 days of resistance, and in those 21 days, Daniel kept praying and fasting.
Persistence is how you will win this war.
Pray, even when you don’t feel it. Pray, even when an answer doesn’t come right away. Pray, because as long as you keep praying, you will win.
5. Acknowledge who you are.
When you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, it became an official alteration of status. Your status is elevated to being seated at the right hand of Christ, marked and sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1-2)
Who you are cannot change no matter what you do or how you feel. Sometimes, when you do not experience the fresh wave of God’s love while you pray, you immediately feel the need to strive for more of His acceptance.
He died so that you did not have to strive anymore. He died so that you did not have to hide anymore.
No matter what your prayer experience is like today, know that His approval and love is upon you –– the child of the King.