I was brought up in the religious world of extemporaneous prayer. Hold hands, pray out loud, whisper “yes” when someone else is praying something you agree with. Some people say “just” or “Father God” for every third word to proclaim their earnestness or maybe because they don’t what to say next.
This type of prayer practice spiritually exhausted me. The corporate prayer life of my youth and twenties seemed inauthentic and contrived. Emotionalism in prayer turned me off, and I carried silent guilt for how much I loathed praying with others. I never felt I was fully connecting with God or with others during those times. I felt tired and weird.
My personal prayer life was guided by journaling. I scrawled out my prayers for years and years, and this practice was beautiful, worshipful and intimate. As I had more children, I found it challenging to have the time and space for a written prayer time. With a tired brain and so many stuffed emotions, the idea of praying all my words out loud or in my head seemed to be my only prayer solution. That overwhelmed me too.
Around this time, we began attending a liturgical church where the spoken and written prayers gave space for my trapped soul to breathe. Praying truth out loud with community but within the boundaries of written prayers lifted my spiritual fatigue. The words created a sense of unity that refreshed me.
The weekly repetition of the Lord’s Prayer gave voice to my need to praise, confess, and petition. No longer did I need to “work” so hard in prayer and find my own words. Jesus had already given them to me in His Word.
The community of believers over the ages has written and chanted prayers that beautifully express the cries of my own soul, words that I can’t always seem to find. These prayer offerings from the Greater Body of Christ give me a deep sense of our ancient, communal faith. I do not need to be a lone ranger Christian out drumming up my own spirituality.
In seasons of burnout, we are so ridiculously tired. The fatigue is not only emotional or physical, but spiritual as well. We may feel completely numb in our faith. No emotions, no words. Our brothers and sisters can help us.
Written prayers, audible prayers and memorized breath prayers offer our souls the words we need to cry out to Jesus.
We speak them by faith and by practice. We whisper them. Little by little, our hearts are kindled again. When I feel distant or disconnected in my marriage, Mike and I continue to talk even though I may not feel like it. So it is with talking with the Lord. We pray because we know it’s important to a long-term healthy relationship.
When I am numb in prayer, here are some resources I use to give me words:
It’s expensive but I have found it valuable for years. It is Catholic, and I just overlook the aspects that don’t resonate with me. I find that hearing the Scriptures and prayers give me a spiritual rest.
I love the tactile sense of touching beads and moving through them one by one with words and praise. For those of us with wandering and distracted minds, using our hands in prayer keeps us focused.
The Examen guides us into seeing how God was working in our day, the good and the hard. We are challenged to gratitude and the recognition of grace.
I have my Fitbit alarms set to buzz daily on my arm at noon and 3pm. I take a moment to pray the Jesus Prayer– Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner— or the breath prayer in the above photo.
As believers, we need to know that we have great freedom in prayer. The whole purpose of prayer is as Thomas à Kempis said, “a familiar friendship with Jesus.” We need not live out our faith alone, but have been given the gifts of the Spirit through the Body to give us what we need.
Words, prayers, expressions of worship to borrow, to make our own.