We never want to admit those seasons when prayer seems stale, when our interactions with the living God feel more like hollow, distant, non-conversations. Theoretically, we know prayer is fundamental to our faith yet, practically, there are those unavoidable times when our prayers fall flat and don’t seem worth tossing up to heaven any longer. I’ve often found myself struggling with worn-out spirituality, and if you have been a Christian for any relative length of time, chances are, you have too.
Here are 2 non-legalistic ways I’ve found that pull me out of the stale seasons of prayer.
1. Courageously answer this question: “What have I NOT been SAYING to you, God?” This is potentially the single most effective step to prayer life restoration. Usually, our prayers are stale because we are not bringing our real selves to prayer. However, the fact that prayer feels stale is the perfect place to start. Imagine if we pray, “God, my prayers feel stale, you seem far away, this stinks. You don’t answer when I call, I feel alone trying to follow you, and all I get is silence.” That is a great start. Don’t feel threatened by this level of honesty with God. Look at this prayer of King David, a man after God’s own heart.
Psalm 13:1 “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
Start with what is really going on inside of you, then explore the follow up details. If you feel alone because God isn’t making Himself known to you, where else do you feel alone, what is that triggering, then start telling God about that.
Relationships renovate when we are real. If you’ve been praying plastic prayers, you will get a plastic relationship with God. Pray the honest truth and don’t be afraid of God’s response (He is good and for you). It’s sort of like sitting down in a frustrated friendship and saying “Can I tell you what has really been going on inside of me?” You will have the listening ear of a loving God.
2. Courageously ask this question: “What have I NOT been HEARING you say to me, God?” The flipside of my first question is also true, when we bring our real selves to a real God in real prayer; we need to allow Him the chance to communicate back. Are we stuck on something that we don’t want to hear or don’t want to face? Now hold on, before you think I’m about to lambast you for un-confessed sin: what if the stale state of silence is caused by something else? God knows one of the greatest weapons against His grace is our own self-condemnation. He knows the daily battle you and I face to find our identity in Him and nothing else. Usually, what He wants us to hear first, before anything else, is who we are in Him.
Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
If this truth is not what you are hearing on a daily basis and your heart and mind daily drift to shame and self-condemnation), maybe prayer is stale because God is trying to get you and I back to hearing grace first before hearing anything else.
If condemnation is primarily what you consider, prayer will feel stale and silent, when grace breaks through, revitalized prayer starts flowing once again.