Ordinarily, the fact that prayer is all about relationship with God makes me happy. It astounds me that God Almighty enjoys talking with me. That He likes to hear what is on my mind and how I feel about it. And I love it that He talks to me, too, sharing what is on His mind and heart as well. It’s pretty incredible, actually, and I’m still amazed that He’s really that personal and involved.
But, and this is a big “but”—when I experience a spiritual slump and have trouble connecting with Him, I almost wish I’d never experienced prayer as relationship in the first place. I almost wish I’d stuck with my old style of request-based intercession in which prayer was mostly about me telling God what I thought needed doing in the world, without letting Him get a word in edgewise, let alone share His heart. Because if I never knew how wonderful prayer could be, then I wouldn’t be missing Him so much when that’s not happening.
Connecting with God has been hard for me these past few weeks. It’s not for lack of showing up—I have taken as much time to pray as I usually do, giving Him time in the morning and evening, and throughout the day, too. But I haven’t sensed His presence like I ordinarily do. And I miss that connection with Him—a lot! Sometimes missing Him has been so painful that I’ve been tempted to return to my one-sided monologues in order to spare myself the discomfort.
But I haven’t. And I won’t. I can’t go back. My relationship with Him is too precious to risk giving it up. I know that this spiritual malaise will eventually pass, so I’m not giving in.
And even though I’m not feeling much heart-connection with Him right now, God is still helping me. He’s giving me what I need day-by-day to stick in there until I can feel His embrace once again. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who goes through spells like these, I want to share some of things He’s given me to help me stick in there during this dry period.
- Keep showing up. Your prayer times may feel flat, but don’t avoid them. If anything, give God even more time than you usually would. Your faithfulness expresses love to Him, and you can be sure He delights in that. Even if you don’t feel much connection, your time with God matters.
- Confide in a spiritual friend. Your friend can pray for you or with you. He or she may have insight or perspectives that will encourage you. You don’t have to journey alone.
- Ask God to reveal anything you need to know about this period of desolation. In my case, He showed me how weary my soul had become—and some of the reasons for it, most of which were out of my control (my father’s death, work deadlines, other heavy responsibilities). Knowing the roots of my struggle didn’t make the struggle go away—but it did help me not to feel as guilty about it.
- Recognize that human relationships aren’t always mountaintops of intimacy, either. Even in the best of marriages or friendships there is emotional ebb and flow, so maybe it shouldn’t be so surprising if we also experience it with God.
- Expose yourself to different means of grace. Play some beautiful music. Read a devotional classic. Listen to sermons by a favorite pastor. Make a gratitude list. Memorize Scripture. Take a walk in nature. Spend some time in silence and solitude. Celebrate the Sabbath. Pray the psalms.
Speaking of psalms, it also helps me to know that I’m in good company. David wrote, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). David knew what it was to feel disconnected from God. But he stayed steady. He continued to pursue God. And over time, the intimacy of their relationship was restored.
And that will happen for me, too. And for you. So if you’re in a spiritual slump, stick in there and don’t be discouraged. Wait on the Lord with me. He’s worth the wait.