Helpless prayer – what to do when we are desperate

• What is helpless prayer?
• Methods.
• Examples.

Helpless prayer means when you are feeling helpless. Or desperate. It’s easy enough to pray when our emotions are normal. But what if we are so racked with anxiety that we can hardly think straight, let alone compose a spiritual prayer. Or maybe we can’t stop crying. What can we do then?

Here are some methods that I have gathered over the years. Methods to approach God when we feel helpless. You might not agree with some of these, and that’s okay. I invite you to share your methods if you have different ones.

1. LOOK FOR A CONNECTION WITH GOD sometimes called a touch from God. I was praying for my good friend Mary Ann in church on a midweek evening. She was very ill, with incapacitating migraines every three days. As the service started, I asked God for something, anything. I held my hands up and open in front of my chest, and mentally told God I was holding up Mary Ann. At the conclusion of the service, the band unexpectedly played Always, a song that includes the words (click on the name to hear the song, then back-arrow to return to the blog):
Oh, my God, He will not delay
My refuge and strength always
I will not fear, His promise is true
My God will come through always, always

This song touched me, and I bawled right there in church, as if God had touched me. But I felt reassured, and my anxiety dripped away. Unknown to me, Mary Ann was at the Urgicenter and, believe it or not, the doctor recommended a chiropractor. How often would that happen! It was the same day and the same hour as Always was sung in the church.

Two days later, Mary Ann walked in to the chiropractor, with a neck ache as well as a headache. After X-rays of the neck, he adjusted the top spinal vertebra which was pressing on the spinal column nerve. Mary Ann felt immediate relief from both neck and head pains. Click here then scroll down to read more of this story. (If you go there, you need to hit the back-arrow to return to the blog).

2. PICK AN APPROPRIATE BIBLE VERSE, AND QUOTE, QUOTE, QUOTE. My step-daughter Staci has had a brain tumor removed, successfully, and is having to deal with uncertainties of the future. Many people are supporting her and praying along with her. I found a verse in the book of Isaiah chapter 58, which I hold up to God on almost a daily basis, asking God to honor these words in regards to Staci:
And if you pour out that with which you sustain your own life for the hungry, and satisfy the need of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in darkness….. and the Lord shall guide you continually……and make strong your bones.
I have sent these words to Staci, encouraging her to stand on this remarkable promise.

3. PRAY OVER THE PHONE. A friend that I know well, also with cancer, was struggling mightily with her medical insurance companies, who would not approve chemo treatment for her cancer. Still recovering from a serious operation, she was frazzled after a few days of frustrating phone calls to the insurance companies. Although I was uncertain of her response, when I asked if I could pray for her over the phone, she readily agreed.

In a brief, low-key minute, I asked God to remove the roadblock, change the attitude of the insurance company people, and give my friend peace. That was the prayer, and she thanked me for caring. Next morning I received a text from my friend saying she was thrilled, because the insurance had just come through. Now a lot of people had been praying for her for a long time, so I don’t claim any superiority in this event, perhaps just one more straw that broke the camel’s back.

4. PLAY A FAVORITE SPIRITUAL SONG…… OVER AND OVER. When I moved from Tulsa to Houston in 1998, I was newly divorced, had a new job and a new boss, and knew only two people in this huge city. I felt lost and lonely and afraid. At home on some evenings I walked around, raised my arms in the air, and cried and prayed while I filled my tiny 900 ft apartment with spiritual songs like Always. Such songs are inspiring for me and always lift my spirits.

5. SEEK A PRAYER THAT MAKES A CONNECTION. I was visiting with a friend who had an emotional meltdown, and I didn’t know what to do. After helping to make her comfortable, I played the song Always over and over. Then I placed my hand on her forehead and asked God to give her peace, quoting the words from Psalm 4:
I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you Oh Lord will keep me safe.

I retreated, knelt on the floor, and prayed in tongues. I do this at certain times, because it seems to bypass my struggle to find English words. Instead it’s like putting my left logical brain in neutral, and praying with my right brain. The burden lifted. And my friend felt much better in the morning.paolo_veronese_christ_and_the_woman_with_the_issue_of_blood_525

6. FIND A POINT OF CONTACT. This may be a kind of summary of all the above. It’s based on an encounter with Jesus. A woman who had been bleeding internally for 12 years snuck up behind Jesus and touched the hem of his robe. Her bleeding stopped immediately. You can read more of the drama by clicking here then scrolling down. (If you go there, you need to hit the back-arrow to return to the blog). It’s called a point of contact because the woman believed and said to herself, If only I can touch the hem of his robe, I shall be healed.

7. PRAY THROUGH. Meaning keep on praying until you feel a release. This is subjective of course. Once on a long-distance drive I felt down for no special reason. For dozens of miles I kept praying, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Eventually a particular person popped into my mind, and as soon as I prayed for him the burden lifted.

TAKEWAY: Helpless prayer can be effective prayer, because it comes from a desperate need to reach God. Don’t give up. But push on, like the woman with the hemorrhage, and try different creative methods until you touch the hem of the robe. It’s empowering to realize there are different methods to pray even when you feel helpless.

POST-SCRIPT: I believe in mystical encounters with God, even though I am a scientist and engineer. I have seen things happen as a result of a personal relationship with God….. meaning God as a good father (it doesn’t get much more personal than this). Mystical events are often subjective, and are not provable by scientific testing. But that doesn’t mean they are not truth. Click here then scroll down for a God-encounter with carbon monoxide poisoning, which gives a fine example of this. (If you go there, you need to hit the back-arrow to return to the blog).

If you would like to add a comment on this story, please put it in the Comment box at the bottom of the blog. Again, I invite you to share how you approach God when you feel helpless.

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The Gray Nomad
Probing the practices of Christian faith

You have freed me when I was hemmed in, and enlarged me when I was in distress. Have mercy upon me and hear my prayer. [Book of Psalms, chapter 4].

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Barbara Leachman
Barbara Leachman
7 years ago

Good blog, Ian. All these are methods I’ve used, too. In Revelation 5:8 and 8:3, we see that all our prayers are kept in golden vials of incense and are “the perfume of the incense mixed with prayers ascended up to God from the altar where the angel had poured them out.” None of our prayers falls away unheard. When we mix the Spirit and His power with our prayers, amazing things happen.

Karen Larre
Karen Larre
7 years ago

I absolutely love this blog! It’s my favorite so far. Tears in my eyes. You are such a gift to humanity, Ian, for the hope and encouragement you provide. You are a true demonstration of the love of God in action. So many blessings to you.

Mary Ann Pollock
Mary Ann Pollock
7 years ago

Thank you for the blog on prayer. It helped me remember one thing my Mother
taught me. When she was burdened about something she
would pray until she had prayed through to know everything would be ok. I liked your stories.

Phillip Wiebe
Phillip Wiebe
7 years ago

Great advice Ian – and from one who has experienced!! Bless you.

Don Compton
Don Compton
7 years ago

Good helps for prayer. I’ve had to use all of these points at some time in my life.

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