Diagnostic tests, to find what is ailing your prayers.

A Checkup On Your Prayer Life

Learn to communicate with God

Spiritual Practices Growing Your Prayer Life

Test your prayer life through these questions.

When Prayer Falls Flat

Prayer isn't always exciting. In fact, it's usually ordinary. That's okay; ordinary is good. But sometimes, it's much less than that: something's missing.

Sometimes, you're bored. You've made the discipline of prayer your personal practice and a part of your daily life, but the prayers are at a standstill. (You married folks should ask your spouse about that....) That means it's time to stop yawning and see what's happening with you. It may be time to :

(Please note that there's a lot of 'sometimes', 'maybe', and 'often' in this page. The discipline of regular prayer is a spiritual matter, and those aren't well-suited to tight rules. You'll have to learn how to discern the Spirit's voice in your prayer life.)

Prayer Communication Breakdown

Usually, such minor adjustments are enough to curb your drifting. But, let's say, you've made the adjustments, they work briefly, and then SLAM! It hits you. God's not there. Sometimes one must taste the absence in order to keep savoring the presence. And sometimes God steps aside so you can learn to persevere in prayer, to keep working at it on trust.

But then, as you keep plugging away at it, it becomes clear that something else is at work. It's not really that God has stepped away, after all. It's that there's a communication breakdown. God's apparent silence is due to a problem at your end. Something's rocking the relationship. When you reach this point (and sooner or later you will), it's time for you to find out what's up. What could it be?

A Prayer Relationship Checkup

It may be about other people:

You may not be dealing straight with God:

Perhaps there's another god in your life:

Or, it may be something about yourself and your frame of mind.

Hitting Bottom

"We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us."
--- C.S. Lewis, *Letters To Malcolm*, p.35

It sounds like a lot of things can go wrong. But there are rare times that nothing can prepare you for, no questions can lead you through, and no joyous past experience can carry you over. It is when the course of your life takes you to a spiritual dead end. Not only are your prayers stuck, but the entire content of your life is stuck, or even disastrous. And you feel more than just that God's hiding away. You may feel like God wants nothing to do with you -- like a lover who suddenly left town. You can 'know' God's love as a thought, and remember when you basked in God's love. But that's like rubbish in your current misery and lostness. Such times are different than the common lulls and low points in life. I can tell you that at those times God may rip away even the good things about your life so you can love more directly and honestly. I can tell you that God is not far away, but closer than ever. I can even direct you to the apostle Paul's letters, to ancient Hebrew prophets, and to authors who have gone through this and share what they've found out. But why should you believe me or anyone else? There are no set answers to your own "dark nights of the soul". You have to sort them out yourself. The only choice that remains is to wait for God, and pay close attention. The nights do end.

A Relationship? With God?

Many people wonder how someone can have a relationship with an invisible, transcendent God. But these ways of blocking out God are, for the most part, the same ways we block out other people, and they were discovered by the faithful thousands of years before there was such a thing as 'psychology'. These blockages, and many others, undermine the trust and truthfulness that's needed for building any relationship, including that with the Creator of All, the Lover of My Soul. So use the above (and below) probings as a diagnostic check-up. Awaken to these possibilities, and keep praying for guidance on these matters, even if you find your faith to be weak. You'll be led further into a mature faith in Christ. Then prayer can once again be spending time alone with Someone who loves you. Even when there's a breakdown, if you keep at it, prayer still does its work. It's working because the Spirit's at work. The God of prayer is working on you.

Another suggestion is to get one person to be your prayer partner - not your pastor (though your pastor needs one, he/she needs to choose his/her own). Seek out someone of the same sex whom you can trust, who is spiritually mature, and who is willing to commit the time and effort to it.
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Next page: questions for into prayer.

Use this page as a prayer diagnostic test.