What to Pray When God Seems Distant

praying the psalmsThe Psalms are a prayer book.  That was their purpose to the ancient Jews, and that remains their purpose for believers today.  Aside from being beautiful literature and a conveyer of God’s truth, the Psalms also provide God’s people with 150 ready-to-use templates for prayer.

So often in life, we don’t know what to pray for.  Particularly when the circumstances seem overwhelming or the situation bewildering, we come to God, and we are… wordless.  We want to cry out to Him, but we don’t even know where to begin or what to say!

Flip open your Bible to the Psalms, and find 150 sample prayers that millions upon millions of believers have lifted to God for thousands of years.  Replete with beautiful language, rich with energy and imagery, the Psalms are often able to convey what our own hearts and mouths cannot in our moment of crisis.  Or fatigue.  Or confusion.  Or anguish.  Or exasperation.

One of the most difficult times to pray is when God seems distant.  What do you say to God when you’re not sure He’s even listening?  You feel abandoned, and you doubt whether He even cares or thinks about you at all?

King David and the other Psalmists felt this way.  And the Spirit of God inspired them to write down their prayers of anguish and desperation to be included in the Holy Canon of Scripture.  Why?  Because generation after generation would need their example – and even their words – in similar times of feeling lost or forsaken.

Below, I have edited together a prayer for when God seems distant.  It is a blending of quotations from two of King David’s prayers – times when David felt overwhelmed by his circumstances – times when he felt like God was distant or silent:

From Psalm 69 (NLT):

Save me, O God, for the floodwaters are up to my neck!  Deeper and deeper I sink into the mire; I can’t find a foothold.  I am in deep water, and the floods are overwhelming me!

I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched.  My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me.  But I keep praying to you, Lord, hoping this time You will show me favor.  In Your unfailing love, O God, answer my prayer with Your sure salvation.

Rescue me from the mud; don’t let me sink any deeper!  Save me, and pull me from these deep waters.  Don’t let the floods overwhelm me, or the deep waters swallow me, or the pit of despair devour me.

Answer my prayers, O Lord, for Your unfailing love is wonderful.  Take care of me, for Your mercy is so plentiful.  Don’t hide from Your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in deep trouble!  Come.  Redeem me, and free me.

My heart is broken, and I am in despair!  If only one person would show some pity; if only one would turn and comfort me…  But instead, I have dust for food; and bitter water for my thirst.

I am suffering and in pain.  Rescue me, O God, by Your saving power.  Then I will praise God’s Name with singing, and I will honor Him with thanksgiving.  The humble will see their God at work and be glad.  Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.  For the Lord hears the cries of the needy; He does not despise His imprisoned people.  Praise Him, O heaven and earth, the seas and all that move in them.

And from Psalm 13 (NLT & NIV):

O Lord, how long will You forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?  How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”  Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I will trust in Your unfailing love.  My heart rejoices in Your salvation, and I will trust in Your rescue.  I will sing to the Lord, because He has been good to me.

The power of the Psalms is that they are deeply rooted in the truth about God’s character.  While they openly express the human perspective on sin, suffering, injustice, and pain, the Psalms always resolve in the truth of who God is.

We can see it in both Psalm 69 and 13 above: no matter what we feel, the truth is, we are not forsaken.  We are not abandoned.  We may not see Him, but God is near.  He has not left us.  We may not feel Him, but He is close and He cares.  He deeply loves and cares for us more than we could ever possibly ask or imagine Him to!

This is the conclusion that David always reached in his Psalms.  No matter how distant God seemed or insurmountable his desperation felt, David knew that God was indeed listening.  No matter how distant or doubtful these truths seem – David’s prayers remind us that God is at work in our lives, and that He will help us endure even the most difficult circumstances.

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