When Praying Feels Like A Hopeless Effort

When Prayer Feels Like A Hopeless Effort -christyfitzwater.com

There’s a bull dog inside of me. If you tell me I can’t do something, game on. Inwardly I will cross my arms and say, “Oh yeah? You don’t think I can do this? We’ll see about that.” This tenacity and strong-willed determination serves me well. Sometimes.

But lately I’ve been doing some serious praying for people who are in a bad way, and my inner bull dog is reaching the end of its chain. Prayer feels like barking at a problem that I can’t quite reach to get my own teeth into.

Like the lost teenager I’ve been praying for, and what can I really do to help him anyway?

The wayward child of a dear friend, and do my prayers even mean anything in such a dark situation?

Or my sick son-in-law, and do my prayers land flat? Accomplishing nothing on his behalf?

I know this feeling. The feeling I had when I could not, despite my great determination, figure out how to apply caulking. (I was squeezing the tube by hand, like toothpaste, and didn’t realize there was such a thing as a caulking gun. I finally grunted. Cried. Slammed down the tube in frustration. It was a classic strong-willed child tantrum.) It’s the feeling of giving my greatest effort, my most fierce stick-to-it attitude, and still not getting the results I want.

So during my quiet time this morning I grunted. Cried. Wrote down “FRUSTRATED” in fiery letters at the top of a journal page. Full on tantrum. Then I opened the Bible to my daily reading and came to the story of Jairus in the gospel of Mark. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, but his little girl was dying.

Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet and pleaded earnestly with him.  (Mark 5:22-23)

This was the answer to my frustrated prayer. (Wow that was a fast answer!) Here was a man who was a leader and very resourceful, but he did not have the resources to make his own daughter well. I sat and thought long about this.

The Spirit shone a spotlight on my pride. I want to be able to do things myself, to fix things myself. To say that I don’t have the resources to help people is a blow to pride. The end of the Lord’s prayer came to mind:

Yours is the kingdom.

Yours is the power.

Yours is the glory.

But my strong-willed child always wants the power. I want to be able to do things without anyone’s help. I want to fix the sick. I want to save the lost. I want to bring back the wayward child. Me. Me. Me.

So what does that leave for me? All I have is this falling at the feet of Jesus and pleading earnestly with him on behalf of others. Always the admission that I DO NOT HAVE WHAT IT TAKES to help someone. Always humility. Always neediness. Always desperation. Always acknowledging Jesus is the power.

The little girl died, and Jesus brought her back to life. That is the story.

Our only option is to be Jairus on behalf of our people. We must live in this place of worship at the feet of Jesus. We must die to our own pride so that the life-giving power of Jesus can work in the lives of people we care about. This is our only option.


  1. I’m finding an unwelcome “battle fatigue” some mornings as I go through my list of those I pray for. When no answers seem to be coming, when there is no evidence of what God may be doing behind the scenes, it’s easy to wonder if our prayers are enacting any change. Your post sheds light on the fact that I am not the one who can fix this…though I would love to be. It is HE who is at work, doing HIS will. Faithfully praying for someone is sometimes hard work. Some of my heroes from the past have written PRAYER IS WORK, and our labor is on our knees.

    1. It is exhausting work. I’m right there with you. We really have to just dig in and be in there for the long haul, but I’m constantly impatient and have to come back to the fact that I can only ask and then wait patiently and faithfully. Praying is not for the faint of heart.

  2. Ellen Sowins says:

    Sometimes what we want is not in God’s plan. His answer then becomes “That is not what I have in my heart for………..”. It hurts a lot……….when you pray for healing for your husband or salvation for your grown children……….or reconciliation between family members………….I could list a lot more that I can’t change. I now place it all at the foot of the Cross with my tears and say,”Thy will be done…….”.

    1. Ah, that’s a hard but true word. Thank you for adding this note for the benefit of all reading.

  3. Thank you for your insight this morning, Christy. May I, too, fall at the feet of Jesus and earnestly pray for my prodigal children and lost family members. I do not have what it takes…only Jesus does, and to Him I will go in humility and submission and in worship. Thank you for your exhortation.

    1. It’s so hard. We love deeply. I pray the Lord will give you the perseverance to keep praying for these lost ones. We really have to be in it for the long haul.

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