When You Pray and It Feels Like Nothing Is Happening

Sometimes prayer feels like this.

Pouring tiny drops of water into a giant bucket. No matter how late or long or loud you pray, it seems like the bucket is still empty.

All your work, your blood, sweat, prayers. You launch them upward, hot, sticky and tired, but nothing comes back down to you.

You want to give up. It feels like nothing is happening.

I can totally relate. Recently, our family thought we’d had a huge victory in something we’d been praying in for years. We thought the worst was over. I can’t share the details, but the celebration was short-lived.

If I had written this post a few weeks ago, I would’ve thought we’d had a breakthrough. An answer to prayer. But now here we are, more heartache, delay, sadness.

I can’t make sense of it. But I know that prayer works.

Revelation talks about prayer like a real thing, not just vapors or whispers that vanish as soon as they leave the mouth of the faithful.

They are like incense to God, a fragrance, and in John’s vision in Revelation, it says prayers fill up bowls in front of God. Fill up. Maybe slowly, maybe quickly, but those bowls fill.

 

And eventually…

The overflow comes. Splash. You are drenched in the magnificent answer to your prayer.

It’s not a neat process. There is no formula. Sometimes we fill bowls and buckets of prayer that won’t overflow in our lifetime. Sometimes we pray and we lose our loved one anyway. What happened to that bowl of prayer? We don’t know.

Paul even has the audacity to suggest that suffering, brokenness, short-term disappointment, can lead to hope. What? He says to the Romans, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

When we go through difficulties, painful circumstances and prayers that seem pointless, somehow God is building hope in us through this. Yes, hope, not hopelessness or cynicism as you might expect or even feel at times. No, this crazy rollercoaster of emotion is somehow designed for our hope. Believe it.

So no, prayer isn’t pointless. Something is happening. Really. The way God talks about this act of prayer, the filling of a bucket, little by little, prayer by prayer, this helps me know I am not doing this in vain.

So don’t give up. Don’t walk away thinking your prayers are merely wind. Don’t let yourself get disappointed. It’s possible your bucket is almost full, ready to soak you in your long-awaited answer.

Just one more day, get up, pour your prayer in the bucket, and wait. Your faith will not disappoint you.

No prayer is unheard. No prayer is wasted. This kind of Hope never disappoints.

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3 thoughts on “When You Pray and It Feels Like Nothing Is Happening

  1. wonderful analogy! I will never look at the bucket at our pool the same again! Thank you for sharing right in the midst of your disappointment, not just waiting til you can look back and make sense of it.

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  2. It’s like you’ve been following me around in my head. I love this post. Thank you. One truth I’ve been clinging to lately is the Holy Spirit’s place as someone who intercedes on our behalf when we’re not even sure what words to say. It’s not a place I want stay but it is hugely comforting to know He takes the groans of our spirits and makes them into prayers that fill bowls.

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    1. I love that, Sarah. So true that he can pray for us when we don’t know how to pray. Prayer can be comforting when it doesn’t feel hopelessly one-sided.

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