Knowing how to pray when you feel overwhelmed can be, well, overwhelming. These suggestions can help you sort out your thoughts and feelings and connect with God.
One summer a few years ago, it felt like our family got trampled by a series of traumatic events.
- Our savings account got hacked, and thousands of dollars disappeared overnight.
- A friend of ours died suddenly in a motorcycle crash.
- Someone walked into our house while we were on the back porch and stole a fire safe that had our most valuable items inside. Then they drove off with our car.
- A dearly loved grandparent passed away.
- In the meantime, we felt the ongoing longing for an adoption that was stretching into the fourth year of waiting, with no end in sight.
I remember waking up in the morning and dreading getting out of bed. Normally I love my morning routine of coffee and Jesus, but I felt so overwhelmed with grief, anger, and despair that I didn’t know how I could face life.
It’s times like this that God wants us to come to Him in prayer. But how do you pray when you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t even have words?
Through this time and others, I’ve found some valuable tools that have helped me turn to the Lord with my darkest feelings and process them in a healthy and healing way.
Related post: How to Pray About Anxiety and Actually Find Peace
How to Pray When You Feel Overwhelmed: 5 Methods
If you feel so overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that you don’t know how to pray, or even if you feel numb, try these 5 methods of prayer:
- Meditate in silence.
- Imitate prayers from the Bible.
- Pray with someone.
- Pray through song.
Here’s how to approach each of these methods:
1. Meditate in Silence
Christian meditation is a way to calm your mind and turn to God when you feel overwhelmed, especially if you find yourself overthinking. Unlike other forms of meditation, the goal isn’t to empty your mind; the goal is to focus it on Him.
I find it helpful to breathe deeply and focus on a short Scripture or something about God that calms me. When your mind inevitably starts to wander, imagine releasing your thoughts over to Him (as 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you”).
You can meditate with your eyes closed, eyes open, or even go for a walk, as being in nature has a soothing effect when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes after you’ve been in silent meditation, you may naturally start finding words for prayer. What’s more, God can be mysteriously working in your heart as Romans 8:26–27 describes:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
2. Imitate Prayers from the Bible
You can be comforted by the fact that you’re not the first person who doesn’t know how to pray when they feel overwhelmed. The Bible is full of prayers that can be recited for exactly that reason.
While you can pray through any passage of Scripture that you find helpful, the Psalms in particular are useful in this way. They were written as a form of worship, and through history they have been prayed through in community as well as in solitude. They contain the whole spectrum of human emotion, from ecstatic joy to rage and deep sorrow.
I personally love the first two verses of Psalm 62:
Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
Some other Psalms that can be useful to pray through when you feel overwhelmed are:
- Psalm 19
- Psalm 23
- Psalm 34
- Psalm 46
- Psalm 51
- Psalm 61
- Psalm 63
- Psalm 91
- Psalm 103
- Psalm 139
Related post: 5 Ways to Pray for Strength from the Psalms
I find that journaling my prayers can be helpful when I feel overwhelmed because it helps me organize my jumbled thoughts and make sense of them. When I just pray in my head or even out loud, I’m more likely to trail off or ramble.
After experiencing the theft of our savings and possessions, I felt so violated and angry but I didn’t know what to do with those powerful emotions. I finally took out a piece of paper and raged to God about all of my hate and hurt. I didn’t hold back. Afterward, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my soul. I tore up the piece of paper and threw it away. The intense anger never returned.
While some people journal naturally and easily, others don’t know where to start. That’s why I created some prayer prompts based on Jesus’ teachings that you can download if you need guidance.
4. Pray with Someone
While prayer is powerful when practiced in solitude, God also desires that we do it in community. Praying with someone else can be especially helpful when you feel overwhelmed because they can do all of the talking for you!
What’s more, Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”
When I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed with emotion, I’ll ask my husband if we can pray together, and he’ll do most, if not all of the talking. Sometimes just hearing him talk about what’s bothering me, in his words, can help me put my thoughts into my own words, and I’ll follow up with my own prayer.
5. Pray Through Song
I’m someone who tends to bottle up my emotions when I feel overwhelmed, which makes it difficult to pray. But there’s something about music that unleashes my emotions, and they can come flooding out.
That’s why worship music is so powerful. It engages with a different part of your mind and soul and can help you pour out your heart without having to think of the right words to say.
To pray when you’re overwhelmed, try different approaches to music. Some people like to shout it loud, while others are moved by quiet reflection. You may like upbeat gospel, or you may like traditional hymns. Perhaps you are moved when you sing in a group setting, or perhaps you can only really let go of your inhibition when you are alone.
You do what works for you, at that moment.
Related post: How to Pray When You Just Can’t Focus
Remember That When You Feel Overwhelmed, God Is There
As I wrap up, I’m reminded of Psalm 34:18:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Try not to worry about the “right” way to pray when you feel overwhelmed. While these tools can be helpful, ultimately God will be close to you and meet you where you’re at. After all, the power of prayer comes from Him, not from you.
If you find these tools for how to pray when you feel overwhelmed helpful, be sure to download 7 days of prayer prompts from Jesus’ teachings.
Leave a comment: When have you been so overwhelmed you had trouble praying? What has been helpful for you?