When we can’t pray, Holy Spirit within us can!

When we can’t pray, Holy Spirit within us can!

Over the years, I have heard people say things like: “I don’t know how to pray”; “My prayers aren’t heard”; “I don’t pray for myself”; “Praying doesn’t work for me”; and even “Only the holy gets answered prayers”.

My heart hurts for every person who struggles with prayer. I, too, have experienced times of dryness. Either I didn’t know how to pray or what to pray for. I have had feelings of inadequateness. I have felt unworthy, too sinful, not good enough, or even not holy enough. These moments are sad; they can leave us feeling hollow; they can be crushing to our spirit.

Yet, there is HOPE! When we experience feelings of inadequacy, or simply have no inspiration nor drive to pray, we can ask Holy Spirit to intercede. Scripture says that when you do not know how to pray, turn to Holy Spirit; who will intercede for you. It is truly that simple; yet, many of us still struggle with prayer. Once we are aware of the fact that God will not abandon us, and that He has provided provision to us through Holy Spirit, we are able to hold onto His promises with great HOPE.

What is prayer? Prayer is simply defined as communication with God. We can think of it as a child turning to a specific adult (parent, grandparent, mentor, etc.), asking for assistance, a gift, guidance, or protection. The more a child interacts with this specific adult in their life, the more comfortable they become. The child will learn that it is safe to turn to this adult. The child will come to unquestionably know that the adult has the child’s best interest in their heart. And, the child will come to appreciate the adult; showing their appreciation with praise, words of gratitude, words expressing adoration, and telling others about the goodness of their specific adult. And finally, the child desires time alone with the specific adult, being silent and listening to what the adult desires to tell the child.

And now, let’s replace the words ‘specific adult’ or ‘adult’ with ‘God’; and the words ‘the child’ or ‘child’ with ‘I’, ‘my’, or ‘me’, as appropriate. This last paragraph now reads this truth about prayer (aka communication):

I turn to God, asking for assistance, a gift, guidance, or protection. The more I interact with God {in prayer}, the more comfortable I become. I will learn that it is safe to turn to God. I will come to unquestionably know that God has my best interest in His heart. And, I will come to appreciate God; showing my appreciation with praise, words of gratitude, words expressing adoration, and telling others about the goodness of God. And, finally, I desire time alone with God, being silent and listening to what God desires to tell me.

This is prayer. Time spent communicating with God: asking for assistance, guidance, and protection; becoming comfortable in our relationship with Him; feeling safe within His care; knowing He has me in His heart; appreciating Him through praise, adoration, and sharing with others His goodness; and seeking quiet time to simply be present to God so that He can respond to us, guide us, and comfort us.

Sometimes we still need Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf; and he does it willingly! Let’s look at Romans 8.1 Paul is speaking to the “Christian church in Rome”.2 In the first half of Romans 8, Paul is encouraging the Christians by telling them that although their bodies are made of flesh, they themselves are IN the Spirit. That is to say, we “are not in the flesh but {we are} in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in” (v9)1 us. And, because the Spirit dwells within each one of us, as Christians, we are not to fear. In the times we are week, unsure, tired, fretting, and such, we have been provided an advocate, namely, Holy Spirit. As we move down past mid-chapter of Romans 8, we are encouraged with Paul’s message that “the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us” v26.1 As we turn to the Spirit, simply invite him to be present to you. Pray something like: “Come, Holy Spirit, Come”, or “Holy Spirit, I welcome your presence”. Then, be in silence, allowing Spirit to intercede for you. You may also pray something like: “Holy Spirit, how do you want me to pray?”. You may actually discover that you may begin praying on your own after a few seconds or minutes.

Be comforted in times when you cannot pray. God is so good! He has prepared us for moments when we are dry… in a desert. Paul says it in Romans 8. And, there are many other scripture passages which back him up. I leave you with a few passages which you can utilize during your time with God. I encourage you to journal about your time communicating with God about how He is calling you to prayer, and how He provides an advocate in the Holy Spirit.

  • Psalm 42:11
  • Psalm 145:18
  • Psalm 143:1  
  • Matthew 8:20
  • Matthew 21:22
  • James 1:6
  • Jeremiah 29:12
  • Jeremiah 33:3
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18                

May you take comfort knowing that you are not alone. I encourage you to remain focused on spending time in prayer. If you have no set time, try setting your alarm to wake up just 15 minutes early, and you may soon discover you need to wake up maybe 20 or 30 minutes earlier than normal. You can also set an alarm so that you will spend at least 15 minutes in prayer before going to sleep. Again, you may discover you need to allow for more prayer time. And, on the days or moments when you don’t know how or what to pray, invite Holy Spirit to do it on your behalf.

May God shine His light, love, mercy, grace, hope, joy, and peace upon you!


  1. “Bible Gateway Passage: Romans 8 – New American Standard Bible.” Bible Gateway, Lockman, 2020, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=romans+8&version=NASB. Accessed 10 January 2022.
  2. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Letter of Paul to the
    Romans”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 18 Aug. 2020,
    https://www.britannica.com/topic/Letter-of-Paul-to-the-Romans. Accessed 10 January 2022.