When Prayer is Painful

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Prayer is hard.

Sometimes, I'm just lazy and I don't want to commit even 1% of my day to time with the Lord. Sometimes, I just get started with my day and by nighttime I fall asleep mid Hail Mary. And sometimes, prayer just really hurts.

It hurts because e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. hurts: your body, your mind, your spirit. And then you go to pray about the hurt but it hurts even more! It hurts like hand sanitizer in a paper-cut or a violent cough with a sore throat. It's almost as if prayer has a compounding effect. 

But then this temptation sets in: if the hurt is there and prayer makes it more intense, maybe I shouldn't pray? Spoiler Alert: This is not the right approach. As it turns out, this hurt is actually healing. The alcohol cleans the cut; the cough (tries to) expel nasty germs and irritants.

"That's great, Allison," you say. "So I just steer into the skid and do it anyways? I could've figured that out on my own, you know."

Yeah, I know. But sometimes that's all you need. To know that someone else gets it and to know that God, Himself gets it. Let's look at the first Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden.

Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples, he found them sleeping from grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.” - Luke 22:39-46

Y'all, Jesus was hurting, in sorrow and distress (Matthew 26:37). So He goes to His Father and prays. Only, what the heck(!), He is met with agony, extreme mental and physical suffering. Again, y'all, more pain, and then in His Passion, even more pain! 

Thankfully, we know it doesn't end there. We know that this pain is healing for the whole world. Christ has beautifully modeled what we are to do: pray with the pain.

I don't want to downplay whatever situation you are in. I know, it's hard. Prayer is hard. Painful prayer is extra hard. Painful prayer with no end in sight is extra extra hard. But no prayer or avoiding prayer is harder than any of these.

This pain is a gift. (Ugh, what's the refund policy?) We have privilege of joining our suffering to Christ's. With that we both experience a new intimacy with Him but also become sharers in the redemption of the world!


I wholeheartedly believe any healing journey should be centered on prayer. To be clear, prayer is not mutually exclusive to getting professional psychological and/or medical treatment. If you need counseling, find a counselor! If you need a doctor, find a doctor!

I'm praying for you, friend.

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When Prayer is Painful