People who pray on a regular basis, at some point, are likely to end up in a rut—a prayer rut. (Conversely, people who don’t pray on a regular basis may also be in a prayer rut of sorts, albeit a different kind.)
A prayer rut may be likened to trying to extricate a stuck car: the wheels are spinning, but you’re not going anywhere. Or it may feel like nothing more than vain repetition or that God isn’t listening—or worse yet, that he doesn’t care. Whatever the cause, the associated emotions are overwhelming and the way out, seemingly impossible.
I suspect that being in a prayer rut is a function of our own doing, not God’s. When I feel my prayers are going nowhere or I privately ponder if they are a waste of time, my solution is to switch things up, to place temporary limits or goals on what I will or won’t pray.
In one particularly difficult season, I pledged that my prayers would contain no petitions for myself, only for others. After a few weeks had passed and I felt that the runt was sufficiently behind me, I again allowed myself to make personal requests—but only for spiritual issues, not physical ones. Eventually, I removed this limit as well.
For smaller ruts, I have resorted to uttering prayers with no requests—only praises to God…or just giving thanks…or only offering confession (a particularly challenging effort). Sometimes I use the Lord’s prayer as a template, forming a more balanced and God-centric focus. There are also times of praying without words—just listening.
Regardless, I eventually find myself no longer trapped in the rut and my prayer time with the almighty has returned to a balanced and appropriate exchange, giving me joy, peace, and contentment—which I suspect may be God’s perspective as well.