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.