Wednesday, January 21, 2015

3 Ways to Pray with a Broken Heart

In the moments when we suffer - through loss, tragedy, trauma, or loneliness - God is never far from us. We know this. We've been told this, and reminded of this, and it's supposed to be a comfort to us. Unfortunately, none of that guarantees that it will feel easy to talk to Him when we suffer. If you've been in any of the powerfully painful situations I just mentioned, you can probably relate to how difficult it may be to have a dialogue with Him. You are angry, upset, and wanting to take it out on someone, something, and in some way. You want to exhaust yourself with the power of your grief, but you also want to plead for a different truth to your situation. If God could just show you a miracle right now! He could if He wanted to, you tell yourself.

And then you convince yourself that He isn't listening, because there you still are, broken-hearted, exhausted with the burden of an ugly truth, and unable to face it. For many, myself included, this can be a crucial moment when our conversation with God begins to break down. No matter how much sense it makes to keep our broken hearts close to God and aligned with the sufferings of Christ in our own misery... these tend to be the moments when we push God away. We tell ourselves that we can't handle it anymore. God isn't listening anyway, we reason.

I'll just pull myself up by my own strength of will. I'll push through the pain. I'll find an answer. With logic. And effort. And determination. We all do this kind of bargaining. For some, this stage of "powering through the grief" can last years. For others, it can happen within the hour of finding yourself on misery's doorstep.

But at some point, aren't we are forced to deal with the Truth? Not our "truth", but rather His Truth. We are not capable of making sense of His Plan. We can't understand with human emotion and human minds how to reconcile tragedy and loss and trauma and loneliness without Him. So how exactly do we do find God in moments like that? And how do we navigate a life that is simultaneously filled with joyous moments and grievous tragedies? How do we pray with a broken heart and find God in the seemingly smothering and immovable sea of our own suffering? 

Here are 3 Ways to Pray with a Broken Heart that help me in dark moments. I hope you find them helpful as well. If you do, share this with others.

1. Jesus is Our Prayer

"There is no other way of Christian prayer than Christ. Whether our prayer is communal or personal, vocal or interior, it has access to the Father only if we pray "in the name" of Jesus. The sacred humanity of Jesus is therefore the way by which the Holy Spirit teaches us to pray to God our Father." 

This is what we learn from the Catechism. It makes sense to tell ourselves (remind ourselves) that our access to God is through His Son - especially when our hearts are broken. Invoking Jesus' name is the easiest way to call Him within us. That means so much that I can hardly put more emphasis on it. Imagine the broken-hearted woman who weeps at the death of her child. Is she capable of anything but calling out to Jesus in pain? Imagine the injured survivors of a tsunami pulled out to sea. Are they capable of anything but calling out to Jesus in their dire moment of need? The name of the Son of God is a prayer itself. When we are praying in dark moments and uncontrollably weeping and incapable of even standing, we need only to invoke His name and it becomes our entire prayer. He hears us. God the Father hears us. The Truine God weeps with us. And no perfectly fitted rhyming verse that is dutifully called to memory supersedes the power of a simple prayer. All we have to do is say His name. Jesus. Jesus. AMEN.

Yes, that imagery paints a powerful picture - pulled out to sea, with your calls in earshot of no one but God, wading through dangerous debris as you weep for what once was. And you might be thinking how so few moments in life are that stripped down and dark and desperate that we might have no other power in us but to say the Name of God over and over in our pain. True. (And you thank merciful God for that.) At the heart of all prayer in times of need - the kind that sucks the strength from our knees and the air from our lungs...the kind that is so powerful that we are completely overcome - it's a powerful reminder that we aren't performing for God. We aren't praying complicated prayers in hopes that He'll listen only if we get them right or say them with enough repetition. That helps me in my darkest moments. God suffers with us. The Author of Compassion. We are not alone, even in our darkest moments when all we can manage is to utter His name. Jesus is enough. He is our prayer. 

Let's dig deeper on that Catechism quotation though, because there is a lot of meat in that simple sentence. Communal. Personal. Vocal. Interior. These are all ways that are called out as ways to pray.

2. Get Back to Basics

When you are raised Christian, you are often taught to pray at bedtime...on your knees with your hands clasped together, kneeling at the side of your bed. But how many of us pray like that as adults? How often are our conversations with God even out loud anymore, let alone said at the foot of our bed with prayerful hands? My point: Go with what you know. Pray the way you were taught to pray. And if no one ever taught you to pray - take a moment to kneel by your bedside, palms clasped together, with your head bowed. How often do we hear someone say "God hears the prayers of children loudest"? Then what makes us think that our adult broken hearts need to aspire to more? What makes us think that a more complicated prayer is better or the goal? I'm not saying that we need to reduce our conversation with Christ to a litany of requests that might be better aimed at Santa Claus. The maturity of our prayer doesn't come from the form it takes though. Get back to basics. Do what you know. Pray with your broken heart at the foot of your bed. Yell at God - He can take it. ("The righteous cry out, the LORD hears and he rescues them from all their afflictions." Psalms 34:18). Give Him everything that broke your heart. Every last bit. What you will find is that peace and a little bit of certainty will find you right there at the foot of your bed when you do.

But what about the beauty of litanies, petitions, novenas, chaplets, Saints, and all the rest you forgot?! Yes, yes, yes, there is immense beauty and comfort to be found there. Let's talk about how the broken-hearted can use them to find God in dark moments.

3. Let the Saints Pray with You

Let me first say that you don't have to be Catholic to pray Catholic prayers. Remember that catholic means "universal". All who call Christ into their hearts are joined by that shared Truth. And one of the beauties of the universality of being Christian is that we have amazing examples of suffering available to us through the holy saints. There are people who lived before us (and among us!!) who really get our pain in a human way, without being divine themselves (and honestly sometimes that is easier to relate to in dark moments because the divine suffering and Passion of Christ can seem so unreachable). Use that gateway of understanding as a way to find Jesus through your pain. For nearly every instance of suffering, there is a human saint known to us. They all came into existence just like us. They suffered just like us. They failed just like us. And they were purified through their pain and deep suffering by a merciful God who heard THEIR prayers. When we pray with broken hearts and we give God our suffering, we are saying YES to drawing nearer to sainthood ourselves. Let it be done unto me! When we pray for the favor of God by asking others who have suffered to pray for us, we are uniting our pain with those who understand. It's not us vs. the world, in another clear defeat. It's all of us with a shared suffering speaking at once. Take a moment to look up the "saint of suffering" or the "saint of infertility" or the "patron of loneliness". There are gobs of them - waiting to intercede with God on your behalf. Let them help amplify your broken-hearted prayers to Christ. The amazing thing about the saints is that they often are associated with specific prayers. You don't even have to find the words yourself! Sometimes God gave them directly to the saint with detailed instructions on exactly what to say and do in difficult times! St. Faustina is a great example of this with her Divine Mercy chaplet and story. There are so many others.

Let structured prayer help you find an inner peace that is hidden underneath your misery. Let it help connect you back to what you already know. Those prayers can be simple verses from the Bible or they can be structured into several day long prayers (that's what a novena is), or they can take the form of a rosary (just a couple of prayers, said in repetition, highlighting Christ's suffering - it's not hard to say a rosary and you don't have to be Catholic to try!). There is comfort to be found in the Word of God, but oftentimes when we are hurting, the empathy of someone who has suffered similarly to us can be helpful. It's a shortcut to find God again through the pain. Use the saints and the prayers they bring us. They are real human examples of God talking to us directly. Listen to that Voice.

Lastly, you don't need the perfect words. There is purpose to this suffering, even if you can't see it. And God has already redeemed it. Remember this: The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. (Psalm 34:19, NABRE)


Whatever way you choose, know that you aren't praying alone. My family prays for broken hearts daily. We have a specific devotion to those struggling with infertility, but our prayers our broad enough and specific enough to be including you and your struggles too. If you have shared your pain with us in any way, you are prayed for each day. If you are suffering in pain, illness, loneliness, tragedy, with loss, and any number of circumstances...we're doing our part here to help carry the burden a tiny bit. How do you pray with a broken heart? Tell us in the comments - we can always use your inspiration!


  1. This is so good, thank you. My prayer always suffers the most when I'm hurting (when I need it the most!) so I'm definitely going to put these into practice.

    1. Thank you, Melody. I agree that it's so hard that we struggle with prayer the most when we suffer!

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  2. I definitely need to read this has been a struggle lately and I could really use these tips. I can so relate to your first few thank you!

    1. I'm always grateful when someone writes something I can relate I know that feeling! I hope the struggles are short lived. Keeping you in prayer till then! <3

  3. I firmly believe that healing will never happen without prayer, but so many times during my struggle with miscarriage and infertility I stop praying. I get so angry, sure that God doesn't care, that I neglect my prayer life. Then after a time, still feeling miserable and broken, I go to confession and confess it all - my anger, my disbelief, and my neglected prayer life. I always leave confession feeling hopeful and able to pray again.
    I like your list, and I think #1 is very important to remember.

    1. I agree that infertility really strains prayer life. We've struggled so much. The anger is and misery and feelings of brokenness are just so overwhelming sometimes. I try to remind myself that God already redeemed it...and He's upset that I'm hurting.

      Confession is such a blessing! <3 Thank you for your kind words.

  4. I'm pinning this for later as well. This is such a beautiful and helpful post! Thank you for linking up with me. Words I needed in this season of life :)


    1. So glad it spoke to you. I almost didn't post this on your link up because I only had 3 things this week, instead of 5! Thank you for the kind words. :)

  5. In my darkest hours, all I could do was hope someone else was praying for me. We never know who our prayers may be benefiting. Thank you for keeping all the brokenhearted souls in yours. Beautiful post.

    1. Oh Lynda, we're definitely keeping all the broken hearted and poor in spirit in prayer. I actually wrote this after my husband found was an anonymous entry in a church guest book, written in desperate handwriting, that begged forgiveness for some terrible sin and expressed how broken-hearted and discouraged they were. They asked for mercy and prayers and forgiveness for their missteps. My husband wrote a response next to it to let the person know they were being lifted up in prayer. It just broke our hearts at how alone that poor person felt. So this is dedicated to the writer of that guest book entry. We just never know who our prayers are reaching. All the more reason to pray. Thank you so much for sharing. <3

  6. Beautiful post, and I think very timely for a lot of hurting people. I love that you pray for the brokenhearted. I think it's so necessary!

    1. Thank you for the sweet words. Lots of difficult things going on recently, for sure. I think it makes such a difference when people know they are being prayed for without asking...especially when they need it most. <3

  7. Thank you for this. I needed this message tonight. I am broken hearted and even though I know God will never abandon me, I often fear the pain of the struggle and question its purpose. You reminded me that the struggle is human and being human is a beautiful thing. Please pray for me in my struggle with loneliness and feelings of inadequacy. Your family and ministry will be in my prayers also. I'm off to find a saint to pray with. Blessings and thanks again!

    1. James, I'm so glad this spoke to you and I pray God helps you heal that broken heart of yours and helps you see purpose in His plan and timing. Though my response to your comment has been delayed, I prayed a novena for you that God would surprise you with joy and hope. I truly appreciate your support for me, my family, this blog, and the God-focused writing I humbly share here. My own go-to-saint is often Therese, in case your prayers need an intercessor. Hoping you are well when you read this. God bless!

  8. I need this. I'm broken hearted and I feel alone. I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet everyday, but I added a few novena for my relationship since we broke off. Do you think it's too much to pray to different novena (different saints) with the same petition throughout the day?
    Please pray for me. God bless you.

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