When you don't know what to pray

I am writing a daily blog (Monday to Friday)  on preparing spiritually and physically

to lead a Pilgrimage of 100 miles in September.

for details of the Pilgrimage, click on the dropdown Cotswold Pilgrimage bar at the top of this page 



- I’d love to pray more.

 - But sometimes I just don’t know what to say. 

 - I have no words yet I want to pray.  Can you give me some ideas of what I might say?

 - I’m in such a mess. I can’t seem to say all of what I feel.

 - My sorrow is too deep for words. I feel cut off.

- I’m too full (with emotion) to be able to pray.


This, these, have been voiced to me recently. And I know how that feels.

And I know a little of what has helped me.  Might it help you too?

Short, succinct prayers.

Few words, but words with great depth.

Words uttered by others over the centuries, those who too have plumbed the depths – and the heights.

Words repeated until they sink into one’s soul, become one’s breath; reiterated to extract their full meaning. Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life (John Bunyan)


Words such as those by Thomas Traherne:

Lord have mercy

Into Thy hands

Thee I adore


Or the paraphrase from blind Bartimaeus

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.


The words of a father longing for his boy to be healed:

Lord I believe; help Thou my unbelief.


The first line of St Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace


Many of the Psalms have single lines of prayer that can be helpfully expressive:

Bless The Lord, O my soul, let all that is within me bless His holy Name!

Teach me your ways O Lord and lead me

There is none like You, O God, You are a mighty fortress unto me

Lead me, Lord – led me in your righteousness. Make your ways clear to me


Simple, short prayers that can be uttered repeatedly.

Offered up silently or aloud, as one walks and goes about one’s day.

And on a Pilgrimage, words formed on the lips for a longer period of walking, repeated until they become who one is for that time, said in rhythmic walking pace, focusing the mind on that alone.

For a Monday: words silently offered up in the midst of life, work, children, stuff. Shaping the day, crying out, focusing briefly on the One who understands.


Might you try  as short simple prayer today , repeating it as you go on?


What short prayers have most helped you?

Write them in the comment section below?

They may well help someone else today.

And maybe forward this to someone who needs to know a short prayer today? Thank you for grace.