Pray What’s in You

By Roscoe Lilly

Do you find it difficult to pray? Do you feel guilty about not praying more?  Maybe you don’t know where to start. Maybe you know lots of templates and acrostics on “how” to pray, but at the end of the day, there really isn’t a lot of praying going on. Here is what I want to encourage you to do as you head into the fall. Start with praying about what matters most to you. You probably can think of lots of things that should matter to you … such as the poor … or political leaders. And because we don’t often pray about those things, we feel guilty. We feel like a failure before we even start.

Instead, I want you to start with what’s on your mind. Here is what will happen as you rediscover your soul through prayer. Your soul will begin to grow, and as it grows, the things you pray about will grow, too.

C.S. Lewis writes in Letters to Malcolm, “We must lay before Him what is in us, not what ought to be in us.”

John Ortberg says it this way: “Pray what’s in you, not what you wish was in you.”

Maybe you feel too tired to pray.… Well, pray about that. Pray about how tired you are, talk to God about that. Talk about where that tiredness comes from in life. Ask God to help you get to the root of the tiredness. Asking God for superhuman strength everyday isn’t the answer.

Maybe through your prayer time, you’ll uncover the source of your tiredness as insecurity. What’s really driving you so hard is something you’ve been pushing down for a long time. Maybe it’s your need for approval. Maybe it’s loneliness or emptiness that’s driving all of it.

Maybe you are stressed about something. Pray about it. There are several things in the life of our church that, if I let them, can grip my heart with fear, so I have to pray about why I’m afraid. I have to talk to God about my desire and wish to have everything ironed out and wrapped up now instead of having to walk by faith. I have to talk to God about my doubts.

I have to pray what’s in me, not what I wish were in me.


One of the greatest prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures is Elijah. He performed all kinds of miracles. He raised a dead person back to life. He prayed, and it didn’t rain for three years (James 5:16–17). He held a competition between Baal’s idol worshippers and Yahweh, and he called down fire from heaven. There is a statue on Mount Carmel commemorating the event.

Right after this showdown with the 400 prophets of the idol of Baal, Queen Jezebel said she would have Elijah killed. He ran for his life and found a place to hide. While he was hiding, do you know what this great man of God prayed? He prayed what was in him.

Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.” —1 Kings 19:4

He went from a literal mountaintop experience to the valley of death. He prayed what was in him, not what he wished was in him.

Elijah, who did great things for God, struggled with the same things you and I do.

God isn’t judging you for what’s in you. The only way you grow out of it and through it is with God’s help. How do you get that help? Prayer.

What’s in you right now? Anger? Depression? Exhaustion? Doubt? Loneliness?

Start there. Pray about that.

Imagine how it would feel not to have to live from that place. What would it be like to live from a place of peace and love? How do you get there?

Pray what’s in you, not what you wish was in you.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

What are you waiting for? Talk to God about what’s in you right now.

Roscoe Lilly serves as Lead Pastor of StarPoint Church in Albany, New York. This article first appeared on his website, Follow Roscoe on Twitter @RoscoeLilly.

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