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  • Writer's pictureTerri Brown

How to Pray When Your Heart is Breaking

Woman in orange shirt praying

​Guest blog by Terri Brown

"...pray without ceasing." 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV

The saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. This is true in many areas, but especially in parenting. We all can look back and see things we wish we could change. It could be we regret things we have done. We also might see things we could have done better.

Sometimes we get more insight with maturing that would have given us insights we didn’t have. All this might help if we are giving advice to others or if we are apologizing to our children, but we can’t go back and rewrite history.

Because we can’t go back and change things, our only way forward many times when our children are struggling is to pray. But how do you pray when your heart is breaking?

Emotions like fear and anger can run rampant, or emotions can be completely cut off to the point that your heart feels lifeless and dead. How do we pray when loved ones are making uncharacteristic decisions and things look hopeless?

How to Have Faith When You Pray

First, let’s acknowledge that it takes fortitude to believe our prayers can make a difference in our loved ones’ lives when they haven’t seemed to yet. It takes tenacity to contend. It takes courage to hope again. We may need to process emotions in the midst of the battle, acknowledging our anger, fear, grief, or whatever we are feeling. It does no good to suppress emotions, nor is it advantageous to let emotions rule.

At times when our children struggled, I felt led to pray, but I wasn’t sure I could open the door to the pain I would feel when I would go there. When I was praying from that place of pain, I was not sure my prayers were effective. There was pain and sorrow, but where was the faith? In contrast, I am not sure it helped to pray from an emotionless place either. I prayed, but it felt robotic and heartless. It was easy to fall into a place of measuring whether my prayers were good enough. My focus wasn’t on my good Father, but on my weak prayers. I felt like such a failure as a mother, felt the judgment of others (whether real or perceived), and felt like I had failed as an intercessor for my own children.

As I write this, I’m confident Jesus received every prayer, but from the place of anguish, I felt my prayers were ineffective and another reminder of how I had failed. Because of all the processing I was going through, there was a great temptation to stand in the outer courts and call out shallow prayers to God.

Other times, I began to pray and was greeted by condemnation or should haves. I should have done this or said that or been better at that. Looking back, I saw many ways I could have parented better and nurtured my children more effectively, but I also had to receive grace from the Lord. I did the best I could with what I knew, with the maturity and healing I had at the time. 

It took me a long time to get through all the condemnation and conviction. Some of it was the enemy condemning me, trying to discourage me. I had to recognize it and then go to Romans 8:1, “So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One” (TPT).

woman holding Bible hands
"So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One.” Romans 8:1 TPT

On the other hand, I had to own what I was being convicted of. I had to grieve over my sin, repent, and receive forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

The danger I faced was getting this switched as I processed much of this alone with the Lord. If we start listening to the enemy, we will try to repent of things the Lord isn’t convicting us of or things He has already forgiven. On the other hand, we might resist repenting of things the Holy Spirit is convicting us of, thinking it is the enemy condemning us. This is why it is important for us to be able to recognize the voice of the Father and resist the voice of the enemy.

Board game word pray
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9 NIV

How to Pray with Understanding

Here are some concepts that helped me to differentiate between the voice of the Father and the voice of the enemy:

  • The Holy Spirit convicts us of specific sins, while the enemy pours out shame and condemnation on us. Many times, the enemy releases a general sense of despair.

  • God’s voice lines up with His character. He is a loving Father, not a harsh taskmaster. Although He corrects and the correction can feel difficult, His voice doesn’t release hopelessness, condemnation, or shame.

  • We can hear God’s voice. Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice . . .” (John 10:27 CEV).

  • We can learn to recognize how we hear the Lord by praying with others. As I listened and prayed with others, they would often pray something I was thinking, or pray a verse that had come to my mind. This gave me confirmation that I was hearing the Lord. 

Sheep looking at camera

"My sheep know my voice, and I know them."

John 10:27a CEV

Like the warning of a flight attendant, “Put the oxygen on yourself first and then assist the other person.” We must bring our broken hearts to him. Let him comfort us and heal us as needed so we can help, comfort, and pray for others. He sees our faults, but He loves us and comes alongside us, carrying our burdens. 

​Getting the Lord’s strategy in the battle is key to victory. Releasing forgiveness is important, as we want people to be free. This can be a shifting point for us as we contend for a loved one’s freedom. Asking the Lord for specific verses to war with, so we know our prayers line up with His Word or the prophetic words given to us, helps us to pray with confidence.

When we know how much He loves us, we can be bold! We can contend! We have to learn to persevere in prayer while trying to move forward in life. It can be a strong temptation to focus on what is missing from our life or our family’s gatherings, but it isn’t helpful. Even in the midst of pain, gratitude can shift our hearts in trying times.

As we begin to rebuild relationships that have been affected by addiction there is no easy button that causes everything to be right again. Every relationship has a narrator. It’s that voice only you can hear, and it tells you what is going on in every scenario. The voice can stir up trouble by condemning us and telling us that others are condemning us. It can fill in with distortion and lies when we aren’t sure what the other person means or feels.

As Christians, Holy Spirit should be our narrator, but in many cases fear or shame or anxiety or jealousy can become our narrator. All of these negative voices are tools of the enemy. We need to silence every false narrator to pray effectively and rebuild relationships. When we realize what is narrating our relationship, we can take authority in prayer and banish this false narrator out of our conversation and relationship. This helps us to move forward, and we can lean on the Holy Spirit for insight and wisdom as we rebuild strained or fractured relationships.

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Terri Brown is a prophetic teacher known for her wisdom, mother's heart and humor. She has been a behind-the-scenes prayer leader for ministries and events. She knows the joy of quickly answered prayer and the agony of waiting. Terri and her husband, Jack, pastor The Table Church in Colorado Springs. They have six adult children and ten grandchildren. Terri Brown can be  found at

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Much of this blogpost is taken from Troubleshooting Your Prayer Life: Connecting with God through the Delays, Detours and Dead Ends. Available on Amazon, other major retailers, and


Photo Credit: by Jantanee Rungpranomkorn from Getty Images

Other Images by Wix


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