Praying When It’s Hard: Praying When You Feel Like You Are Not Enough

March 24, 2021

Today was one of those days where the whole house seemed to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I had been awakened at 3am in a bit of a panic as I remembered that I had to finish writing this post, and though I managed to get myself back to sleep, I woke up with the stress of this deadline and a few other work projects looming over my head. At breakfast, my kids were bickering and whining more than usual. And then, yelling down the stairs, came the voice of my oldest son screaming, “Where is my sweatshirt????” This started the whole family on a 10-minute search for one, rather elusive, grey hooded sweatshirt. My husband finally found it in a place I had already looked – clearly, not very well.

After my husband left with the two oldest to take them to school, I was left with the heaviness of guilt. I should have known where it was. I should have found it when I looked. I should be better. It’s really amazing how quickly tiredness and added stress can snowball my thoughts from simple irritation and frustration to “I am not a good mother. I am not enough.”

I had planned to start my prayer time as soon as they left, but that did not happen today. I have found that, even though I know I can bring all I’m holding to God, if I enter prayer in that state, I am too focused on myself and my shortcomings to see the bigger picture and hear the voice of God. I needed a break to get out of my head.

Turning to Music

I started puttering around the house and then decided to pop out on a quick errand. As soon as I got in my car, I remembered that I had a plan for times like these. A few years ago now, I made a Spotify playlist of 12 songs that repeat the words “I am loved” and “I am enough” in a variety of beautiful ways. It is very simply titled, “Loved and Enough.” It is my go-to when my interior voice is not naturally repeating those sentiments to me. It’s helpful for me to hear from outside of my own head. Even though I know every word of these songs, there is still always a phrase that pops out in a new way, a sentence that brings tears, a refrain that softens my heart.  Overall, the music helps me to enter a place of prayer with an open heart.

Leaning on Written Words

Just like music is helpful because it comes from another person, I also turn to the words and prayers of others. I have this page on the Xavier University Prayer Index bookmarked because it has words for me when I’m not in a place to write them myself. These prayers of calmness further help me to be able to access my inner chapel and honestly and openly go to God with what I’m feeling.

Going to Scripture

I have a short list of scriptures I turn to when I am feeling like I am just not enough. I need to be reminded that I am a loved child of God. Usually at these times, I love the method of Lectio Divina to help me to receive the words in my heart and not in my head.

  • Isaiah 54:10 // “Though the mountains fall away and the hills be shaken, My love shall never fall away from you.”
  • Psalm 139 // “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you.”
  • Isaiah 43 // “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.”

More than prayer

There have been many times in my life when thoughts of me being “not enough” have taken over. I struggle with clinical depression. During a depressive episode, I am often not connected enough to pray well or feel like I can hear God’s voice or know God’s love. Nothing seems to bring joy or peace, and I often cannot shake my focus from my unworthiness. When none of the tools in my toolbox, that I’ve shared above, are working, I know that I need more help. I turn to my therapist and medical doctor often and without shame. God made me as I am, with my own unique brain chemistry, and placed me in a community. I am so thankful for those I know I can turn to for support who will not simply say, “Just pray about your problems!” but also will take notice when I am not myself and push me to get professional help. If my words are resonating with you right now, please know there are resources available. If you have mental health coverage through your insurance provider or Employee Assistance Program benefits through your employer, that’s a good place to start. You can also reach out to the Catholic Charities office near you as many offer counseling services. I’ve also listed more resources in the Go Deeper section. You are not alone. 

Frankly, I am still a little shaky today. It’s not an easy fix to re-focus myself away from thoughts of unworthiness and open my heart to receive God’s love. I seem to quickly forget the promise of God that I am fully loved, just as I am. But I continue to pray and bring it to God. It takes time, patience, and being kind to myself. But I can feel the cracks in my heart letting light in. I can still hear the echo in my head of Hillsong singing, “I am who You say I am.” I am reminded that I am loved and that I am not alone.

Go Deeper:

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash.com

Kathy, a big-picture thinker and passionate nonprofit and faith-based communications professional, lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband Kent and three children. When not brainstorming up new ways to push Becky out of her comfort zone, Kathy spends her free time reminding her kids to use their inside voices, cooking without recipes, and walking with families who have lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss.

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