Empty is a vicious word. It brings fear of being stranded without gas, of having nothing to eat, and of feeling like no one cares.
Most of us will feel empty at some point. We have poured out all we can, and feel like we have nothing left to give. We feel numb, because our emotions have been run over time after time. We feel like something is missing – a child, an opportunity, a future, a hope.
Emptiness breeds shame. We hide the hollows of our souls. We assume we are the only ones who feel the ache of something missing. So we smile vacant smiles, go through the motions, and hope no one sees the vacancy sign flashing over our lives. We withdraw, sometimes physically, often emotionally. We mask our loneliness from people, even from God. Somehow we think that if we don’t pray, if we don’t worship, if we don’t gather with His people, God will not know we are empty. We think emptiness is not something to be shared with our Father in Heaven.
Preserved for us in the ancient texts of the Bible are prayers called “Laments.” A lament is prayer offered with deep emotion that cries out to God for help. There are laments about emptiness: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping (Ps. 22:1)?” Solomon, who had wealth, wine, and women, said, “Emptiness, Emptiness, emptiness of emptiness! All is empty (Eccl. 1:2).” Apparently, these people thought it was a good idea to tell God, “We feel empty.”
So how do you pray when your soul is on empty? Start by being honest. “God, I feel empty.” No sense in pretending with God. Tell Him how you feel. I call this dealing in reality.
Second, make sure you are thinking about God correctly. God is not a helpless old man with arthritis seated on a throne on a cloud. He is the Might God, who stands ready to do battle, with angel armies standing behind him. A small god cannot fill your needs; a Mighty God can.This is staying connected to God, to who He really is.
Bring your request to God. No matter how ridiculous it sounds, ask the Father to bring justice, to right wrongs, to show His presence, to teach you what really counts. One of the dumbest things I hear people say is “Don’t pray for patience! God will make something happen so you will learn it.” God knows what you need and He is arranging an answer that meet your deepest need.
Finally, don’t stop praying until you have peace. People sometimes erroneously say “Pray until God answers.” A better strategy is to pray until you experience the grace and peace of God. You might ask for answers, and God may not give you any. Instead, God will offer you Himself, which is infinitely better.
When you feel empty, do not let shame take control. Fight against all the shame messages and bring your empty soul to your Heavenly Father. Your emptiness doesn’t frighten Him. In fact, He is the only one who can fill the hole in your soul.