June 10, 2016
Lord Teach Us To Pray – Week 12 – Distraction Free Prayer
This week we are going to tackle probably one of the most difficult areas of the Christian experience. We are going to answer the most asked question about prayer. How do I keep from being distracted in prayer? By a raise of hands how many of you here today will say I struggle with distractions when I pray. We are going to learn the secret of Distraction free prayer.
Are you ready? Point number one… There is no such thing! As We will discover this is a common thing for Christians no matter what maturity or how long they have been walking with God. But hear is the good news. We can deal with it. We can develop habits, patterns and tools to help us compete and battle these issues. There is hope for each of us.
Turn to the book of Matthew
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the fleshis weak.”
42 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” 43 And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.
You see we are in good company. The disciples who traveled with Jesus. Who had walked with Him and talked with Him, who learned directly from Jesus how to pray in Matthew 6, when asked to spend time in private prayer with Him. they could not keep from being distracted by sleep.
The truth is we can be distracted by many things not just sleep. Any time we have an opportunity to meet with and develop our relationship we must recognize that we will encounter opposition. You see many people have likened prayer to a battle but with any battle we must have a plan of attack.
1. Preparation is the first key
This seems simple, but you can reduce distractions quite a bit by taking a couple of minutes to get a few things ready the night before. Make sure your Bible, glasses, journal, pencil, etc. is near where you’ll be reading in the morning. Grind the coffee and program it so it’s ready. It is so easy to let something as simple as finding the coffee filter, or not having your favorite mug clean distract you from focusing on the One who created you and loves you.
Set an alarm, set a time. Go to bed in order to be able to do get up when you need to.
If you fail to plan you plan to fail!
2. Create a prayer closet
place dedicated (it does not need to be a closet)
How man of you say I don’t have anyplace that is quite where I could do this? Secret, do you have a car? Most modern cars are designed to be quite and to block out noise.
Bible (not a study bible or eBible)
Prayer Journal (More on this later)
Consider taking 5 minutes and just sit in stillness and quietness before the Lord (this is a skill that you can develop)
3. Pray Before you Pray 🙂
Ask Him to help you focus on Him
Psalm 119:17-18 says Be good to your servant while I live, that I may obey your word. 18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide and direct your thoughts.
John 16:13 says But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.
There is a wonderful book called a Shepard look at the 23rd psalm by Phillip Keller and in that book he talks about the phrase “You anoint my head with oil”.
He talks about the practice of anointing the head of sheep with oil and that it was used to heal the bites of the flies and gnats. These flies are such a distraction to the sheep that often the sheep stop eating and run around aimlessly beating there heads into objects to try and keep the flies away. Ever felt like that? When distractions come and buzz around your brain trying to get you to stop praying the Holy Spirit can act like oil covering your thoughts. In fact Rom 8:26-27 says
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
This is great news for us who are distracted. The spirit makes sure if if we are not praying the best he takes our words and translates them into perfect prayers on our behalf.
4. Read Scripture
As you begin your time of prayer it is always good to set your mind and heart on the things of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says… All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. If you desire to be thoroughly equipped for prayer then begin with the Word of God. Maybe even revisit The Lord’s Prayer that we have spent many weeks going through.
George Mueller (1805–1898) is widely considered one the greatest men of prayer and faith since the days of the New Testament. He lived nearly the entire nineteenth century, two-thirds of it in Bristol, England. He led four far-reaching, influential ministries, but we know him best today for his orphanages.
So Mueller would sometimes flounder for half an hour to an hour trying to pray, fighting to focus his thoughts and to kindle feelings for prayer in his heart. Only after that long, determined struggle would he finally enter into a sense of communion with God.
5. Create a Prayer Journal
Mueller had over fifty thousand specific recorded answers to prayers in his journals, thirty thousand of which he said were answered the same day or the same hour that he prayed them. Think of it: that’s five hundred definite answers to prayer each year—more than one per day—every single day for sixty years! God funneled over half a billion dollars (in today’s dollars) through his hands in answer to prayer.
2 methods – simple list, categories list.
My Step Father talks often about His prayer journal the he has. It is a simple list.
He simply writes down the date and the request. Then he leaves a space next to it. When the prayer is answered He takes a red pen and “Gives God a Star”. This is one of his favorite games, he tells me all the time how encouraging it is to see those red stars. For Him it is a simple reminder that prayer works and that God answers prayers. Anytime he get discouraged with prayer he goes back and begins by talking God for answering those prayers. It sparks the flame of prayer in His life. It also helps Him to focus and to remember what He is praying for.
The second style of list is a category list. This is the type of prayer journal I have.
I was taught by my last pastor this method and while it takes a bit of time to create and work with I have found that it has been a useful too to help me stay focused in prayer. The categories are these. Praise and Thanks, Confession, Personal Growth, My Wife, My Son, My Daughter, Extended Family, Disciples, Friends, Church, New Believers, Missions, Lost, Government, Other requests
Some of these I rotate on a day by day basis, Sunday – Church, Monday – New Believers, Tuesday – Friends, Wednesday – Lost, Thursday – Missions, Friday – Government, Saturday – Extended Family
This helps me stay focused in my prayers on different aspects each day.
6. So how do I deal with specific distractions?
I have found that most distractions during prayer fall into four categories:
Place (i.e. not being able to pray at a specific location) We have already talked about this in the prayer closet.
There is actually a story of Susanna Wesley (Charles Wesley’s mother) and the fact that she was so busy raising 10 children that she found it difficult to find a private place and time to pray. So she trained her children that if they saw her apron flipped over her head she was in her prayer closet and was not to be disturbed. BTW, if you have never read about her story you should look it up. You will be amazed at what she had to deal with in her life and the only way she got through it was prayer.
Time (i.e. continually looking at the clock) – Set a timer this keep us from looking at our watch or worrying that I might be late. Let the timer do the work of keeping you on time and devote your whole energy to spending quality time with The Lord.
The “To-Do List” (i.e. constantly thinking of all the things that need to get done) This is the power of a prayer journal it is so easy so easy to leave a blank sheet of paper right next to the page you are praying through and if something like this comes up you can take a quick moment and jot it down. Don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it just jot down the reminder and move on. This works so good you will be amazed that you never tired it before now
Wandering Thoughts (i.e. finding yourself thinking about that movie you watched last night) These are the most difficult to deal with because it take us engaging in the battle of the mind. In 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul tells us that We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
So how do you do that? Write them down and ask God to use them
7. Examine your heart.
We do this by examining your heart. While time can be a factor… Heart is often a bigger factor
We simply ask What I’m valuing at the moment? This is both a heart-check (what’s really important to me?) and a “Wow, I’ve really been thinking about that a lot…maybe I should pray about it.” Our mouths speak (or, in this instance, “our minds think”) what our hearts are full of. (Luke 6:45)
8. Pray through your distractions
Praying your distractions works on several levels. It reminds you that anything and everything can move you to prayer.
Don’t beat yourself up… God could be directing your thoughts
God could be helping you remember things that you need to do. Is it not God that is the creator of the mind? Does He not know all things, including what we need to be in the business of doing? Does He not hold all things together? (Colossians 1:17) We are commanded to ask God for wisdom…don’t be shocked when He gives it. (James 1:5)
God could be reminding you of people and situations you need to pray for. Ever have someone or something, seemingly random, pop into your head when you’re praying? I do. And I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.
Take thoughts captive 2 cor 10:5
9. Know why you are praying
Remember Prayer is an opportunity to grow in your relationship with Him. Nothing More and Nothing less. When we make prayer about what we can accomplish in prayer, then we miss the point and ultimately try to make God our servant. The Goal of prayer is not to change God or even change others. The goal of prayer is relationship with Him.
If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.
Talk to Him about your day, what you want, what your concerned about, what you are expecting He love you and wants to be part of every part of your life.
Have you ever spent hours talking to an old friend about nothing?
Talking about nothing might spark some new areas to pray for
10. Remember you are in a battle with the enemy – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Letter XXVII
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,
You seem to be doing very little good at present. The use of his “love” to distract his mind from the Enemy is, of course, obvious, but you reveal what poor use you are making of it when you say that the whole question of distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of his prayers. That means you have largely failed. When this, or any other distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours, then, so far from doing good, you have done harm. Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close up to the Enemy, makes against us in the long run….
11. Stretch your comfort zones try a different posture.
Pray out loud
Stand up and pray
Pray while pacing
12. Don’t give up (if at first you don’t “succeed” try try again.)
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
Praying for a loved one that is unsaved? As we pray for our loved ones let me ask you what is the purpose of that prayer?
Consider the fact that you might be praying for God to do something he wants to empower you to do. You see as we become closer to God in prayer we are changed to reflect more of who He is. He becomes exalted when He is exalted in our lives God uses us as this hands and feet to reach this world. Instead of praying for them to accept Christ maybe ask God to use you to reflect who He is and that you would be an instrument of Him to help them fall in love with Jesus.