4 + 4 Strategies To Eliminate Distractions To Your Prayer Time

There’s a quote that has been the theme for this series on prayer: “Prayer pursues joy in fruitful fellowship with Jesus, knowing that God is glorified when we bear fruit in answer to prayer. Why do God’s children so often fail to have consistent habits of happy, fruitful prayer? Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the reasons is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to.” —John Piper 

And unless I’m badly mistaken, the most obvious thing we need to plan to eliminate is distractions. 

Some people say they can juggle a lot of things at once. “I’m a really good multitasker,” they say. But science says differently. MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller concluded that our brains are “not wired to multitask well…. When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.” What is that cognitive cost? “Multitasking can drop IQ as much as 15 points, essentially turning you into the cognitive equivalent of an 8-year-old” (Inc. Magazine). 

If the devil can make you think you can multitask prayer with other things, he has seriously inhibited the effectiveness of your prayers. 

Jesus was not a multitasker—but He was singularly focused on His Father’s plan. And yet He accomplished more in His three years of public ministry than anyone else in history! 

Here are 4 strategies to help you get ready to pray:

  1. Try to have your prayer time in the same place and at the same time. Your brain likes routine and it will help you zero-in during your scheduled prayer times. 
  2. Silence your cell phone or other noisy distractions. 
  3. Keep a notepad handy for random thoughts that pop into your head. Writing them down will keep your brain from switching back-and-forth to them.
  4. Focus on listening, not on talking—Eugene Peterson said, “Prayer is first of all a means of listening. Prayer is an act of attention.” 

When we get right down to it, prayer is spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:10-18). In the context of warfare, the word strategy means the maneuvering that takes place prior to the battle. The devil is a masterful tactician, and he will do everything he can to keep you distracted. 

That’s why three times Peter tells us to be clear-minded and singularly-focused in our thoughts SO THAT we can pray without the hindrances of distractions (1 Peter 1:13-14; 4:7; 5:8-9). And Paul tells us to take all our thoughts captive, so that no un-Christlike thoughts are inhibiting our prayer time (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). 

Here are 4 strategies to help you stay focused in prayer:

  1. A—adoration. Enter into God’s presence with a Psalm or worship music. 
  2. C—confession. Deal with unconfessed sin, unforgiveness, or relationship strife as quickly as possible (Psalm 66:18; Matthew 5:21-24). 
  3. T—thanksgiving. Paul counseled us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition WITH thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).  
  4. S—supplication. Intercede for your brothers and sisters in the battles they are facing (James 5:16; Job 42:10; Ephesians 6:18).  

Remember—

Prayer isn’t preparation for the battle; prayer IS the battle! Let’s not be distracted from that!

The Devil Isn’t Scared Of You

This is part 2 in our series looking at phrases that sound biblical and then asking, “Is that in the Bible? 

Statement #2—Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Is that in the Bible? Yes, those words are there, but we need some perspective. 

First of all, demons are real and they are dangerous. No, the devil and his henchmen are not behind every calamity we face. C.S. Lewis explained it well—

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” —C.S. Lewis 

Some people think there is a struggle between Jesus and satan that has an uncertain outcome, almost like Jesus and satan are locked in an epic arm wrestling duel. But the victory is already assured—Jesus has already won (Acts 10:38; 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-58)!  

But while we are on Earth, we are living in a battle zone. Jesus said the devil’s agenda was pretty straightforward—steal, kill, destroy. He tries to accomplish this in a number of ways: everything from lying to us, to intimidation, to misquoting Scripture. 

And that’s where we need to be aware. Yes, the words “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” are in the Bible, but they are only valid when spoken in light of the first part of the verse—“Submit yourself to God.” 

“satan is not scared of your show of force toward him, but of your show of submission to God.” —Craig T. Owens 

There were some guys who tried to invoke the name of Jesus in a spiritual battle, and they ended up running out of the house bleeding and naked (Acts 19:11-16)! 

Last time I said that God helps those who cannot help themselves. The prayer He loves to respond to is, “God, help!” If ever we face a situation that we cannot help ourselves, it’s dealing with demons. We can’t, but God can! 

So before anything else submit yourself to God. Hide under the shadow of His wings, let Him be your shield and your defender. Only then will the devil flee from you (see Psalm 91). 

Remember: the devil lies. He can even use Scripture to lie. His lie is getting you to believe you can resist him on your own. The truth is he’s not afraid of who you are, but he flees when he sees Whose you are!

The Devil’s “Likes”

But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” —what God said about satan (Isaiah 14:13-14)

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” —satan (Genesis 3:5)

No wonder, for even satan disguises himself like an angel of light. —what the Apostle Paul said about satan (2 Corinthians 11:14)

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. —what the Apostle Peter said about satan (1 Peter 5:8)

Jesus is all reality. He is the All-Sufficient I AM. He knew the end from before the beginning. He is THE King of kings. The devil is only like a king, or like an angel, or like a lion.

The devil can only pretend to have answers. Everything he produces is a counterfeit. No wonder Jesus called him the “father of lies,” since lies are all he has to offer. 

The devil tries to look like God, he tries to lure us to disobey God, he pretends to be what he’s not. So don’t fear his pretend roar. Instead, give yourself completely to God’s care, then you can stand firm against the devil’s attempts to seduce you, and he will be forced to flee from you (James 4:7)!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—How satan Attacks

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

How satan Attacks

     Our faith at times has to fight for its very existence. The old Adam within us rages mightily, and the new spirit within us, like a young lion, disdains to be vanquished; and so these two strong ones contend, till our spirit is full of agony. …

     Christ alone was tempted in all points as we are, though without sin. No one man is tempted in all points exactly like another man, and each one has certain trials in which he must stand alone amid the rage of war, with not even a book to help him, or a biography to assist him—no man ever having gone that way before except that one Man whose trail reveals a nail-pierced foot. He alone knows all of the devious paths of sorrow. Yet even in such byways, the Lord is with us, helping us, sustaining us, and giving us grace to conquer at the close. … 

     So satan, loath to leave a soul, pursues it hotfoot. He will have it back if he can; and often, soon after conversion, there comes a time of dreadful conflict, when the soul seems as if it could not live. … 

     Once, when the tempter had grievously assailed me, I went to see my dear old grandfather. I told him about my terrible experience, and then I wound up by saying, “Grandfather, I am sure I cannot be a child of God, or else I should never have such evil thoughts as these.”

     “Nonsense, Charles,” answered the good old man. “It is just because you are a Christian that you are thus tempted. These blasphemies are no children of yours; they are the devil’s brats, which he delights to lay at the door of a Christian. Don’t you own them as yours; give them neither house-room or heart-room.” 

From The Autobiography of Charles Spurgeon 

The spiritual attacks—especially on new Christians—can be intense. Even “veteran” Christians aren’t immune to such attacks. 

Although every Christian shares some commonality in the ways in which we are tempted, no one experiences an identical attack. The devil is a cunning schemer and he can tailor-make his attacks to each individual. Gratefully, there is One who knows every minute detail of our temptation. Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, and He overcame those temptations without sinning. Now our victorious Savior stands before God’s throne interceding on our behalf as we battle the tempter. 

Spurgeon’s grandfather was right—don’t own these satanic blasphemies as your own! Remind yourself that you are in a war. Then say with the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God that Jesus Christ has rescued me from all these. There is now no condemnation for me because I am in Christ Jesus, and there is absolutely nothing that can separate me from that love!” (see Romans 7:25; 8:1, 31-39)

Escaping The Devil’s Deception

“Not only does he choose when he will tempt, satan also chooses the best methods for displaying his temptations. One strategy is to hang out false colors. He comes up to the Christian disguised as a friend, so that the gates are open to him before his true identity is discovered. Paul says we should not be shocked to find false teachers masquerading as apostles of Christ, ‘…satan himself is transformed into an angel of light’ (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Of all his plots, this is perhaps the most dangerous to the saints; when he appears in the mantle of a prophet and silver-plates his corroded tongue with fair-sounding language. In this manner he corrupts some in their judgment by interpreting gospel truth in such a way that God appears to condone questionable behavior. These Christians get caught up in the world’s morality under the guise of Christian liberty. … How we need to study the Scriptures, our hearts, and satan’s wiles, that we may not bid this enemy welcome and all the while think it is Christ who is our guest!” —William Gurnall, in The Christian In Complete Armor (emphasis mine) 

Fight Or Flee?

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… (1 Timothy 6:11-12). 

Psychologists tell us that when faced with certain situations our bodies instinctively prepared to fight or flight. Knowing which situations to fight and which to run from are crucial for living a long and productive life. 

It’s no different in the spiritual realm. 

Christian leaders must know which things are worth the fight, and which things they simply must flee. To flee from things we should fight shows a lack of courage. But to try to fight the things we should run from shows a lack of wisdom. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows what to fight and what to flee.

Three things you must FIGHT for…

  1. …the purity of the true faith (1 Timothy 6:12; Jude 1:3)
  2. …the disempowered (Proverbs 31:8-9; Matthew 21:12-13)
  3. …the devil (1 Peter 5:9; James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11) 

Three things you must FLEE from…

  1. …idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14)
  2. …sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 39:12)
  3. …earthly riches (1 Timothy 6:9-11)

Don’t try to fight the things you must flee from, and don’t run away from the things you must fight for. Pray for God’s wisdom to know which is which. 

This is part 29 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

10 More Quotes From “The Christian In Complete Armour”

The Christian In Complete Armour is a classic work about a Christian’s spiritual warfare. Check out my review of this amazingly insightful book by clicking here, and check out other quotes I’ve shared from this book by clicking here. 

“When you see men of power and intellect using their talents against God, weep for their souls.”

“God permits satan’s temporary reign in order to increase the saint’s eternal joy.”

“If you see someone taking along, treacherous journey alone and unprotected, you conclude he expects no thieves on the road and you might well question his wisdom. Many pretenders to Christianity travel in a similar fashion. They tell you they are on their way to heaven, yet they show little inclination to travel in the company of the saints—as if they had no need of fellowship on the journey! Most of them go unfortified, without anything even resembling armor. Others brandish some vain, flighty hopes of the mercy of God, without so much as a single Scripture for ammunition. Such ‘hope’ is a rusty pistol and will fly in the fool’s face when he tries to use it.”

“Do you think for a moment your Heavenly Father would give His archenemy a sword too mighty for you, His own child, to overcome?”

“Let this encourage those of you who belong to Christ: The storm may be tempestuous, but it is only temporary the clouds that are presently rolling over your head will pass, and then you will have fair weather, an eternal sunshine of glory.”

“Trusting in your own goodness will eventually destroy it. Inherent grace is weak. Force it to endure the yoke of the law, and sooner or later it will faint by the wayside, unequal to the task of pulling the heavy load of your old nature. What you need is Christ’s yoke, but you cannot take it until you shed the one that harnesses you to works.” 

“How we would ridicule the man who, when the sun shines in at his window, tries to trap the sunbeams indoors by closing the shutters. But we are just as foolish to take our present joy, then turn away from God’s presence, supposing that we have all we need. You can feel the heat from the sun only when you stand beneath its rays; you can feel God’s comfort only as you keep your face turned toward Him.”

“Watchfulness is more important for the Christian soldier than any other. In temporal battles soldiers fight against men who need sleep the same as themselves, but the saint’s enemy, satan, is always awake and walking his rounds. Since the devil never sleeps, the Christian puts himself in grave danger by falling asleep spiritually—that is, by becoming secure and careless. … The weakest temptation is strong enough to foil a Christian who is napping in security.”

“A thief is just getting up when honest men are going to bed. The devil, I am sure, begins to tempt when saints cease to watch.”

“While the Holy Spirit is a comforter, He is also a convincer: He comforts us by teaching us.”

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