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!

Poetry Saturday—Ready To Blaze

If we with earnest effort could succeed
   To make our life one long connected Prayer,
As lives of some perhaps have been and are:—
If—never leaving Thee—we had no need
Our wandering spirits back again to lead
   Into Thy presence, but continued there,
   Like angels standing on the highest stair
Of the sapphire throne―this were to pray indeed!
   But if distractions manifold prevail,
   And if in this we must confess we fail,
Grant us to keep at least a prompt desire,
   Continual readiness for Prayer and Praise—
An altar heaped and waiting to take fire
   With the least spark, and leap into a blaze! ―Richard Trench

14 Quotes From “Beyond IQ”

Beyond IQI found Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem to be engaging because of both the research he presents, and the engaging exercises he incorporates to make the research applicable to us. You can read my full book review by clicking here. Here are some of the quotes I especially appreciated.

“First, here’s why insight can be difficult: it requires a paradoxical mix of experience with openness. Usually, experience leads to set-in-stone ways of doing things. Typically, openness is only present when you’re forced by inexperience to remain available in your search for solutions. Experience mixed with openness is a rare cocktail. … Rather than opening your mind to insight, [John] Kounios and [Mark] Jung-Beeman show that if you want insight, the best thing you can do is to close it. A closed mind shows up on an fMRI as activation of the anterior cingulate cortex, your brain’s home of inhibiting distraction. It’s as if your ACC is a pair of noise-canceling headphones, and with these headphones in place you’re more able to hear your brain’s quiet, insightful whispers.” 

“Science has known that during sleep the brain’s hippocampus—the structure responsible for encoding new memories—replays the day’s experiences from short-term storage and filters them into the neocortex, where experiences are integrated into… ‘pre-existing knowledge representations.’ Insight is the novel connection of knowledge, and sleep knocks knowledge into new configurations.”

“[Robert] Sternberg and his frequent collaborator, Richard Wagner, showed that situational judgment tests…designed to measure practical intelligence are a much better predictor then IQ of job performance in business managers, bank managers, and graduate students. IQ doesn’t lead to success. Practical intelligence does.” 

“The language of problem-solving is: initial state, constraints, operations, and goal state. … [Richard] Mayer says that the most striking feature of people who successfully solve real-world problems is the time they spend studying the initial state and the constraints—the extra time they spend clarifying the problem.”

“University of California-San Bernardino researcher James Kaufman knows the recipe for creativity. It’s equal parts intrinsic motivation, experience, and something he calls low personal inhibition. Intrinsic motivation is pretty self-explanatory, but beware of the danger of ‘replacing intrinsic motivation and a natural curiosity with external rewards,’ says Kaufman. If a parent wants a child to become a creative pianist, the parent should encourage interest in the piano but not incentivize this interest with ice cream. Creativity blooms in fields you’re drawn to, not in fields into which you’re pushed. … Kaufman’s research has shown that creative people are hard workers with background knowledge and expertise in their creative domains. ‘It’s the “learn the rules so you can break them” approach,’ he says.” 

“Dean Keith Simonton of UC Davis found that the nineteenth-century scientists who wrote the most-cited papers also wrote the least-cited papers. … The more scientific papers or sonatas or sonnets a person writes, the greater chance that one or more will be especially creative.”

“In any kind of cognitive activity you have two kinds of things going on. You have intelligence, but there’s also learning and skill and knowledge based on practice. The more the second develops, the less important the first becomes. … Even more importantly, we’ve shown that with enough practice and hard work, you can actually change the neurophysiology of the brain. For example, practice can encourage the brain to grow greater myelin coating on neurons. Thus our behaviors become literally hard-wired. Developing expertise literally makes certain thought patterns more efficient than others.” —Paul Feltovich 

“Florida State researcher K. Anders Ericcson shows that it’s not only experience that creates expertise but a step-by-step method of sculpting experience that he calls deliberate practice. To Ericsson, famous for his theory that 10,000 hours of practice creates expertise in any field, the four-step path to expertise includes performing your skill, monitoring your performance, evaluating your success, and figuring out how to do it better next time. Completing only the first step—performing the skill itself—leads to automated, low-level, rote performance in which you perform the skill the same way every time. Monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting your skill allows you to modify it after every pass, helping skill evolved toward expertise.”

“The more you use your brain, the longer you’ll be able to use it. … People with ‘cognitively protected’ brains were those who challenge themselves through a lifestyle that included reading, writing, attending lectures, and doing word puzzles—in other words, they followed a self-imposed regimen of cognitive involvement. … Cognitive involvement is only one tine of a three-pronged approach to brain health in later life. The second tine is a healthy body. … In fact, your cardiovascular health in middle age is even more important for your later brain health than the same risk factors in old age itself. … The third tine: social interaction. … Nothing forces the brain to work like interacting with other brains.” 

“Moral reasoning and wisdom are linked. Specifically (and this is kind of cool albeit technical), for those who possess strong moral reasoning, wisdom increases with age. If you have lower moral reasoning, you gain no wisdom as you get older. So if you want wisdom later, train your moral reasoning now.”

“Wisdom requires thought and action without yourself in mind, and sociologist Monika Ardelt of the University of Florida shows that selflessness is also the best predictor of successful aging. In fact, the wisdom born of selflessness beats out physical health, income, socioeconomic status, physical environment, and even social relationships in predicting life satisfaction in old age.”

“Pressure…sits like a lead weight in your working memory, claiming space that could otherwise hold useful information. And because working memory is a mainline to general intelligence, space claimed by pressure makes you measurably dumber. … Pressure flips a mental switch from implicit to explicit thought, making you apply a layer of analysis to things that should be automatic. … Chronic pressure can make you chronically prioritize the quick rewards of drugs and alcohol while discounting their long-term risk. … So beware. Stress plugs your working memory, analysis paralysis forces you to try to use it anyway, and your dopamine circuits cry for a quick, risky solution.”

“Students with high emotional intelligence (EI) have lower rates of drug use and teachers with high EI get more support from their principals. Employees with high EI have higher job performance, especially when their IQ is low (implying that emotional intelligence can help compensate for low general intelligence—and also that these skills are distinct). EI is even implicated in resilience—the more EI you have, the higher your chances of bouncing back after trauma or negative life events.” 

“If IQ is the strength of the bulb in your lighthouse, willpower is the lens that focuses it into a beam.”

Links & Quotes

link quote

Some great reading from today.

Why do we take a railway guide and arrange for a particular journey? … Well, one has confidence in the reliability of these official publications. As a rule we are not put to shame! Now, just as we use a railway guide we must use our Bible. We must depend on God’s Word just as we depend on man’s word, only remembering that though man may not be able to carry out his promise, God will always fulfill what He has said.” —Hudson Taylor

More archeological finds in Israel confirm the historicity of the Bible: Canaanite Fortress Discovered.

Explain to me again how this is legal (or humane!): Nurse tells grisly tale of partial-birth abortions.

The New York Post finds that tanning salons are inspected more than abortion clinics.

Medical science shows stress in the home adversely effects chromosomes in kids.

“Distractions must be conquered or they will conquer us. So let us cultivate simplicity; let us want fewer things; let us walk in the Spirit; let us fill our minds with the Word of God and our hearts with praise. In that way we can live in peace even in such a distraught world as this.” —A.W. Tozer

“If indeed the name of the eternal God is named upon us, we are secure; for, as of old, a Roman had but to say Romanus sum, I am a Roman, and he could claim the protection of all the legions of the vast empire; so everyone who is a man of God has omnipotence as his guardian, and God will sooner empty heaven of angels then leave a saint without defense. Be braver than lions for the right, for God is with you.” —Charles Spurgeon

“How one learns to be thankful for each day on which one can still do something.” —Karl Barth

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