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—An Acrostic

I am a vile polluted lump of earth;
So I’ve continued ever since my birth;
Although Jehovah grace does daily give me,
As sure as this monster satan will deceive me.
Come therefore, Lord, from satan’s claws relieve me.
Wash me in Thy blood, O Christ,
And grace divine impart;
Then search and try the corners of my heart,
That I in all things may be fit to do
Service to Thee, and sing Thy praises too. —Isaac Watts (written at age 7)

Dressed For Victory

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

Not…

  • be strong in my own ability
  • be strong in the company of another warrior

But…

  • be strong in the Lord
  • be strong in the power of His might

The armor I wear has been battle-tested by the undefeated Champion. It’s armor emblazoned with the crimson red blood of Calvary. It’s armor gleaming brightly with the glow of Resurrection victory.

I wear Christ’s armor! 

  • The belt of truth—it’s the righteousness of Jesus (Isaiah 11:1-5)
  • The breastplate of righteousness—worn by the Messiah who defeated evil (Isaiah 59:15-17)
  • The helmet of salvation—worn by Jesus as He won salvation for us (Isaiah 59:16-17)
  • The shoes of the gospel of peace—worn by our Lord as He defeated our enemies (Isaiah 52:5-7)
  • The shield of faith—God says, “I am your shield” (Genesis 15:1)
  • The sword of the Spirit—what Jesus used to strike down satan’s temptations (Isaiah 49:1-2; Luke 4:4, 8, 12)

I must continually clothe myself in God’s armor. Then I keep the armor bright by prayer—

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight 
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright 
And satan trembles when he sees 
The weakest saint upon his knees. (William Cowper)

Holy God, may I be dressed in YOU at every moment. May I daily use YOUR battle-tested armor and weapons to strike a blow against satan! 

(Check out all the Scripture references above by clicking here.)

Poetry Saturday—Where The Roses Never Fade

I am going to a city where the streets with gold are laid
Where the tree of life is blooming and the roses never fade.
Here they bloom but for a season—soon their beauty is decayed
But I am going to a city where the roses never fade. 

In this world we have our troubles, satan’s snares we must evade
We’ll be free from all temptation where the roses never fade.
Here they bloom but for a season—soon their beauty is decayed
But I am going to a city where the roses never fade. 

Loved one gone to be with Jesus in their robes of white arrayed
Now are waiting for my coming where the roses never fade.
Here they bloom but for a season—soon their beauty is decayed
But I am going to a city where the roses never fade. —variously attributed to Elsie Osborn, Jack Osborn, or Jim Miller (the handwritten copy is from Russell Coffield, my wife’s grandfather, and was read at his funeral) 

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)

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