Dealing with Distractions

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, September 2, 2016 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

[This blog post is part of a series. The previous post is here, and the next post is here.]

This is my seventh post in my series in prayer and this is one of the most difficult ones to address: distractions in prayer. We are so easily distracted in our attempts to do what God wants us to do. How do we keep focused?

Two weeks ago, I spoke at a local home school conference. Just before the conference, I had a few distractions. I ended up in a heated discussion with someone who believes firmly that we must only use the King James Version of the Bible to understand truth. It was not pretty, but I realized he was being used as a distraction to get my focus off the conference.

This was not the first time I had seen that happen. Last year at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, a friend and I were co-teaching a “Continuing Session” about spiritual warfare. We used Sun Tzu’s The Art of War as a guideline to help us understand the strategies used in warfare. But during breakfast the second to last morning, we were sharing about our workshop with a conferee and she absolutely did not approve and would not listen to correction. In both these cases, they were distractions from what God wanted us to do. It also reveals a painful reality that sometimes even our own brothers and sisters in Christ can be used by the enemy to try to get us off track.

What distracts us? What gets us off track? What gets our mind off what God is getting us to do? Most might talk about computer time or video games. Spider Solitare, Facebook, Candy Crush, YouTube, internet surfing, etc. I am not against games, but they can be a distraction. How often do we turn to them when we should be focused on our prayer time or Bible study? Again, I am not saying shut them all down, but let us not be on them when we are supposed to be on our God-given task. But there are other distractions?

I do not know about the rest of you, but I have issues in my head with prayer. What kind of issues? The kind where I am sitting there, in a prayer group, and my brain is going after every little detailed rabbit trail that often has nothing to do with anything and NOT on prayer. My brain is like the dog in the movie Up: “SQUIRREL!” Who else can relate to these issues?

One of the causes of such brain activity is the extreme high pace of our culture. With electronics and digital media we are constantly filling our minds with input. It is no hidden thing that students today can hardly keep still because the constant input from their cell phones, music, video games, TV, movies, etc.

But this generation is not the only one that would deal with distractions. So did Jesus. He had crowds pushing him everywhere he went. What was his solution so he could stay focused on prayer? He got away from the crowds, got up well before dawn, and prayed alone. He shut off all the noise, he closed out all the input from other people, and he quieted himself down so he could focus on his Father.

Jesus did not have to go very far. Twice recently I have chosen to get away from the house to go pray. Away from my computer. Away from my music. Even away from my sermons (I only listen to movie/game soundtracks, sermons, and worship.) I did a hike and spent some time in a cave one time, and another time I went to the prayer chapel at my church. I spent time away from the busyness and away from the noise and away from the concerns of life. Here is the problem: Jesus did this on a regular basis. Do we? We constantly see him slipping away in private prayer away from everything, away from distractions. How often do we do this… if at all? I’ve done it twice this year. Gotten away from home, away from my computer. When I pray, I do shut off my computer, and for the time being I have packed away my video games. I simply know I am not to play them during this season. Should I get them out again, I must be careful because I know they can distract me from praying, eating up the time needed elsewhere.

Prayer groups have two major distractions. I am not merely talking about individual prayer, but corporate prayer. How often during prayer meetings or small groups do we spend more time talking about prayer than praying? Now, there is a great importance to talking about prayer. Last week I addressed knowing what God wants prayed for so we can specifically target it. However, too often we have a 1-hour prayer meeting and spend 30-45 minutes talking about prayer needs and 10 minutes praying.

There is a grave danger to talking about prayer rather than praying. One of the greatest sins that prayer groups commit is gossip. Many of us do not even recognize that it is gossip. We will say, “I have a prayer request…” and then proceed to share information that has not been confirmed, has not been validated, or may be something that is confidential and meant to be kept silent. The only prayer requests that should be shared publically are these: those which have been asked to be made public by the person directly involved, those we are personally involved with and know it is appropriate to speak publically, and praise reports. If you absolutely must bring it up, unless you have permission and unless it edifies, do NOT give any specifics. One pastor met with someone for business and a church member saw it. She spread all kinds of rumors that were not even true, and destroyed the pastor’s life, all in the name of prayer. Love covers a multitude of sins; gossip exposes it, even if it isn’t true. We MUST be watchful for this, even in the spirit of love and care. Gossip, no matter how well intentioned, can only destroy.

If you are dealing with distractions, that may be a sign that God is doing something in your life and the enemy does not like it. Leslie Ludy wrote in Wrestling Prayer:

"If you find that you are being constantly distracted by the cares of life, bogged down with emotional or physical "fog", or pestered with irrational thoughts and fears every time you pray, there is a good chance that the enemy of your soul is attempting to create confusion and keep you from entering the cave with your King. Beware of saying, "I'll press into God once these issues are gone." That's exactly how the enemy wants you to respond. Like Nehemiah, we must aggressively pray and fight until the enemy realizes that we will not kowtow to his bullying." (pg 222)

Here Ludy is talking about how David’s Mighty Men were deeply intimate with their King in the Cave of Abdullam, and that is how we should be with our King, Jesus Christ. If you are being distracted in your prayers, it is likely because the enemy fears them and is doing whatever he can to keep it from happening. Press through and keep on target. Be as Jacob did when he pressed through the whole night wrestling with God. Do not be caught off guard. Hold your ground and do not move from your position. All these distractions are feints, they are false moves. Satan has no intention of attacking that ground, but he most certainly wants you to think he is. Hold the position God put you in and take every thought captive to the will of Christ Jesus. If your mind wanders, take every thought captive. Let Christ take command of your thought life. That has been one of my prayer requests lately, that this verse becomes real in my life. It’s not there yet, but I am striving to get there.

Next week, I am going to write about praying with endurance, perseverance, and travail. Could you pray all night if you needed to? I’ll get into that next week.

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