Day 22 – Longing for God in Prayer

Psalm 42:1 – As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

Have you ever found yourself really thirsty? I’m talking about like you just walked across the Sahara Desert in the 120-degree heat with sand all around you thirsty. I can remember one of the most frustrating things that happened to me through the wreck where I spent about two months in the hospital was being on a ventilator. For those uninitiated, being on a ventilator means absolutely no drinking or eating for as long as it takes… and trust me when I say: it’s miserable.

I can remember the first day after I was fully taken off the ventilator and the first time I was allowed to eat or drink. Although I wasn’t terribly interested in eating, I couldn’t stop drinking. Water. Gatorade. Unsweet tea (yes, even unsweet tea). Whatever I could get, I would drink. I was thirsty. Really, really thirsty.

Today I want to ask an honest question: are you longing for God? I’m talking about the type of longing that you can feel it in every part of you. The type of longing that can only be satisfied once He shows up. If I’m being honest, I don’t always long for God in prayer this way. Sure, I pray, but almost out of a sense of obedience instead of relationship. I want to want God. I want to long for Him so desperately that I can’t stop praying until I feel Him right beside me.

The Psalm writer asks in verse 11: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? It’s almost as if the writer is reminding himself that even in this moment of physical weakness where it feels like God has forgotten him, that God never has before. God has always been faithful and thus the writer finishes the thought: Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

What about you today? Have you ever had an overwhelming longing for God but it felt like He didn’t show up when you needed Him? Scripture promises us that God is using all things for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We are also reminded throughout Scripture that God is faithful and that His love endures forever (Psalm 136 for example).

Here is something to consider: if Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Living Water, is it any wonder that so many of us go around so desperately spiritually hungry and thirsty? It’s as if we treat prayer and Bible study as something we do on special occasions instead of a consistent part of our lives. It’s easy for us to spot when we are physically hungry or thirsty… we may experience things like fatigue, irritability, exhaustion, the inability to focus, etc. Although not as easy to spot, spiritual hunger can lead to allot of the same things.

As you pray today, ask God to give you a longing like this. Ask Him to rekindle the love and passion you’ve had for Him and help you to truly express that by passionately seeking Him out. Ask Him for strength to be consistent in seeking Him. As Him to consume you with a refreshing fire that helps you see prayer in a whole new light. Start today’s prayer in humble confession about where your prayer life is actually knowing where God is leading it to be.

Father, we come before you with an overwhelming desire to know and want you more. Help us to walk in the light as You are in the light. Consume every part of us with a refreshing fire that will help us not only to seek You but do so with a renewed passion and persistent desire. Forgive us for what we’ve made prayer if it’s anything besides an intimate time of communication with you. Help us to pray without ceasing throughout the day and teach us to seek your guidance in all things. Help us, as the Psalm writer says, to long for you as a deer longs for water. We know that in seeking you with passion, humility, and persistence that through our faith in Jesus we will be renewed, refreshed, and filled. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Day 21 – What Do I Want for You? (You Mean There’s More?)

Ephesians 3:17-19 — “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

God also wants us to be filled. Not just filled but filled to “all the fullness of God!” Just as it takes power for Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith, so too it takes power for us to be filled to fullness. But what are we filled with? These verses suggest that we are filled with something that we “grasp” that “surpasses knowledge.”

Have you ever been consumed by a thought? Sure you have…perhaps it is being consumed with sadness or grief, maybe it is being consumed with vengeance or lust, possibly been consumed by fear or doubt, insecurity, greed, desire, joy, happiness…you name it, we can be consumed by our thoughts, by what we “grasp,” understand or know (or think we know). God wants us to be filled with an overriding thought that overwhelms or drowns out all others. What is the thought? — Just how amazing the love of Jesus is. We are “rooted and established” in this love. It is higher than the highest mountain, wider than the greatest chasm, longer than the longest river, and deeper than the lowest depth. There is no where in heaven, in hell, on earth, in the entire universe that Christ’s love does not fill to the fullest! This love surpasses the knowledge of the smartest human being on the planet, it is greater than all of our intellectual ability to perceive…an yet, God’s desire is that a knowledge of this love fills us to all the fullness of God — so there is no other competing thought — only the love of Jesus.

But He doesn’t want us to know this privately. He wants us to know this “together with all the Lord’s holy people.” When we know this by ourselves, this thought is powerful. But when we all know it…it becomes more powerful than any other force in the universe! It can light up communities with a holy glow as love overwhelms hatred, discord and strife. It can work together to accomplish the purposes of love with a power that the natural world cannot fathom. It can change lives, heal wounds, raise the dead to life and renew the world with God’s power and peace. What if we truly knew this thought alone? What if it consumed our minds so that no other emotion or idea could compete in the slightest? What if we were filled to all the fullness of God by the love of Jesus? God wants this for you too.

God I want what You want. I pray what You prayed, that today I would be overwhelmed, consumed, filled to all the fullness that You have for me. May the love of Jesus be my only thought this day and every day as I learn to walk in this amazing power. Father, please don’t let me miss an opportunity to fill others with this thought, not just by my words but also by my actions and in truth. Thank You for this incredible gift of love and thank You for Your desire for me to know it even more and more every day. Help me breathe it, walk it, speak it and remember it even when the storms of life crash against me. Lord I am overwhelmed! Flood my soul with this knowledge and overflow to others with this beautiful peace and love!! How great You are God, how mighty and awesome are Your deeds in all the earth! There is none like You, Lord!! Holy, holy, holy are You God…I praise You and worship You! Hallelujah!! Amen.

Day 20 — What Do I Want for You?

Ephesians 3:16-17 — “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.”

The cool thing about Scripture is that even though men wrote it down, it is all “God breathed.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) That means that even though the writer is speaking, God is speaking as well (since He spoke it first)! So when Paul is writing his desire for the Ephesian believers, it is not just what Paul wants for them, but also what God wants for them. God wants them to be “strengthened with power.” And this Word is not just for the Ephesians but for us as well. God desires to give us gifts “out of his glorious riches.” And the first gift is the gift of power to strengthen us. This empowerment is achieved by the Holy Spirit that works in our “inner being.” And the end result is that our inner being is prepared for Christ to “dwell in our hearts.”

Faith requires power and strength. Life requires power and strength. We need power and strength! Without them we are power-less, unable to contend with the tasks of the day. Without them we are unable to sustain our faith, and our bodies become inhospitable as a dwelling place for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we are feeling powerless, weak, without strength…we can ask God for power and strength. Because He is not lacking in resources — He has glorious riches and He wants us to have power and strength!

The first discipline we must learn is to simply ask God for what we need. For He is the source of all good gifts (James 1:17) and He has these things in abundance and richness. The next discipline we must learn is to discover what God wants for us, and ask for the things that He wants to give us. For we can be assured that He will give us the things that He wants to give us if we will only ask! It is encouraging to know that God wants good things for His children.

God, today I ask for Your strength and power. Please let Your Spirit prepare my heart to receive Christ and may He dwell there always through faith. Strengthen my mind, my body, my heart. May power be something that people can see in me…not a power of my own, but may they recognize Your power at work within me. Thank You for Your promises. May I discover all of the many things You desire for me and may I never fail to ask You to give these gifts to me. Lord, may I also be generous in giving good gifts to others. Thank You for the many gifts You have already given. I love You and I praise You for Your mighty works and awesome strength. Amen.

Day 19 — Are You Praying Dangerous Prayers?

Psalm 139:23-24 — “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

As early as Aesop’s fables (c. 550 BC) we hear a line that has been echoed throughout the centuries, ”We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified” (The Old Man and Death). James Russell Lowell once wrote, “Granting our wish one of fate’s saddest jokes is.” Anatole France put it this way, “Beware my lord! Beware lest stern Heaven hate you enough to hear your prayers!” (The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard, 1881, pt. II, ch. 4) And Oscar Wilde quipped, “When the gods wish to punish us they answer our prayers” (An Ideal Husband, 1895, Act II)

In our day the saying is, “Be careful what you wish for.” Maybe it’s these cautionary quips or maybe it is just instinctive, or maybe it’s learned through painful experience…no matter the cause, in prayer — the truth is that we are often afraid to ask for what we really want. Maybe we are afraid that God will not answer and that our faith will be less as a result. Perhaps we really are unsure of what we want and if what we are asking for is good for us. The danger in asking God for what we want is that He may give you exactly what you ask for! Are we ready for that? If God answers your request for your husband’s salvation —are you prepared for the opportunity to share Christ with him when God provides it? If you ask God for financial freedom and to get out of debt, are you prepared for Him to expose your need to others so that they can help? Are you prepared to stop buying things you don’t need and take the difficult job he provides you with even if it is in another state? When you ask God for His will for your life and He seems to be indicating that you go back to school, or start a business, or become a missionary…will you heed His call?

David seems to throw caution to the wind when he prays, “Search me, God, and know my heart.” David knows that if he cherishes sin in his heart that God will not hear his prayers. He knows sin cannot stand in the presence of a holy God and must be eradicated/killed…nothing could be more dangerous than to ask this of God! Then he says “test me.” Put me to the test, Lord! This test is not graded on a curve — it is a pass/fail test! Are we praying dangerous prayers? Are we praying that God do everything, short of death, to bring our children into saving faith? Are we praying for God to use us however He sees fit? Are we willing to put God on the line in such a way, that if He doesn’t show up, we will absolutely fail and we have no other back-up plan? Are we asking God to search our hearts, to know our thoughts and to test us? These are dangerous times. And dangerous times call for dangerous prayers!

God, You alone are good and You alone are God. Today I want to put my faith in You in such a radical way that there is no other hope for me, in heaven or on earth. I am trusting You today, for every provision — financially, spiritually, and physically. I am listening for Your voice and today I commit — I promise — that when I hear Your voice, I will obey it…no matter what You ask me to do. Help me be faithful in the small steps You ask me to take as well as the giant leaps of faith. God, today I ask You to search me, know my heart, cleanse me of all unrighteous thoughts or activities, and allow me to experience victory in Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Day 18 — Praying Faith Filled Prayers

Matthew 21:22 — “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

One common thread I find through prayer throughout the Old and New Testaments is this: faith. Praying faith filled prayers shouldn’t even be something we need to discuss, but I know it is. If I’m being honest, I have prayed prayers in my life I fully expected God to answer in a certain way, it hurt me when He didn’t. In short, I prayed childish prayers expecting God to do what I was asking and I was hurt when He didn’t.

One story in Scripture that really speaks to me is a father who came to Jesus, begging Him to heal his son. I can almost hear myself crying out: “Jesus if you can do anything! Please help.” Jesus replies to the boy’s father: “If”? Jesus responds with force: “Everything is possible for the one who believes.” I can so associate with this man and his desperate reply: “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I have prayed prayers before, ugly prayers, filled with the thought that God could do something but not entirely sure He would. Have you ever prayed these types of prayers?

The pain of the world can leave us injured and can even affect our hearts when we pray. For example, I know God can do something but sometimes I’m afraid He won’t. One such prayer in my life was prayed as I lay dying on the side of the highway. After a horrific car crash that left me broken physically, I sat praying “God, please protect my family”. Fast forward from March 11th 2017 to March 26th, that was the day my worst fears were confirmed. My daughter Brynleigh and late wife Cassie had both died as a result of the accident. The rawness of the emotion still causes me to fight back tears.

I believed God could answer my prayer, but He didn’t… or did He? Almost 3 years later I am starting to understand that God did answer my prayer, just not in the way I had hoped or in the way I expected. Since that moment I have a spiritual memory reflex that almost wonders every time I pray: will God answer this prayer in a painful way? Often, I find myself praying “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” As if to say: “God I know you can, I trust that you can, but I’m not sure that you will…”

Today as you pray if you’re struggling to believe, ask Jesus to help you overcome that unbelief. Whatever pain and hurt you’ve felt in the past when you thought God let you down, know that He didn’t… Don’t run from God or try to hide that emotion deep in your heart, confess that fear to Him. Ask Him to clear it away as you pray and ask as the disciples did: “increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

Lord, we confess the fragile nature of who we are. We confess our unbelief; Lord help us overcome it! We confess any pain or heartache from prayers that we felt were unanswered. We confess the fear and hurt from the things we’ve witnessed that leave us struggling to pray faith filled prayers. Lord, just as your disciples prayed we pray that you would increase our faith. Lord we know that to increase our faith You’ll have to take us through moments that require faith. We are thankful you will not leave us or forsake us in the valleys or storms of life. Thank you that even when we struggle to pray faith filled prayers, that Your Holy Spirit makes intercession for us and you hear our prayers, in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Day 17 — Being Powerful in Prayer

James 5:17 — “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on earth.”

Fervently is defined by Webster as “exhibiting or marked by great intensity of feeling.” The type of prayer the writer of James mentions here is a powerfully intense prayer. The KJV says “he prayed earnestly”, and that word earnestly is defined as “showing sincere and intense conviction.” I understand it this way: when Elijah prayed intensely and passionately with a conviction that God could do what he was asking, something powerful happened.

“Yeah, but I’m not a powerful prophet Daniel”… I know! Neither was Elijah. James tells us that he was a man just like you and I. But when a regular man prayed an intense, passionate prayer with conviction and faith, the God of the universe did what was impossible for Elijah to do. Satan has so convinced us of the lie that we are weak and powerless that followers of Christ struggle to hold on to the promises of God. God can and does move mountains, He is still in the miracle working business, and nothing is impossible for Him. (Luke 1:37)

Being powerful in prayer is about praying faith filled prayers. The Scripture tells us that without faith it’s impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Thus, without faith in our prayers they will be powerless and ineffective. Not because our God is powerless or ineffective, but as the Scripture says: if we don’t believe God can, why would He? (James 1:6-9) Before we move on from this thought, understand that faith filled prayers don’t always mean that God is going to move like we expect. For example, if I pray with intensity, passion and faith that God is going to bless me with a brand-new Maserati GT Convertible (MSRP $150,980), I am going to be disappointed.

What gives? I prayed intensely, with passion and faith… why no gorgeous new car in the driveway? No matter how passionate and faith filled, if our prayers are not in God’s will, the answer is no. As you pray today, focus on passionately seeking God with your needs. Pray knowing that not only can He answer your prayers, He wants to… (Matthew 7:11) But also pray knowing that God’s will for your life is perfect (much better than anything we could hope for). Pray powerful prayers and then trust God with the results.

Father, you are the maker of the heavens and the earth. Your power and wisdom are unsearchable and I can’t begin to even scratch the surface of who you are. What I do know is you love me with a love that passes understanding. I come to you today in Jesus’ Name, knowing that not only can you meet my need, but Your Word says that you want to. I confess Lord that without You, nothing else really matters. Help me know that all the superheroes of the faith are just men and women who trusted a faithful God. I can be like Elijah Father and through my faith in Jesus I will see the promises close up that he only ever witnessed from afar. Your will be done Lord, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 16 — Being Prepared When the Answer Is “No”

2 Corinthians 12:9 — “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Have you ever prayed a specific, intentional, faith filled, passionate, earnest prayer and God said “no?” Wait…God says “no” sometimes? If you ever shared one (no judgment and I still love you) but there is a meme making the rounds on Facebook that says: “God will either answer your prayer “not yet” or “I have something better for you.” Really? God does say “no.” Sometimes no matter how faithfully we pray or how right or good something seems, God says “no.” We desperately pray for healing or deliverance, God says no. Why? Because He is God and His will is perfect for our lives.

If you’ve ever met me, I’ve spoken about the time I prayed for God to spare the life of my four-year-old little girl Brynleigh and my late wife Cassie. His answer was “no”. Could God have delivered their lives? Absolutely. Could God have prevented the wreck that stole them from me? No doubt. Could God have allowed our family to miraculously walk away from the wreck unfazed as a testimony to His divine power? For sure. Why didn’t He then? I don’t fully know that answer.

What I do know is that as He has before, God continues to remind me: His grace is enough. He doesn’t always give me the answer. So what can we do when God’s answer is “no”? Trust Him. I have seen lives changed around the world because of the pain that God has blessed me to experience and brought me through. Don’t misunderstand, if I could I would take away the pain. But it is that very pain that God has used to open the door into the pain of other people’s lives for Him to minister and transform them.

As I stood in El Salvador before a room of young men and women who have seen and experienced pain in ways I may never know, I shared Jesus. There in the small class with high schoolers who didn’t speak my language, I poured out my heart about the wreck. As I spoke and my translator translated, the Holy Spirit moved in the pain. Tears began to flow down faces, these precious people began to connect with the pain. The very pain that threatened to destroy me now served as the permission to share the truth of Jesus with them. After I finished speaking, we prayed and gave an invitation and hands began to go up as a celebration began in heaven.

Thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. God was there no other way? What if there wasn’t? What if the only way these lives would come to faith in Christ is for my sweet Brynleigh to be stolen from me much too early. I have prayed for years that God would use me, what if being used by God is what this looks like and feels like? What if His “no” when I desperately prayed for Cassie and Brynleigh was the way in which He intended to transform countless lives? I praise Him for the “no” knowing that His grace has been and will always be sufficient.

As you prepare to pray today, I encourage you to know that even if God says “no” to your most desperate plea, you can still trust Him. Here I sit and I want to tell you, God is good all the time. You can trust Him that through the “no” sometimes He moves more powerfully than He would have through an answered prayer. Sometimes the “no” may feel crushing but come to Him with every weary and wounded moment, Jesus will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).

Lord, thank you for the times you answer no to our most desperate prayers. We confess we don’t understand why, but we know that your grace is sufficient. Lord, let your grace overwhelm us with a peace that passes understanding. We know that your love for us is deeper than we can understand and even in the midst of a “no”, you still love us and you are good. Today we pray that your strength would be made perfect in our weakness. When we can’t walk Lord, carry us. Jesus we come to you with every weary and wounded thought, please give us rest, it’s in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Day 14 — Things That Hinder Prayer (You Mean There’s More?)

Matthew 5:23-24 — “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

This may sound controversial, but did you know there are things that can hinder your prayer life? Even as born again, committed followers of Jesus there are things that can keep us from having a deep, unhindered, intimate prayer life. In today’s focal Scripture I think we see two clear indications that we need to give thought to our actions and the condition of our heart as we seek God’s will.

Does God really care how I treat my wife Amber? Of course, He does. In fact, it is a command that I love my wife like Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). In that command I should also realize that mistreating my wife and failing to treat her in a Christ honoring way can take me out of the will of God and hinder my prayer life. I think the central point for husbands and wives is this: if we are failing to love our spouse in a Christ honoring way, this can and does hinder our intimate prayer time with God.

Secondly, Jesus points out that if we come to the altar (wherever we pray is an altar) and remember that someone has a real issue with our behavior, we should pause before we come to the altar to commune with God and seek reconciliation with them. As I sit here writing this devotion, I’m asking God “what is the central theme of these thoughts?” I think the answer is this: when we fail to love others how God intends and then we think we can boldly stroll before the throne without thinking it will impact our relationship with God, we are wrong.

Think about it this way, my son Kasen and my daughter Abigail love to fight with each other. I’ve found myself again and again reminding Kasen: “Abigail is my daughter, you aren’t going to treat her like that.” I’ve also reminded Abigail: “Kasen is my son, you aren’t going to treat him like that.” Imagine then that as they are mistreating each other that one of them would have the audacity to try and walk up to me and begin a casual conversation as if nothing had happened…this has actually occurred in my home before. I have stopped the conversation and made them reconcile before we could move on to anything else.

This may not be a purely Biblical example of how this process works out but remember God’s love for each of us is perfect. When we mistreat someone (especially our spouses) it is foolish to think God is unaffected. Imagine His frustration when we come to Him with unresolved anger, unforgiveness, or sin that we refuse to face and confess. I can almost hear Him saying: “no Daniel, you just mistreated Amber. She is my daughter, go apologize to her first and then come back and let’s talk.”

Today as you pray, consider this question: who are you still refusing to forgive? Is there something you’ve done that you are even refusing to forgive yourself for? It’s time to face that unforgiveness. If it is keeping you from a deeper, more intimate prayer life with God… isn’t it time to give it up? Secondly, consider how you are treating your spouse in light of Scripture. The command is simple… husbands love your wives, wives submit to your husbands. (Ephesians 5:24-25) If you are failing to love your spouse the way God intended, know that this will hinder your prayer. It’s time to face this reality and stop setting unbiblical preconditions on your submission to God’s Word (“I’ll do this when they do this…”). Press in deeper to God’s presence and confess any failures, ask for forgiveness, and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live in a way that glorifies Him.

Lord, we submit our entire lives to you. We submit our unforgiveness and our spouses to you. Help us Lord forgive and love the way you’ve commanded. Teach us to be more like You in these areas of our live. Reveal to us any unforgiveness or any area we don’t love our spouses in the way you’ve commanded. Help us realize that the power of our prayer is limited in these two very serious areas. Help us submit to you even when it’s hard to submit to others. Help us place the highest value on Your Word and trust your process. Help us do what you’ve commanded even when those we love most are not. Give us an intimacy like we’ve never had in our prayer life. We believe that as we know you more, we will know true love, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Day 13 — Can My Prayers Be Hindered?

1 Peter 3:7 — “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

I have often heard it said that “God always hears our prayers.” We hear Scriptures such as, 1 John 5:15 that says, “And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.” We may be tempted to immediately draw that conclusion. But as Jesus challenged Satan during his wilderness temptation with the simple retort, “It is also written” (Mat. 4:7), perhaps we should examine more of what Scripture has to say on the matter.

Our Scripture today from 1 Peter 3 would seem to indicate that our neglect of our spouses, lack of respect or lack of being considerate may indeed hinder our prayers. 1 Peter 3:12 says, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” God apparently does listen attentively to those who are righteous (in right standing with God), but it seems as if He is set against, or deaf, to those who do evil. This echoes David who writes in the Psalms, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” (Ps. 66:18). David was a “man after God’s own heart,” if there was anyone who was righteous before God it was him…and yet, he laments that his own predilection to sin could keep his prayers from reaching God’s ears.

Now I’m not trying to scare you or bring condemnation or fear…all of our right actions are as filthy rags before Jesus (Isaiah 64:6; Rom. 3:10). We should be thankful to know that our righteousness (right standing) before God is not our doing. Faith in Jesus Christ alone is what gives us a right standing before God. And it keeps us right before Him (when we confess our sins — 1 John 1:9). But if you you feel like God is distant or not “hearing” you, you may want to take spiritual inventory. Is there any sin in your heart? Are you treating your spouse with respect? If so, the remedy is simple…confess your sins to God and you will find that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Praise the Lord, you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding,
who obey his word.
Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
you his servants who do his will.
Praise the Lord, all his works
everywhere in his dominion.
Praise the Lord, my soul. Amen. (Psalm 103)

Day 11 — Praying When Distracted

Psalm 46:10 — “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

What am I going to do for lunch today? Did I sign the kids agenda? Did I forget to pay the power bill? Hey God. Oh, that’s my favorite song! Is my music too loud? Should I be praying sitting down or while I’m kneeling? Thank you for another day Father.

Does that seem familiar? Distractions can be a powerful roadblock in our prayer time as the demands of life, work, marriage, and families can be at the forefront of our minds. For the longest time in ministry I can remember encouraging men and women to place all these thoughts, burdens, and distractions to the back of their mind as they made time to focus on the things of God. The problem? That isn’t fully possible.

Instead today I want to suggest something radical: when you pray, bring those things out immediately. Is your marriage struggling? Start there. Are you worried you might lose your job or not find another one? Begin your conversation with God there. I think doing this, speaking about the things in our life (even the “small” things) will help us start to clear our mind, and as the Scripture says we can “be still.” Remember, God knows exactly what you need (Matthew 6:8), but it may feel difficult to give Him your undivided attention while you are carrying all these burdens.

Don’t hide them or pretend they aren’t there. Humble yourself and confess the truth: “God I need you.” I think, at least for me, when I start here (confessing my overwhelming need to the only One who can truly do anything about it) the posture of my prayer and the reality of the situation converge: without you God I have no hope. But because of Jesus… I am assured that the Creator of the universe not only hears but even keeps my prayers because they are precious to Him! (Revelation 8:4).

So now you’ve started your prayer by confessing your needs and thoughts to God but you are still distracted, what now? How can you minimize distractions during your intimate prayer time with God? Turn the TV, music, and phone off. Lock your door. Find a private place you can spend a few minutes alone with God consistently and practice. Practice prayer? Yes, because learning to “be still” and know that God is who He says He is can take practice.

I can remember so many times I’ve been speaking with my wife Amber and I’ve failed to give her my undivided attention. Spoiler alert, it rarely ends well. I miss something she says or don’t fully grasp how important something is and things can become a big mess. It’s time to make an effort to confess the distractions we can’t eliminate, and to eliminate those we can. Think about it this way, doesn’t my wife deserve my undivided attention? How much more then does God deserve it?

I won’t promise it’ll be easy. You may have to give something up to make time to truly be still. But in those moments when you are, God will refresh you and just resting in His presence will give you the strength you need for another day.

Father we confess that our lives are full of distractions. People and things are all fighting for our attention and sometimes when we pray it’s hard to focus. We are thankful that in our weakness we can still come to you and with a humble heart we can feel the peace that only being in Your presence brings. Today Lord we want to be still. We want to know you are God. We want to take every worry, every earthly care, every burden, every trial, every thought that we have and place them at your feet. Calm our minds and help us to hear your voice, in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.