Miss Manners agreed with a woman who was complaining that when people call others it shouldn’t be when they are distracted. She said she gets calls from people who freely admit they are just a few cars behind the drive through window or doing something else that makes her wait for them to get back on. She said she doesn’t call people back until she has the ability to be undistracted, and when she receives a call she turns off the TV, or the radio, whatever, to be fully attentive.
How many times do we pray while distracted. I say this, and confess I am probably one of the guiltiest of all for doing this. I pray most often while driving to work. I don’t know if it is more of a private time with God or a test of Him to keep me safe.
We should pray in solitude, in a peaceful environment and undistracted. I am alone in the car, and the radio is off, but I am certainly distracted. Oh, yeah, I’m a New York driver- the long pedal is supposed to be all the way down and that other pedal, well, I don’t know what that’s for. But, I still have to watch where I’m going, so I am distracted.
We are told to pray constantly. We are also told that prayer should come from the heart, and a broken and contrite spirit will not be turned away by God. Have you been there? Have you found yourself so deeply embedded in prayer that you cry? That you feel almost like you are in God’s presence, floating, those little chills going from your head to your toes, knowing that the Lord is embracing you as He embraces your prayers? I remember those feelings, and once in a blue moon I am there. But it’s rare, and that’s my fault. I can’t be fully in prayer when I am doing something else.
So, do as I say and not as I do. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted when praying. Especially in your house of worship. Shaul admonishes us in a couple of his letters about prayer. Talking in tongues, praying on and on like pagans, looking silly (my word) when praying. I have heard people just ramble in prayer: I can literally hear them searching for something to say, like they need to orate ad infinitum to gain God’s attention: “And, Father God, I…uh…um…I pray to you, Father God, for …uh….for….Father God, ..uh…” Just stop! Just say, “Thank you, Lord, for everything. In Yeshua’s name I pray, Amen.”
One of the most powerful prayers I ever heard was when Moses asked God to heal Miryam after striking her with leprosy for talking against Moses (Numbers 12). Here is his big sister, who risked her life to follow him as a baby in the basket (nile crocodiles hang around in the marshes and can be up to 20 feet long and weigh about a ton) and who has been a great help to him and supported him all his life, and now she is as white as a ghost. What does Moses say? The man who can talk to God face-to-face, a friend of God, a fore-runner of the Messiah: does he go on and on about curing her, or how powerful God is, or why God should listen to him? No. All he says is, “Oh Lord…please heal her.”
And that was all God needed to hear. Why? I think because it was from the heart. It wasn’t King James vocabulary, it wasn’t a Dylan Thomas-like rendering of beautiful poetry, it was just a simple, heartfelt and sincere request.
We don’t need to be in prayer for hours. I sometimes am. This habit I have of praying on the way to work started when I was in sales and a real Road Warrior, doing some 850-1,000 miles of driving a week. I sometimes was in prayer for an hour or more and never realized how long it was. I also often find myself distracted not just by traffic but by my own thoughts. I start to ask God for something, then go off on a tangent and later realize I have been rehearsing a speech to someone, or talking to myself, or thinking of what to write in this blog, or just auto-piloting the car. You know, when you have been driving somewhere and suddenly realize you don’t remember the last 20 miles at all? And then I realize that my prayer has been distracted, and I ask God’s forgiveness.
He is God. He is the Almighty, the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and Host of Hosts. He is the creator of all things, our Father in Heaven, our Judge, our Saviour. He deserves our undivided attention, but does He get it?
I confess, to my shame, not from me. Not as often as He should. I pray silently to Him when at Shabbat services, often with the worship music in the background. But that is only once a week. All the rest of the time I am praying in the car, or on my bike in the mornings when I am exercising. I am not concentrating directly and fully on God.
I would like to develop a better prayer habit. One where I am doing my devotional and prayer time silently, in solitude and undistracted. Honestly, it worries me that I may end up not having time for other things, because sometimes we can get lost in prayer. That’s not a bad thing, not at all, if it is really deeply involved in communion with God. I don’t know. I am just so happy that He is forgiving and compassionate and that He understands our weaknesses.
So there you have it. I am not a good pray-er. I can sometimes pray with the best of them, but that is not as often as it should be. I need to be better- no excuses, no more worrying about where to find the time. The time is always there, we just need to organize it.
Has any of this struck home? Do you see yourself doing the same thing with your prayers? Are you one of those that find yourself rambling too often? Searching for something else to say because you feel your prayer isn’t “good” enough?
If you pray from your heart, if you keep it simple and honest, if you only ask for what you need today and when you pray for others you really mean it, that’s all you need. God isn’t impressed by our rhetoric or language, but He can be moved by a sincere, loving and humble attitude of prayer. And, you need to do it when it is just you and Him. No more distractions.
I truly believe that when we pray to God in solitude, sincerely and openly, with a humble and worshipful respect for who He is, we will commune with Him in such a full and spiritually rewarding way that His presence will be so real we will be able to reach out and touch it.
At least, that’s what I am going to try to do in my own life. Starting today.
What about you?