Prayer

Priming Your Prayer Wall

A friend of mine recently remarked that sometimes when he begins his prayer time, he has trouble with his mind wandering to the various tasks of his day instead of being able to concentrate on doing business with God. I’ve had that problem too.

It’s easy to get distracted no matter what you’re doing, but since Satan isn’t particularly wild about our praying, he frequently uses distraction as a tool to either keep us from praying altogether, or to keep us from entering into deep, focused communion with God.

Have you ever painted a wall? My husband frequently paints as part of his business, and there have been a few times when he was so hard up for an assistant, he had to settle for me. Painting is definitely not my forte. It’s tedious and boring and I hate it. I hate it so much I even made up a little song to sing – under my breath, of course – while I’m doing it, about how much I hate it. (I know, I know, “do all things without grumbling,” but for me painting is more of a Psalm 55:17 proposition.)

But, thanks to my husband’s good teaching, at least now I know how to do it right.

When he paints, he doesn’t just go in, throw some paint on the wall and leave (like I would, because I hate painting so much). He prepares before he paints. He makes sure the floor near the wall won’t get spattered with paint. He protects the baseboards, chair rails, and mouldings. He removes the switch plates and outlet covers. Often, he will prime the wall with a base coat of a neat product called Kilz, which covers up stains and marks and leaves a nice, clean surface on which to roll on the new paint. Only after all of that preparation does he begin painting.

I’ve found that that kind of preparation can be helpful before praying as well. So what can you do to “prime” your prayer “wall”?

◊ Get as far away as possible from physical distractions. Get into a quiet room away from other people. (For me, that sometimes means I have to leave the house and walk the neighborhood or sit in the car while I pray!) Turn off the music, the phone, the computer, and anything else that might make noise. Sometimes a white noise machine can be helpful as well.

◊ Keep a piece of paper and a pen handy. Before you pray, take a few moments to take a mental inventory of the rest of your day. Jot down any reminders to yourself or lists of things you need to get or do. Then, set it aside, both mentally and literally, but within arm’s reach. Later, when you’re praying, if something that’s absolutely crucial comes to mind, just take a second and write yourself a very brief note about it and get back to prayer. I usually ask God to please help me to remember or accomplish whatever it is I’ve just had to write down.

◊ Prime the wall. My “primer prayer” usually goes something like this: “Lord, thank you for drawing me to this time of prayer. Please keep my heart, mind, and will focused completely on You and prevent me from being distracted. If I do get distracted, please help me realize this right away and give me the discipline to re-focus on you. Direct this prayer time and bring to my mind all the things You want me to pray about.” This gives me that “nice, clean surface” so I can start praying.

◊ Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5). Once I have prayed my “primer prayer”, if a thought comes to mind, I pray about it, even if it’s something as simple as, “Lord, please help me remember to stop at the store and get bread on the way home.” It’s important to be discerning, though, about whether a thought is a distraction, or God is impressing on you that you really need to pray about this thing that you thought was trivial. If it’s a genuine distraction, I usually employ the Scarlett O’Hara principle and say to myself, “I’m not going to think about that right now, I’ll think about that later.” Then I make a conscious decision to re-focus on the prayer issues before me.

◊ Practice. Keep at it. Prayer is like anything else– the more you practice it, the easier it generally becomes. Practice preparing for prayer. Practice asking for God’s help to focus. Practice re-directing your thoughts when they go astray. The more often you do it, the less often you’ll find yourself distracted.

Now go prime that wall and pray, pray, pray! It’s a lot more fun than painting!

Book Reviews

Book Report: Praying Backwards

I just finished an excellent book on prayer entitled Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus’ Name, by Bryan Chapell.

When we pray, we most often “sign off” by saying “in Jesus’ name, Amen”. But is this just Christianese for “over and out” or “yours truly”? Are we using the phrase as though these are the magic words that will make God hear and answer our prayer? Is tacking this phrase on at the end of our prayers really what Jesus meant in John 14:13-14?

Bryan Chapell shows us that praying in Jesus’ name means learning to let the Holy Spirit mold our prayers to conform to God’s desires. A quote by William Temple, included in the book, summarizes Praying Backwards well:

We do not pray in order to change His will,
but in order to bring our will in harmony with His.

For those who live in my area, Praying Backwards is available through the local library, but this is one you’re going to want to buy, along with a new highlighter. It’s that good.

Praying Backwards is available through CBD, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

False Doctrine, Word of Faith Movement

I Beg Your Pardon? I Never Promised you a Rose Garden.

I once heard a pastor say that a gospel that doesn’t work everywhere is a gospel that doesn’t work anywhere. He was referring to the so-called “prosperity gospel” that seems to be gaining momentum in the U.S.

If you’re not familiar with this movement, the basic idea is that, if you just have enough faith and/or sow enough seed (i.e. send money to a certain “ministry”) God will bless you with wealth, new cars, new houses, etc. It must work, right? The pastors who push this “name it and claim it” (or as someone I know puts it: “blab it and grab it”) crack “gospel” certainly seem to be doing well financially.

The problem is, it doesn’t work for everyone. How did it work for Paul? What about John? Stephen? Peter and the other apostles? Certainly, they were faithful and gave everything for the cause of Christ, and what did it get them while they were here? What about Christians in India, China, parts of Africa, parts of the Middle East, and many other places today? They are being tortured, imprisoned and even killed for following Christ. Where is their health, wealth, and prosperity?

The fact is, God has not called us to a life of ease. He has not called us to life at all, but to death. Death to self, death to pride, death to greed:

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
Luke 9:23

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:12-13

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
Matthew 6:24

God never promised us a rose garden. He promised us that if we follow Christ, we will be persecuted and hated. Wow, just when you thought witnessing couldn’t get any harder! What a selling point for Christianity! But this is what our brothers and sisters across the globe face every day. Many of them, when they make a commitment to follow Christ, are signing their own death warrants.

What God has promised is so much better than material wealth. He has promised that when we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). When we truly do delight ourselves in the Lord, the desires of our hearts will mirror the desires of His heart. We won’t crave fleshly things like wealth, but holiness, compassion, justice, and a closer relationship with Him. He hasn’t promised us material rewards here, but hereafter.

Sovereignty of God

Gloriful

Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.’
Isaiah 6:2-3

I don’t know about you, but when I look around, I am saddened and dismayed by what this world has turned into. I don’t see God’s glory, I see sin, pain, divisiveness, and degradation.

But, the earth is full of God’s glory.

Every time we see the beauty of His creation, experience the joy of walking closely with Him, obey Him even when we don’t feel like it, or trust Him even when there’s no logical reason to do so, He is glorified.

Every time God proves Himself true to His word by intervening, providing, protecting or healing, He is glorified.

Every time someone serves, helps, gives, comforts, strengthens, works, or encourages in Jesus’ name, He is glorified.

May we, in our darkest hours, look for God’s glory. And in our brightest hours, may we seek to bring glory to Him by being His hands and feet to others.