Tag Archives: prayer closet

Listen With Intention

Almost every one of us are born with the gift of hearing. While we are able to perceive sound, not all of us listen. Hearing is passive while listening is active. I’ve spent many years training people on how to listen. It requires removing or blocking distractions. It also demands that you give your attention to the one speaking. Listening is not an easy task. It’s one of the greatest ways you can show someone that you value them. When people don’t listen, it causes a breakdown in the relationship. When they listen intentionally with the intent to understand, it causes the relationship to grow. All of us could get better at listening.

In John 10, Jesus was talking about the Shepherd and the sheep referring to Himself and to us. In verse 14 He said, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know [without any doubt those who are] My own and My own know Me [and have a deep, personal relationship with Me]” (AMP). It’s important to note that Jesus points out that His sheep have a relationship with Him. Because of that relationship, He listens to us and we listen to Him. He went into say in verse 27, “The sheep that are My own hear My voice and listen to Me; I know them, and they follow Me.” We must be alert daily to hear His voice and to listen in to what He is saying so that we may follow where He leads us.

God is always speaking to us, but we are not always listening or hearing. We have such busy lives that are full of distractions, it’s hard to hear or listen in. This isn’t just a phenomenon of our modern world. Throughout history people have failed to be intentional with their quiet time. That’s why Jesus told us to go into our prayer closet to pray. Your prayer closet is simply a place where you can get alone, free of distractions to hear God’s voice. You must be able to hear Him before you can listen to Him. If it’s been a while since you have heard Him, find a quiet place today, free from distractions and interruptions so you can listen with intention. It won’t be easy because you will also have to learn to quiet your mind. When you are intentional about listening to your shepherd, you will have a deeper, more personal relationship with Him.

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The Gift Of Self

In Dr. Gary Chapman’s book “The Five Love Languages,” one of the languages is Receiving Gifts. Just like verbal languages, there are different dialects. In this particular one, a dialect is the Gift of Self. It’s where you put everything else that you need to do aside for a bit and simply give your spouse your time. You may have a ton to do with deadlines approaching, however, when you put that stuff aside and give yourself to your spouse, it speaks volumes. It tells them they are more important than anything else you have to do. It signals to them that they are your priority. The Gift of Self is a powerful expression of love especially when it doesn’t come natural for you.

In Luke 10, Jesus and his disciples were visiting a small village outside of Jerusalem called Bethany. They were met by a woman named Martha who invited them to her home. Martha immediately went to work to prepare a large dinner to fed all these people. The more she worked in the kitchen, the more she realized her sister wasn’t in there helping her. Mary was in the other room sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to everything He had to say. I’m sure Martha cleared her throat a few times to get Mary’s attention,. Maybe she even gave her some ugly looks. When those didn’t work, she told Jesus to tell Mary to come help her. In verses 41-42 Jesus replied, “Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her” (TPT).

It’s easy to get distracted by all the things we have to do. Sometimes those things are for the Lord Himself, but what’s more important is giving Him the Gift of Self. We must choose to set aside the things we have to do in order to sit at Jesus’ feet. We must make time with Him our priority. We lead very busy lives, but when you compare the things you have to do with eternity, sitting at the feet of Jesus is what will matter most. We all can get better at managing our schedules so that we’re in control of our time. We all can get better at being undistracted while we give ourselves and our time to the Lord. It starts with making our time with Him a priority, and then building the rest of our schedule around that. When we give Jesus the Gift of Self, He does the same back to us.

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The Quiet Place

I jokingly refer to Egypt as the land of a thousand car horns because Egyptians use the horn instead of a blinker. I once tried to count how many honks I heard in a ten second span, and couldn’t do it. There were times when I just wanted some peace and quiet. To get away from the noise, I would rent a sail boat and have them take me to the middle of the Nile. It was my little quiet place where I could stop and think as I watched the sun set behind the pyramids.

Where is your quiet place? We may not love in the land of a thousand horns, but we live in a noisy world. There are so many distractions in our lives that it’s hard to find that place of serenity. It’s that place where our phone isn’t buzzing, kids aren’t vying for your attention, social media doesn’t exist, and no one bothers you. We all need that space in this world or we’ll go crazy!

In Psalm 27, David found it. He wrote, “When besieged, I’m calm as a baby. When all hell breaks loose, I’m collected and cool. I’m asking GOD for one thing, only one thing: To live with him in his house my whole life long. I’ll contemplate his beauty; I’ll study at his feet. That’s the only quiet, secure place in a noisy world, The perfect getaway, far from the buzz of traffic” (MSG). David found his quiet place in spending time with God.

Each of us needs to set aside time in our day to spend time with God. We need it to keep our perspective so we can remain calm and cool no matter what’s happening in our lives. That quiet place reminds us that God is in control and that He’s got you. Resting in His presence quiets the fears and doubts of the unknown our lives. His Word gives us the hope and encouragement we need. If you’re there right now, take some time to find that quiet place in Him. You’ll be glad you did.

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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Becoming People Of Prayer

How much time do you spend in prayer each day? I once read that D.L. Moody spent up to 8 hours a day in prayer. That has always challenged me. I’ve been on church trips where the men would take a two day trip to spend them in fasting and prayer. There would be times when you would see people nod off. When they woke up, they would snap their head back up and say, “Amen!” On those trips I learned how hard it was to spend a lot of time in prayer, even with prayer a focus each hour. It’s also where I learned that prayer was a conversation with God. Can you imagine an 8 hour one way conversation? It was then that I learned to tune into God’s voice by giving Him time to speak in my prayer time.

You can’t read the Gospels without seeing how much time Jesus devoted to prayer. Sometimes He would spend an entire night in prayer, alone with God. The disciples were intrigued by how much time He prayed and even asked Him to teach them how to pray. They saw that prayer was important to Jesus and were challenged to pray more. Prayer became a cornerstone of the Early Church. It actually was birthed from a ten day prayer meeting. Can you imagine praying for ten days straight? I’m convinced that that kind of prayer is the missing element in today’s Church. We must return to being people of prayer. We have to make spending time with God a priority bot privately and corporately if we want to become effective in this world.

Colossians 4:2 says, “Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving” (AMP). Have we lost our persistence in prayer? Have we made prayer a priority? It’s not too late to return to this foundational principle of our faith. I don’t know if God is asking you to give Him 8 hours, but you can start with at least 8 minutes. We need to have time set aside each day where we spend it in prayer without being interrupted. We need a place to meet with God where we won’t fall asleep or have distractions that will cause our mind to wander. I believe God is calling you and I back to being people of prayer. Not just rote prayers over meals and bedtime, but real conversations with God. He’s waiting for us. Will we make spending time with Him a priority? Only you can answer that.

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Giving God Attention

How many times have you had a conversation with someone, but your mind was elsewhere? Probably too many times to count. I’m usually thinking about several things trying to solve a problem or find a solution to them. When someone engages me in conversation during these times, I’m honestly not listening to them talk in those cases. Im present in the conversation, but not mentally in it. To be honest, it even happens when I’m not trying to solve things, but I’ve had to learn that listening and engaging with others is one of the best ways to value them. I have to tell myself (while they’re talking) to pay attention and listen. Otherwise, if it’s not something I’m really interested in or don’t see how it relates to me, my mind wants to wander. I’ve had to train myself to be present in conversations.

If it happens to you with people, it also happens to you in prayer. How many times have you started to pray and then you remember you were supposed to do something? Our minds start to wander and think of things we need to be doing instead of engaging with God in prayer. Those voices need to shut down immediately or your prayer time will turn into a thinking time. I have to stop the thoughts the moment they come in. I’ve got a friend who keeps a notebook beside him when he prays. He writes down those things that pop in his mind so he has a to-do list when he’s done. He jokingly says, “I let the devil be my secretary. He tries to disrupt my prayer, but I use it as him giving me all the things I need to do.” However you choose to do it, prayer is something we must engage in with our utmost attention. We are speaking with the King of Kings after all. He deserves our attention.

Colossians 4:2 says, “Be persistent and devoted to prayer, being alert and focused in your prayer life with an attitude of thanksgiving” (AMP). To get the answers we need from Heaven, we need to be persistent in our prayer. Jesus gave a couple of parables about this. We must also be alert and focused during our prayer time giving God all of our attention. Prayer closets are a good place to block everything else out to give God your complete attention. I also recommend leaving your phone somewhere else and finding a time when you won’t be disrupted by others. When our prayer life suffers, our relationship with Him suffers. God loves quality time and the best way to do that is to have a set time when you can engage with Him in prayer uninterrupted and to stay focused on Him. Quick short prayers are good, but they’re like text messages. A relationship can’t thrive on just texts. Have focused conversations with God too and you’ll see your relationship with Him bloom like never before.

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Distraction Free

Are you a multitasker? In today’s world, it’s hard not to be. Our lives are busier than ever. Eight hours isn’t enough time to complete our work so we bring it home. Our devices offer a steady stream of sounds to get us to check them. There are more channels than ever on the TV. In short, we live lives where we can easily be distracted and lose our train of thought or not hear what someone is telling us. It’s great to have all these advances, but it has killed our attention span. Some research shows that in the last 20 years, our attention span has reduced by 25% to about 8 seconds. It’s hard to give someone quality time with that, let alone God.

I think that why Jesus recommended that you and I have a prayer closet. It’s a distraction free environment where you and I can spend time alone with God. If you are tempted to do other things on your phone, use a paper Bible instead of a digital one. If your mind thinks of everything you have to do, take a piece of paper in with you and make your todo list as those thought come up. If people interrupt you, have your time while everyone is sleeping. Anything that takes your attention off of God is a distraction. If you’re going to have a deeper relationship with God, then you need to remove the distractions that hamper it.

Here are some Bible verses on distractions.

1. For every soldier called to active duty must divorce himself from the distractions of this world so that he may fully satisfy the one who chose him.

2 Timothy 2:4 TPT

2. And the one on whom seed was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness [the superficial pleasures and delight] of riches choke the word, and it yields no fruit.

MATTHEW 13:22 AMP

3. Yes, feast on all the treasures of the heavenly realm and fill your thoughts with heavenly realities, and not with the distractions of the natural realm.

Colossians 3:2 TPT

4. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

1 Corinthians 7:35 NLT

5. Set your gaze on the path before you. With fixed purpose, looking straight ahead, ignore life’s distractions.

Proverbs 4:25 TPT

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Protecting Our Relationship With God

I get the opportunity to talk to different people all the time. Inevitably someone wants to ask me relationship questions. I’m not a trained counselor or anything like that, but as I listen to these stories, there’s a constant thread through all of them. The problems they’re experiencing are a result of a lot of little things that have crept in and gone unchecked. Also, they haven’t done things to protect the relationship. When that happens, the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back ends up happening and it gets the blame. The truth is it was several small, basic things that added up.

Just like any relationship, we have to make sure that we do the small, basic things in our relationship with Christ. We need to set parameters and protect it. We live in a connected world where everything seems to be vying for your attention. If we allow little things to distract us and keep us from praying or reading our Bible or going to church, it will become difficult to have that relationship that God wants to have with us. We must protect that time. We must make it sacred so that nothing and no one comes between us and God.

I’m reading the Bible book Song of Songs (Solomon) in the Passion translation. They’ve taken it and put in red letters the parts that are allegorically from God. Chapter 2:15 says this to us from God, “You must catch the troubling foxes, those sly little foxes that hinder our relationship. For they raid our budding vineyard of love to ruin what I’ve planted within you. Will you catch them and remove them for me? We will do it together” (TPT). God is asking us to protect our relationship with Him. I also love that just like any other relationship, it’s not just one side’s responsibility. We need to work together with God to remove the obstacles in our relationship so it can grow.

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Intimate Conversations

Whenever I travel for work, it’s important to stay in contact with my wife. Sometimes when we end up talking I’m at the airport or I’m at dinner or while I’m with coworkers. It’s hard to have good conversations in those places. It’s often noisy, people are trying to get my attention or I’m trying to find where I’m going so I’m somewhat distracted. The best conversations are when I’m away from all the noise in the quiet of my hotel room. Only then can we truly have interruption free conversations where it doesn’t have to be quick snippets.

Luke 5:16 says, “As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer” (MSG). Having intimate conversations with His father while He was here was important to Him. People were constantly vying for His attention and needing a miracle. Often, He just wanted to have a quiet conversation. Many times He had those quick conversations in front of people, but very often we read where Jesus went to a desolate place to pray. If it was important for Him to do that, how much more important for us?

At one point, Jesus told us to go into our closet to pray. I don’t know that He meant that literally. I think what He was saying was that we need to find a quiet place where we can have some uninterrupted prayer time. We can’t always go to an out of the way place to pray, but we can find space to get alone with Him. It may be a closet or it could be before everyone wakes up or after they go to bed, but we each need to find time to get alone with God so we can have intimate conversations with Him. I believe the quality of our relationship with Him hinges on it.

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Intimate Conversations 


I like to tell people that I’m the busiest person I know. I carry two phones with three numbers attached to them. I work a full time job, write, do ministry, and drive for Uber at night. I look around though, and see other people who are just as busy. Somehow in our world, we equate busyness with value. The more we do, the greater we are. Even in the Church, we have adopted this mentality with ministers and lay leaders. We are always on the clock, we never take a sabbatical, and we never say “no” to anything or anyone.

That’s not the example Jesus gave us for ministry. Even though He was very busy and sought after, Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer” (NLT). The model He gave us was to step away from our duties often to spend time alone with the Father. He understood that it is not wise to continually give without going to the Father for a refill. As our lives become more busy, our intimate conversations alone with God in our prayer closet should increase.

Revival is coming and we need to be in the habit of stepping aside from all the distractions to spend time alone in prayer. Performing miracles, leading the lost to the cross, caring for the poor, and preaching are not supposed to take the place of our quiet time with God. He wants us to understand that busyness equals distractions and distractions keep us from going into our prayer closet. We can’t have the power of God flowing through us until we have been intimate with Him. God has always valued alone time with Him more than our busyness for Him.

Think of Martha and Mary. Martha was the one who welcomed Jesus into their home and as Luke 10:40 says, “was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.” Mary was the one who was just sitting at the Lord’s feet listening. When Martha complained that she was doing all the work, the Lord replied, “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it.” Each of us need to discover what that is as well. We need to take time often to just sit at the feet of Jesus, away from the distractions, and listen. That is what Jesus values and what we should value as well.

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My Response To: Why Morning Prayer Is Not Essential To The Christian Life

I’d like to start off by reminding you that my friend and fellow blogger, Michael Stephens, and I often engage in dialogues where we share different points of view. We have a mutual respect for each other and find that our discussions open our own perspectives to see things in a different light. We often discuss theology, current events, pop culture, and politics. Our discussions are meant to share a point of view more than to convince the other that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We thought it would be fun to share one of our dialogues with you. This is my response to his assertion that morning prayer is not essential to the Christian life.

To read what he wrote before you read my response, click here.


Solitude is Essential

Michael said the following about the discipline of solitude, “The establishment of spiritual discipline in the heart is imperative.” We both agree on this point. Yes, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, but throughout scripture, those places of solitude provided distraction free zones in which to commune with God. Jesus often went away to solitary places to pray. He even told us in Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open” (AMP).

Michael also wrote that “Solitude can be created in chaotic times and places.” While I agree with that statement, not everyone has developed the discipline to do that. I once read the story of a Native American in New York City who was walking through the streets. He heard something and began walking down an alley. There it was, a cricket. He had heard it chirping above all the noise of the city. While he could hear it, most could not. They, like we, are too distracted by all the noise in our life to hear that still small voice in the chaos of life. That’s why solitude is so important, and what better time to find it than in the morning before our world gets noisy with texts, calls, emails, and other distractions?

We should pray when our hearts are most receptive and our minds are most alert

I agree with that statement and studies show, it’s in the morning. I remember in my first semester of college, my psychology professor gave us some helpful advice. He said, “Studies show that the later in the day it gets, the less function your mind has.” The National Sleep Foundation recently said that being awake 18 hours is the equivalent of having .08 blood alcohol level, which is the legal limit for being drunk. The later in the day we wait to pray, the less in control we have over our thoughts and actions. Our minds are freshest in the morning.

Michael mentioned that he used to be a morning prayer person, but it sometimes felt like a chore. The truth is that whatever time you pray can be considered “a chore”. I have a friend that I’m an accountability partner for in his prayer life. I have a reminder on my phone at 9:30 PM to remind him to pray. He too says it often feels like a chore, so he needs motivation to pray. If you’re finding that your prayer time feels like a chore, ask a friend to hold you accountable or keep a prayer journal so you can write down what God is saying to you. These will keep you on your toes and help make prayer exciting.

God always hears our prayers

Amen and thank God for it! No matter where we are or what situation we are in, God always hears our prayers. Michael wrote, “A morning prayer is no less heard than a prayer made on the busiest corner of Los Angeles at the height of Rush Hour.” Again, I agree with that statement, but what we are discussing here is not what I call a 9-1-1 prayer. We are talking about a set aside time to commune with God where we share our heart and listen to his. It’s difficult to do that on that corner in Los Angeles.

We both agree that prayer is essential to the Christian life. It is our lifeblood that keeps us going. Show me a person who doesn’t spend time with God each day and I’ll show you a person who will struggle in their faith the moment hard times come. Each of us will face those moments in life. Our survival is dependent on how deep our roots are in the famines of life. Prayer, alone time with God that is set aside, is what grows those roots. Tomorrow, I will dive deeper into what it means to commune with God.

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