I was talking with a friend recently about how technology has been both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side, we have so much information, entertainment and communication in the palm of our hand. Never before in the history of the world have we had such access, but along with that comes the curse. We’ve lost the ability to be alone to think deeply and to pray. We’re constantly interrupted by it going off, lighting up or us using it out of habit. In times past, people had the ability to process, break down and understand the information they had because they had the ability to truly be alone with their thoughts. That ability also provided them with opportunities to be alone with God.
Exodus 3:1 says, “Now Moses was keeping the flock of Jethro (Reuel) his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb (Sinai), the mountain of God” (AMP). Notice how Moses was in the wilderness alone. It was then that he noticed the burning bush. Verse 3-4 says, “So Moses said, ‘I must turn away [from the flock] and see this great sight—why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he turned away [from the flock] to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” Moses turned away from his distraction, and when he did, God called out to him and met with him.
You will even find this pattern with Jesus. Luke 5:16 says, “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray [in seclusion].” How often do you slip away into seclusion, away from all distractions, and pray? It’s difficult in today’s world. We must be intentional about it. Our minds will give us the fear of missing out or of being out of connection with others, but the truth is that those fears have made us miss out on encounters with God and out of connection with Him. Jesus made it a practice to break away from the crowd and noise of life to be alone with God. With all of our connectedness today, we must be even more intentional about it. God is waiting to meet you, but you must turn away from the things that distract you first and get alone with Him.
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.
One of the first rules you learn as a child is that you become like those you hang out with. Someone once said, “Show me your friends, and I’ll show you, you.” We tend to take on attributes, accents and habits of the people we spend time with. I read a study once that showed how kids don’t take on their parent’s accents. They take on the ones of their friends. Think about the people you are around the most. Good or bad, they’ve had an affect on the things you like, the places you go and even the foods you eat. They have changed you as much as you have changed them.
In the book of Acts, the disciples went around preaching and healing people the way Jesus did. They went to the Temple to pray and to educate others on the Scriptures. As they approached the gate one day, a beggar who couldn’t walk asked them for money. Instead of money, they brought him to his feet healed. The religious leaders threw them in jail for it. As they were being questioned the next day about it, Peter spoke up and told them it was done through the power of Jesus’ name. Acts 4:13 says, “The council members were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who had never had religious training. Then they began to understand the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with him” (TPT).
Think about that. They saw the effect Jesus had on them simply by spending time with Him. Just like you and your friends have an affect on each other’s lives, our lives are affected by spending time with Jesus. The more time you spend with Him, the greater the effect He will have on your life. We, like the disciples, will become more like Him each and every day. You can be an ordinary person and have an extraordinary change in your life, and in the lives of others, by spending time in prayer, reading the Bible and resting in His presence. Just like anything in the Bible, we have to be the ones to take the first step. The change happens after we make the time to spend with Him.
If you know me, I live a very busy life. I’m constantly on the run doing things and going places. My days are fairly structured so I can fit everything in that I need to. The problem is living like that over long periods of time can be exhausting both physically and mentally. It feels like you’re burning the candle at both ends. Some days, I wake up and pray, “Can’t I just sleep in today, Lord?” What I’ve found though, is that I get refreshed and recharged as I spend time in God’s presence, waiting on Him to speak, trusting that He will come through for me and putting my hope in Him.
There are so many things in life to worry or stress about. If I’m not careful, I can let them overwhelm me and render me ineffective. The best way I’ve found to combat those is to pray without ceasing (having a dedicated prayer time, but continuing the conversation throughout my day), spending quality time in God’s Word (thinking about what God is saying, why He put that information in the Bible and how I can apply it) and spending quiet time in His presence (quieting my mind and thoughts in a place and time with no distractions). If doing these things are not a priority, life can overtake you easily and you will be exhausted, stressed and feeling like you can’t go on.
Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint” (NLT). Every one of us experiences being weary and tired, but not every one of us experiences new strength. It takes being dedicated and intentional about your time to wait on the Lord doing the things I mentioned above. They don’t just happen. You must plan them into your day and make those times sacred so that nothing is more important. If you find yourself exhausted today from running around nonstop, find some time (30 minutes to an hour) to wait on the Lord. If you just thought, “I don’t have that kind of time in my day,” neither did I, so I started waking up an hour earlier. Waiting on the Lord has to become the most important thing to you, even more important than some sleep.
Have you ever been around someone and thought you knew what they were like? You could have been around them for years, but then you got to know them and found out they were different than you thought. I had a guy at church approach me like that years ago. I had greeted him, been in conversations in a group of people he was a part of and even spoke to him a few times. Then one year I helped take the youth to camp and his teenage daughter was on the trip. He came up to me a week or two later and said, “My daughter says you’re the funniest person she’s met. I don’t get it. I’ve never seen you be funny.” I replied, “You haven’t gotten to know me. You’ve only been around me in certain circumstances.”
I’m afraid that’s how many of us are with God. We’ve been around Him at church. Maybe we’ve felt like He’s spoken to us before, or we’ve been in prayer meetings where everyone is talking to Him. When someone talks about who God is, it may not line up with who you thought He was. It’s hard to reconcile that, but it could be that you’ve just been around God, but have never truly gotten to know Him. You may even be able to tell me facts about Him because you were raised in Sunday School and have attended church your whole life, but if you don’t know Him, you’re missing the point of what He wants.
In Hosea 6:6, God says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings” (NLT). God is more interested in having a relationship with you rather than you doing all the religious rituals. The way to get to know Him is to be quiet in your prayer time and listen to Him rather than speaking. Another way is to read your Bible with the intent of God speaking something to you through it rather than trying to read a certain amount for the day. Just like any relationship, it takes time to build and it requires you to listen and ask questions. As you get to know God, you might find He’s not like what you’ve imagined He’s like. His desire is for you to know Him. Ask Him today to reveal Himself to you, to speak to you and to take you into a deeper relationship with Him.
One of the things I enjoy doing is going to sports shows to get autographs. There are tables set up all over the place with autographs from just about any athlete on just about anything. It’s cool to look at those and remember those players, but I rarely buy anything on that side of the building. On the other side is a series of tables with athletes sitting at them signing autographs. You have to get tickets months in advance if you’re going to meet the person and get their autograph. For me, that’s the way to go. I love being able to say, “I met Clyde Drexler,” or “I met Craig Biggio and got him to sign this right after he got into the Hall of Fame.” I want to be present and meet the people who’s autographs I have.
The same thing goes when it comes to God’s presence. I love hearing stories of revivals in the past and the miraculous things that happened. I love conversing with people about what God showed them in prayer, but to me, it’s like window shopping at the sports show. I don’t just want to hear about someone else’s experience, i want to meet with God and be in His presence too. There’s a fear many people have of being in God’s presence I think. It’s like the Israelites when they left Egypt. God invited them into His presence, but they sent Moses instead. You and I can’t live or fully grow off of someone else’s experiences. We must learn to get into God’s presence ourselves.
Psalm 27:8 says, “When You said, ‘Seek My face [in prayer, require My presence as your greatest need],’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, O LORD, I will seek [on the authority of Your word]’” (AMP). God is asking us to seek His presence individually. There’s a cost associated with that. It’s going to cost you time that you could be doing something else. God wants to be first in our lives and to be our greatest need. Until each of us are willing to make Him our greatest need and are willing to pay the price, we’ll be window shopping off of other people’s experiences. Find time today to seek God. Put on some worship music, read your Bible, pray and listen. He’ll meet you there because if you seek, you will find.
This morning started like most mornings. My alarm went off and I hit the snooze button. I did that three times before getting up. I turned on the light and grabbed my phone to read the Bible. As soon as I did, I heard music. I leaned over and checked the clock radio in my hotel room. It was off, but the music was coming from right where it was. The walls in my hotel must be paper thin. The person on the other side of the wall was waking up too. I couldn’t concentrate so I turned my clock radio on too. I put it on the AM dial and turned to where there wasn’t a station so the white noise would drown out the music.
It was still hard to concentrate as I read. I managed to get through it and find a verse to think about today. Afterwards, I went on my way to getting ready and started praying. It wasn’t long before I heard an alarm going off. It was my clock radio. I went over, hit the off button and looked or a way to keep it off. I went back across the room to pray. It went off again. I turned it off and returned to praying. As I was praying, I kept hearing all the room doors opening and closing up and down the hall. So distracting.
Jesus knew we were going to face distractions when it comes to spending time with Him because He faced distractions. That’s why He went away from the group to pray so often. It wasn’t that He didn’t enjoy their company, it was so He could get some alone time with the Father. He was trying to show the disciples by example how they should be spending time with God corporately and alone. All the Gospels talk about Jesus separating Himself to pray.
Jesus even told them in Matthew 6:6, “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” Part of that instruction was so that we won’t be like others who pray so others will hear them and the other part was what I’m facing today. It was to get away from the noise of life that tries to distract us from not only spending time with God, but from hearing from Him too. With all the distractions going on this morning, I had a difficult time hearing His voice. I ended up leaving the hotel to get away from all the distractions so I could have alone time with Him.
Where are you today? What distractions keep you from spending time with God? Kids? Spouse? Neighbors? Friends? Radio? TV? Your phone? Facebook? Whatever it is, find a place and time today where you can just be alone with God. Spend time talking to Him and also spend some time listening to His voice. Read His Word in the quiet so you can really understand what He is trying to say to you through it. Get away from the noise of this life so you can concentrate on God.