Summary: Part 6 in series, "Learning to Pray," this message examines the reality of distraction in each of our lives and the impact it has on prayer.
"Dear Lord. . .huh?" Going the Distance with Distraction
Learning to Pray, prt. 6
Wildwind Community Church
Feb. 27, 2005
Have you ever made a promise you didn’t keep? Have you ever stood in front of a hundred people and made a promise you didn’t keep? Last week I told you I was going to do something, and this week I’m here to report to you that I didn’t do it. Remember the alarm thing? Last week I said I was going to set a watch alarm for every two hours for a couple days, and every time the alarm went off I was going to use that as a signal to become aware of God’s continued presence in my life. Sometimes I’d be able to pause for prayer – other times I’d be so involved with something that the sound would jar me just for a moment into conscious awareness of God before I would slip back into activity again. But I was going to do this for a couple days and then come back here and report to you what happened. I even challenged you to do it with me. Did you do it? I didn’t.
I struggled with whether or not to tell you that this morning. In fact I started this sermon at 8:05 pm on Friday night because all week long I really hadn’t applied myself much to prayer and I knew I didn’t have a whole lot to teach you this week – at least not if I was going to keep my commitment to only teaching from my own experience, to applying this stuff in my own life just like I’m asking you to. All day Friday as the hours clicked away I kept thinking of options. I knew I could grab a book on prayer and teach you a few good principles from that book – I figured few of you would know the difference. I thought about not doing a sermon this week and just having an extended worship time. That would have seemed spiritual wouldn’t it? “Folks, it’s been a while since we really just spent time together focusing on God so we’re just going to sing and worship this morning.” Heck at one point I even thought about going through my old sermon archives and dusting off a sermon I preached on prayer to another congregation six or seven years ago. That was approximately six or seven years before I really decided I was going to actually learn to pray and not just preach to other people about it.
I thought about all of these options and came very close to picking one and just running with it. Then something incredibly important occurred to me. Wasn’t my struggle with apathy this week precisely what so many of us deal with on a regular basis? How could I neglect to get up here and talk to you about this, since this is the reality we deal with all the time. We’re hot then we’re cold. We’re up and we’re down. We’re close, then we’re far away. At least I am. Does that reflect your experience at all? The longer I preach the more I’m learning to be careful about assuming that everyone else’s experience is the same as mine, but are some of you with me?
I told you at the beginning of this series on prayer that I was going to speak from my own experience, and I’m convinced that this week my experience was similar to what many of us have to deal with on a regular basis. Distraction. A loss of the passion we seek in prayer. A lack of focus. As I got to thinking about that I realized that these ideas I had come up with to cover over my distraction this past week – well, if I went with one of those ideas we all might miss one of the most important lessons during this series on prayer: the idea that sometimes we lose heart, we get discouraged, we revert back to old habits and ways of thinking and behaving. So today’s message is called "’Dear Lord... huh?’ Going the distance with distraction.” Watch this.
[Video clip - "Where Was I?" from Group’s Shockwave Video Parables, Vol. 1]
Ever felt like that guy? This week, I WAS that guy. I had practically everything in common with that guy. First of all my intentions were pretty good. Second, I was putting off prayer until I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. Third, because of my good intentions I tried to pray anyway but my mind kept wandering – though while I’m being honest I have to say my mind didn’t quite wander in the same ways his did this week – but it wandered just the same. I even had a night where I was praying but got so tired I decided to finish my prayer in bed. You know how that turned out. I can only hope the drool on my pillow that night served as a good conductor of my unspoken and completely unconscious prayers – right to the ears of God. All I can say is I hope God answers my prayers with more enthusiasm than I pray them sometimes.