Am I too distracted to pray without ceasing?

With the invention of smart phones and these (often anti) social media apps, we now can be distracted and ignore the reality in front of our faces at any given moment of every single day. Many have lost the art of communication because there really is no need to actually talk (aloud) to people anymore. It’s all about these black letters on white background. We text instead of call. We use emojis instead of an emotional face-to-face conversation. We post “insta” updates like engagements or the birth of a new baby instead of waiting to share that news in person, especially to close friends and family members. I strongly dislike finding out important things through Facebook first, don’t you?

We can’t even sit in a twenty-minute car ride without grabbing for that block of distraction. My husband knows how guilty I am of this one! And recently, I discovered that existing behind my phone’s keyboard hasn’t just affected my relationships with other people, but with God. Are we so connected to our devices that we are neglecting to connect with the Lord? How much time am I spending on my phone? I must wonder if living a communicative existence of only black letters on white background is the huge reason my prayer life seems like it is on life support sometimes. You can’t text God. He wants to hear from His children. 

Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, He tore the veil that separated sinful man from the Holy and Righteous One; Jesus made a way for me to approach God as my Father. What a beautifully, life-changing truth! When the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray in Matthew chapter six, He told them to begin with “Our Father.” Prayer is personal because the Father longs to have a personal relationship with His children. He wants us to come to Him constantly with our concerns, burdens, joys, and requests. 

At the end of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul gives a simple reminder to the Thessalonians (and us) to anchor themselves in joy and thankfulness and never stop praying:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, ESV).

Just like all our relationships in life are affected by verbal communication, we are forming our relationship with the Lord with every conversation we have with Him, and we should constantly be lifting our gaze and voices to Him. This means that as we go about our day, we should remember to stay connected to the Vine (John 15), abiding in Him, knowing that we must remain dependent upon Him for all things and to be thankful and content for His new mercies that are available to us every single day. The distractions are endless throughout the day and it’s so easy for our eyes and minds to become focused on lesser, temporal things. This isn’t to say that we ignore all of our daily earthly responsibilities to sit in our “prayer closet,” but we seek God in the midst of responsibilities, remembering He is the One who gives us the grace to accomplish the tasks before us. 

His sovereign hand is always guiding us as His beautiful providence unfolds in our life, and we should be careful not to get caught up in our own plans and goals that we neglect coming to Him first. Constant communication with the Lord will build and strengthen our confidence and trust in the Lord, as we learn to lean upon Him in all things. Rejoicing always and remaining thankful for another day to get a chance to get to know Him through His Word and glorify His name in all that we say and do. Let us ask the Lord to help us throw off the distractions that would keep us from that glorious partnership with Him.

Father God,

There can be such a blessing that comes from technology and being able to connect with other people all over the world in a moment. But this blessing can also become a major distraction from something so much better, staying connected to You. Lord, I repent for neglecting keeping our communication a top priority and allowing an electronic device to become a hindrance to the spiritual discipline of prayer. You call us to never cease from praying, meaning that we should be continually looking to You every moment of the day. I lift my gaze to You, knowing that is where my help comes from. I lift up my voice to You, knowing that You incline Your ear to me as Your child. Thank You, Jesus, for making a way for me to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. May I never take that relationship for granted. Help me by Your grace and the power of the Spirit to remember to keep prayer a daily, moment by moment, lifeline to my Heavenly Father. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

When Jesus Brings a Sword

A few months ago, a polarizing topic came on the scene here in America, which created a lot of strife and tension on social media (what else is new?). Since it was a topic that I am very passionate about, I decided to share my own personal thoughts regarding the monumental news. As a Christian, my worldview is filtered through a Biblical lens. This should be the case for all professing Christians, but sadly, that is not always true in our current society. Many are creating a Christianity (and Jesus) to their own liking that allows them to continue to embrace worldly ideologies and philosophies that make them feel better about themselves. But in the gospels, Christ assures us that if we try to hang onto our life, we will lose it. If we want to hold onto the world, we will inevitably lose our soul. 

My strong Biblical convictions were met with much animosity among some of my friends (some unbelievers and some professing Christians). Two close friends from my past in particular, immediately “unfriended” me on Facebook because they became extremely offended by my position on this controversial topic, although I have expressed my views on it before. This is expected as a Christian. We know that we will lose much as a Christ-follower. It’s something we typically prepare ourselves for early on in our walk. But I have been a Christian for fourteen years. 

For whatever reason, these two friends could not tolerate my convictions and wanted me out of sight and out of mind. The situation with one friend hurt worse considering it was friendship with deep history of more than twenty-five years; We had made countless memories together since grade-school and she was the maid of honor in my wedding. I reached out to her and she responded with her disgust with my Christian beliefs (compared to her own) and offenses but was radio silent to my plea to reconcile despite our opposing views, especially our differing views within Christianity and about the Bible. Her silence was loud and clear that she no longer wanted to walk in fellowship with me and was willing to throw twenty-five years of friendship away on a whim. If someone isn’t willing to be Facebook friends with you, do we think they really want you in their life at all? The answer was made pretty evident for me. 

Yet, I wasn’t expecting to have to face this type of division in my friendships this many years later as a believer; I was faced with the hard reality that Jesus’ words in Matthew 10 were unfolding in my life. Although Jesus is speaking of family particularly in verses 34-35, the sentiment remains the same- Jesus has come to bring a sword to our relationships that draws a line in the sand between those who love and follow Him and those who do not. 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law”

(Matthew 10:34-35, ESV).

Later in this passage, Christ makes it clear that we must love Him more than anyone or anything, even our own life. We must lay it all down to follow Him at all costs, but He promises life abundantly to those who sacrifice all to pursue Him and His ways. 

It’s in times like these when I am broken and disappointed and hurt where I find myself throwing my hands up and say, “Just give me Jesus.” He is the One who brings us hope as an anchor to our souls, keeping us tethered to Him and His truth when our heart feels like it’s falling apart at the seams because of the pain of rejection.

He comes to our rescue and embraces us in our pain, even if the circumstances don’t change, even if the suffering doesn’t seem to end, and even when the relationship cannot be or refuses to be reconciled. He comes to our rescue and is there with us, directing our eyes heaven-ward, reminding us this place is not our home and that His ways are so much better. He may bring a sword to divide relationships in this life, but a relationship with Him is so much sweeter and more rewarding than anything we could ever experience here on earth. As we turn our back on the world, it will undoubtedly turn its back on us. Let us lift our eyes where our Help comes from and seek Jesus in the midst of our loss, knowing there will be great gain found in Him.

Father God, 

I know I am accepted in the Beloved. I know You are near to the broken-hearted. I know following Christ is a call to die. I know I will be hated for His namesake. And I know He has come to bring a sword and asks us to love Him more than anyone or anything else. But the pain of rejection still hurts so much. Can you bring healing to my heart and endow me with Your grace to endure the difficult times that come from following You? Thank You for Your overwhelming love and for coming to my rescue when I cry out to You. I know that even though I experience loneliness, I am never truly alone for You are always with me. No matter how much it cost, I choose to pursue You and Your ways above all. This world has nothing for me. I will follow You. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

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