By Dr. Michael L. Brown
Constant distraction. It is one of the greatest challenges we face in today’s digital age, when at any moment of the day or night you can be distracted by a text, an email, a direct message, a meme, a phone call, or the latest breaking news. Even when you’re trying to read an online article (or follow up on that breaking news), you’re greeted by flashing ads and pop-up windows. The distraction never ends.
Of course, distraction has always been an issue, and I can remember praying about this very thing about 40 years ago.
Praying About Distraction
I was in my study, lined with wall-to-wall books, literally laying on my face while praying. I said to the Lord, “Father, would You help me focus on You in prayer and not get distracted?”
My problem had been those books. A thought would come to mind, and before I knew it, I had pulled multiple books off the shelves, with one reference leading to another.
This time, I was determined to block out everything else and focus on God alone, which was another reason I was laying on my face. No walking around and grabbing those books!
Yet no sooner had that prayer left my mouth then I looked up at a large series of Hebrew books on a lower shelf. They contained the leading rabbinic commentaries on the Mishnah, the earliest compilation of Jewish laws, dating to roughly 200 AD. And the series was called Jachin and Boaz. (Converting the Hebrew names to English) Immediately I thought to myself, “Those are the names that Solomon gave to the two pillars in the Temple in Jerusalem, but where does the Bible record that information?”
For the moment, I could not remember, so I looked for a Hebrew concordance to check. (This was many years before smart phones existed; today, I would simply pull out my phone and use the various biblical tools I have at the tip of my fingers.) Before I knew it, literally within seconds of praying for focus, I had completely lost my focus. How much easier is it to do so today!
There have been nights when I’ve been on YouTube, reviewing some news clips that we might play on our radio show the next day, when some nature video catches my eyes, listed in a side panel. Before I know it, I’ve looked at snippets of a dozen nature videos (including all kinds of violent animal confrontations in the wild), and precious minutes have been wasted, for nothing.
And this brings me to the story of King Hezekiah, informed by the prophet Isaiah that he was going to die and that he should set his house in order. But Hezekiah was only 40 years old at the time, and, as best as we can tell, he had no son to become heir to the throne.
How did he respond? “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD,” and he “wept profusely” (Isaiah 38:2-3). And God gave him 15 more years of life. God heard his prayer.
This is exactly what many of us need to do.
Giving God Our Full Attention
We need to turn our faces to the wall, literally or metaphorically. We need to shut out all distractions, turning off our cell phones (or, at least, muting notifications), closing our laptops, putting down our tablets, calming our minds.
We need to talk to the Lord as if we were talking to the most important person in our lives at an urgently important time — those times when you make direct eye contact and listen intently to every word, also making your every word count.
Simply stated, we need to give God our full attention, not leaving Him with the dregs or the leftovers or our final seconds before dozing off. Of course, it’s fine to take a nice walk, enjoy nature, and have an informal conversation with the Lord. He enjoys that too. (After all, Jesus calls us to be His friends!) And it’s great to acknowledge Him in our closing moments before falling asleep or in our still-groggy thoughts when waking up. But we also need those focused times in prayer (and reading the Word), those times when we put Him first, when we seek Him earnestly, when we commune with Him intimately.
Not only does He deserve it, but we will be rewarded as well. We will meet with Him more deeply, we will pray more powerfully, and we will hear His voice more clearly.
(For the record, I wrote this as an exhortation to myself as much as a word of encouragement to you. Let’s give God our best!)
Dr. Michael L. Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test? Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.