If there is ever an anthology written of outrageous pastor stories – this one will no doubt be included.
At some time during my pastorate, I learned to pace while I preached. Back and forth, to and fro on our spacious, elevated, semi-circle platform. Why pace? Fewer people fell asleep.
So, with notes in hand and a microphone headset strapped to my face, I paced and preached.
On one unforgettable Sunday, I was wrapping up the message and concluding with a prayer. I appropriately closed my eyes to pray. Unfortunately, I continued to pace.
Mid prayer, I planted my right foot down but found nothing but air. In a panic, I jumped off the platform into the heavenly places, dropping the distance of 4 steps and landing squarely on the floor below.
But here’s the thing, I did this without opening my eyes or pausing in my prayer. The apostle Paul should have such a prayer life – right?
When I finally said “Amen” the congregation opened their eyes and were awed seeing that I had experienced a miraculous transportation during my prayer. Revival almost broke out.
Now I know what you are thinking. “Why didn’t you open your eyes?” I don’t know! “But how could you do that without breaking your prayerful concentration?” Again – I don’t know. But I did – and I have plenty of witnesses.
Obviously, I was not alert to my surroundings, but super alert in my prayer. The apostle Paul might have even been proud of me for he gave this instruction in Colossians 4:2, “Be devoted to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.”
Keeping alert in prayer! Ahh – So Paul anticipated the way we typically tune out while others are praying. We listen to the first seven words and then check out the veins on the inside of our eyelids.
And when we pray in the “quietness of our hearts” it can become the quirkiness of our hearts – because they flit from “bless the work of our missionaries” to “I wonder what’s for dinner?”
We tend to be most alert in prayer when we pray out loud in the presence of others because they might accidentally be listening, and we want to sound halfway intelligent.
It’s sad really – because prayer is very much a two-way conversation with God. It is a precious privilege to interact with the One who so dearly loves us and is able and very willing to help.
We need to be alert in our prayers, so that we are communicating to Him more than gibberish and so that we are tuned in when He speaks to us.
So, don’t get so comfortable. There is a reason they knelt and wore sackcloth and ashes in the old days. No need to go to that extreme, but maybe you doze during prayer because you are sitting in a vibrating recliner.
When others are praying – pray along with them. Agree with them. Jesus said, “Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.” – Matthew 19:18
So, when Sam is pleading with God about his brother’s drug addiction, you could quietly pray along saying, “Yes, Lord please! He really is killing himself and he needs you so badly.” You might even dare to do it out loud.
Speaking of speaking. When our prayers are reduced down to mentally transferring our thoughts to God – it is super easy to be distracted. If you are in a place where you can audibly speak your prayers, you will find that your ability to stay focused will skyrocket.
My most effective and fulfilling prayer times happen when I walk. I might stroll down a lonely trail in a state park and speak out my prayers. The walking and the speaking tend to keep me laser focused and in the quiet in-between intervals, the Lord often impresses me with what I need to know.
You might try walking too. But be sure to keep your eyes open!
A PRAYER: Lord I want to thoroughly respect you when I come to you – so please help me to focus when I pray.
Scripture references from the NETBible ®