Distractions come in many shapes and sizes, but the principle forms of distraction manifest as various degrees of busyness and time limitations. Commitment to full-time employment, children, spouse, school—all conspire together to produce a difficult equation. On top of these, a few other important responsibilities—friendships, church, and business—clamor for attention all in simultaneity. Finding time has proven to be an exceptionally difficult thing to locate when stuck in a crazy schedule and culture of hyper-productivity. At the end of the day, relationships take the biggest toll if counter-measures are not taken deliberately, proactively, and routinely. Yet for a Christian, human relationships should not occupy the “first place” any more than the all-important relationship with the Heavenly Father.
In a prayer life and in general, I have discovered the core issue is no longer solely about “finding enough time.” Rather, it is the condition of my heart throughout the process. God can design a season where we are required to burn the midnight oil all the time. This uncomfortable season will be his method of teaching us how to rely exclusively on Him over and above self. We should not forget that “rest” is part of His plan for our lives, though it alludes us during this time. But how does one do this when constantly on the go? In my case I’ve relied on particular gifts and abilities to sail through certain parts of life. This gift-reliance has actually mitigated against a necessary transformation process in Christ.
When there is so much to do as there is now, skills and abilities just don’t work well enough to “get the job done.” To complicate matters, my pride forms a reinforced barrier to knowing and connecting with God. So, to effectively address the root and attack idolatrous survival mechanisms, He “corners” a person until they have nowhere left to run or hide. This method has been utilized so many times in my life that I lost count. For as embarrassing and uncomfortable as it always is, legitimate growth and change unfailingly results each time. His desire is that I step into the storm, and when I step out on the other side, I am no longer recognizably the same person, but enhanced and more dependent on Him in precisely the areas He desires.
I recently had a curious experience throughout this process of desperately trying to handle my time, and failing constantly. I would routinely walk past a certain room and while passing by the voice of the Lord would register very gently inside my spirit. The voice of His Spirit was beckoning: “come, spend some time with Me” every time I was near this room. It was never a frantic or pushy tone, much less condemning. Rather, it was always a gentle and soft-spoken invitation to simply share with the Father. To connect with Him. It was hard to resist when presented in this way and eventually I took Him up on His offer!
It is helpful to know that my Father is not watching to see how much time I spend with Him in prayer. He knows it is vital, but He also has objectives for my time and plans, sharing in His heart and mind, and for developing my character.
Without trying to discount the power of prayer in any way, endless diligent hours of prayer and study are not always the way to please God. Nor are they the best way to connect with Him. “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matthew 6:7). I remember a young man who would spend endless hours in prayer, to the point where he’d work up a sweat. Like a 10 year old boy mowing the grass in sweltering heat and sweating profusely, this was “soaking prayer”, but not the good kind you hear about in your local spirit-filled church. After countless attempts to hear a specific answer to prayer, he received absolutely no response. After becoming frustrated he cried out to God for an answer, and then it occurred to him that such an approach did nothing to impress God; it was really about a performance metric more than anything else. Inwardly he was expecting to be rewarded for external behaviors. Christians have to reconcile that God is not asking them to become Pavlovian dogs in their approach to intimacy with Him.
In contrast, intimacy occurs when the heart is right and in alignment with the Creator. Intimacy is not an earned reward nor the product of endless mental and spiritual gymnastics. Unfailingly when the heart of an individual is in the right place, he or she will want to spend time in prayer. Fellowshipping with God on a daily basis, hearing from Him, journaling, and studying Scripture will all be like second nature. This is the only formula that produces the sure result: allow God to be God in your life. God will never stop using tailored seasons to produce a specific result, which often involve bringing a Christian to the end of himself or to a place of brokenness. In turn this produces genuine fellowship rather than contrived, or man-made relational dynamics. Remember, God wants us to connect with Him, not a performance-based program of human or mental origin. God is never obligated to get with our program; we are called to get on His!