Being in a prayer room for 40+ hours a week for over 3 years now, I have heard almost everything there is out there on ways to study the Bible. The quote below takes the cake for the best advice I’ve ever heard and the one I try to implement in my own studies:
“Study the Bible with blank paper. When you’ve exhausted your own research, then turn to commentaries. Always spend more time in the Word than human words.” – David Pawson
I will never be asked to play music for the mayor of Roseville. It just wouldn’t happen. I’m sure he wouldn’t like spontaneous prophetic music even if he did want a concert of local musicians playing for him.
But let’s create a hypothetical scenario: I’ve been asked to play awesome blues on my cello for the mayor of Roseville (Lord willing I will be able to play awesome blues someday. For now I will be content with my hypothetical scenario.). You bet your hiney that I would practice night and day for that concert.
Without drawing out my imaginary blues concert for the mayor of Roseville, I’ll get to my point: when do we musicians who play 4-5 times a week for God practice to become excellent? How do we challenge ourselves so we can become the best? I mean, isn’t that what we should be, since we play for the most important person/audience/God?
And yet, in our carnal man-pleasing spirit, we see more value in being excellent for man rather than God. The writer of Hebrews said that Jesus is our great High Priest. I want to be one who plays with excellence, always improving, so that I can be worthy of that great High Priest. It’s not about a performance mentality, it’s about getting a new theology of grace. Do I come before God’s throne because of grace? Absolutely. Does an understanding of grace mean that God doesn’t want me to grow? No. He accepts me as I am — immature and selfish — but I don’t want to stay there.
I want to get a huge factor out of the way before I continue this series on prayer: distraction.
Humans are weak — I live in a community of people who pray for a living and this issue comes up over and over again. We live such fast-paced lives (internally and externally) that when we try to sit and focus on an invisible God, we understandably get distracted by the smallest thing.
But there is hope! I’ve been in a prayer room for a minimum of 25 hours a week for the past 2 1/2 years and I have definitely progressed in the distraction area (though I’m far from conquering it).
“Our minds are so flighty. However, remember that our God-given wills govern all of our strength. We must recall our minds to God. Otherwise, our spirits may wander, dragging us down to the things of this earth. It isn’t necessary to be too verbose in prayer, because lengthy prayers encourage wandering thoughts. Simply present yourself to God…and fix your attention on His presence. If your mind wanders at times, don’t be upset, because being upset will only distract you more. Allow your will to recall your attention gently to God. Such perseverance will please Him.”
-Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (emphasis mine)
There are many ways to stay focused in prayer — I won’t go into them now, but be encouraged that distraction is perfectly normal and nothing to be frustrated about.
We have a funny custom in prayer rooms. As soon as you walk in to one, you will notice random people pacing between or beside rows of chairs. Some people find pacers distracting, although it’s one of the things about a prayer room that you get used to pretty quickly.
The question is — why?
Some people pace because they’re really into the prayer meeting
Some people (myself included) pace to stay focused
Some of us just need a break from sitting since we are in the prayer room for 6-8 hours at a time
Sometimes it’s simply to stay awake
I’ve heard some people pace because they’re bored and it makes time pass
Every once in a while, there will be a pacer who is just pacing to look spiritual and attract attention
Contrary to popular belief, pacers are no more spiritual than those sitting in the chairs. In fact, their reasons are usually quite practical. It’s just the way of a prayer room.