Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies. Make your way straight before me….Teach me your way, Lord….Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. (Psalm 5:8, 27:11, 31:3)
Note: When I talk about focus on Jesus, I mean focusing on God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the one and only living and true God. I can’t think of one person of the Trinity without the others. Christ pointed up and back to His Father who sent Him and ahead to the Holy Spirit who the Father and Son sent to be another Helper, Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor, Counselor, Strengthener, and Standby to remain with us forever. (1 John 4:7-16; John 14:16; Acts 2:32-33)
Hearing the Instructor’s Voice
Rob, a youth group leader, took his kids to a ski resort, where they saw two people skiing down the slopes, one behind the other. These two were so close, they seemed tied together. When Rob’s group came near, they heard the one in front saying in staccato style, “Left….Right….Straight….Right.” It looked like a ski instructor giving lessons to her student.
Tommy, a boy in the youth group, started yelling out contradictory commands. When the instructor said, “Left,” Tommy yelled, “Right!” When the instructor said, “Straight,” Tommy yelled, “Curve!” But no matter what Tommy said, the student ignored Tommy and focused more intently on what her instructor was saying. Suddenly the skier stopped and turned around. Much to Tommy’s shame, on the chest of the second skier was a sign: “Blind Skier.” Even though this woman could not see, she knew her instructor’s voice, and ignored all others, especially those trying to confuse her. In this way, she traveled safely down the slopes.1
Jesus Christ says: My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand….They will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.2
I wrote recently about Martha of Bethany who was distracted, while Mary, her sister, zoomed in on listening to Jesus and sitting at His feet. Here are some further thoughts.
Focus on Christ by Regular Times for Communion with Him
Psalm 55:16-17 says: “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice.” The Hebrews began their day in the evening, so King David mentions evening first. Matthew Henry taught us to begin every day with God, spend every day with God, and close every day with God.
Psalm 119:164-165 says: “Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” Hippolytus of Rome (170–235 AD) taught Christians to pray seven times a day on rising, at the lighting of the evening lamp, at bedtime, at midnight, and at the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day, the times of Christ’s suffering on the cross. Psalm 119 reminds us that believers can enjoy God’s peace, love, and joy even in chaotic circumstances as we look to Him. It’s like being safe in the eye of a hurricane while danger spins all around us. The number “seven” in Psalm 119:164 may not be literal but may symbolize repeated action, like the number of times Jesus calls us to forgive others.3 The Psalmist reminds us to mix meditation on God’s truth with prayer to refocus our hearts, minds, and lives on the Lord Himself.
A Christian friend of mine lived in Egypt for some years for business. Her Muslim neighbors prayed five times a day at times announced to the whole city on a loudspeaker. My friend used these times to pray to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the Lord used her scheduled prayer times to revive, renew, and refresh her fellowship with Him.
I would not legislate any specific time for Scripture study and prayer. But more spiritual exercise is better than less. Why not commit to your own plan for regular time in fellowship with God.
Focus on Jesus by “Flare Prayers” Throughout the Day
Nehemiah (473-403 BC) was a Jewish servant of King Artaxerxes I of Persia. When Nehemiah learned that the remnant of Jews in Judah were distressed and that Jerusalem’s walls were broken down, he asked the king for permission to return and rebuild the city. As he was conversing with the king, Nehemiah shot up a quick prayer to the God of heaven, asking the Lord to turn the king’s heart like a stream of water to help the Jews. God answered Nehemiah’s prayer instantly and Artaxerxes allowed and agreed to pay for the building of Israel’s second temple!4 This reminds me to pray before during and after every issue that I deal with every day.
Jesus teaches us that our Father in heaven loves to give His good gifts and His Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. Christ says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Most prayers don’t need to be long and formal. They can be brief “flare prayers” shot up throughout our busy days asking the Lord to help us like He did for Nehemiah.5
I think that’s Paul means when he writes: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people….Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”6 This also fits with Matthew Henry’s comment about spending every day with God.
Here are a few short prayers adapted from the Bible. You can think of more. I make them all we and us so that we are also praying for our sisters and brothers in Christ, not just ourselves.
- Lord, give us discerning hearts to serve You and to distinguish between right and wrong.
- Lord, deliver us from enemies, so that all the earthly kingdoms may know that You alone are God.
- Lord, let Your hand be with us.
- Bless us and keep us from harm so that we will be free from pain.
- Have mercy on us, O God, according to Your unfailing love.
- According to Your great compassion blot out our transgressions.
- Create in us pure hearts, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us.
- Restore to us the joy of Your salvation and grant us a willing spirit, to sustain us.
- Lord, help us!…Son of David, have mercy on us!
- Jesus, remember us when you come into your kingdom.
- Lord Jesus, receive our spirits….Lord, do not hold this sin against them.
- Glorious Father, give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know You better.
- Lord, give us good health and help us to prosper spiritually.7
The worth of a prayer is not measured by its length.
(Robert Murray M’Cheyne)
To be continued
Notes (various Bible translations): 1 Story heard from Steve Winger. 2 John 10:27-28,5. 3 Mt 18:22. 4 Neh 2:1-9; Prov 21:1. 5 Luke 11:9-13. 6 Eph 6:18; 1 Thess 5:16-18. 7 1 Kings 3:9; 2 Kings 19:19; 1 Chron 4:10; Psalm 51:1, 10-12; Matt 15:25, 20:31; Luke 23:42; Acts 7:59-60; Eph 1:17; 3 John 2.