When dial-up modems were all the rage, it was a constant battle to connect at the fastest speed possible. Various factors decided how fast your connection would be at any given time, and it became a gamble to see how many attempts it would take to get a good connection. The most frustrating obstacle to fast Internet service was “line noise,” a phone company term that described interference affecting your phone signal, usually based on household electrical sources or aging telephone wiring. This noise was typically not detectable to the human ear, but to an ultra-sensitive modem where every noise is amplified, this interference meant certain slowdown to your connection.
That aptly describes my prayer life.
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). So the question I then have to ask myself is, “Why are my prayers not getting answered?”
The answer is line noise.
I have learned over the years that God will not compete with my noise. There are times when I unintentionally neglect my relationship with God. I just get too busy, and that fills me with shame. If God truly is the most important thing in my life,if God IS my life, why don’t I spend more time with Him?
One of the biggest sources of static in my conversations with God is my own mental distractions. I have so much on my mind at any given time that it is extremely difficult to slow down to the point where I can have a lengthy time of communion with my Savior. One of my strategies is to keep a notepad nearby and jot down notes about where my mind wanders during prayer. That way, I can focus absolutely on God, knowing I will not forget to pick up a dozen eggs on the way home this afternoon.
The second major source of line noise is a lack of focus. Coupled with my inability to keep my mind from wandering, is the amazingly large amount of entries in my personal prayer log. Truthfully, it’s a bit daunting to realize you’ve got more to pray for than you have fingers and toes! I also recognize the distinct pleasure and humbling opportunity we have to come boldly before the throne of grace with our supplications. All we must do is ask. So why do I have such trouble asking?
When my lack of focus becomes enough of an issue that it prevents me from praying effectively, I force myself to organize. I separate my prayer entries into categories. First, I pray for others, and then I bring forth my own requests, all following my prayers of praise. When my list is complete, I proceed down the ladder like Catholics holding a rosary, making sure that I focus on the needs of others significantly more than my own needs. Truth be told, the only thing I need more of in my life is grace. Sure I could use more money, more friends and more books, but those are all subsequent to my desperate plea for more grace.
The third line noise is the anger that prevents my throughput to heaven from being all that it should be. When Paul was writing his first letter to Timothy, he clearly notes that anger can be a problem if left unresolved. 1 Timothy 2:8 states, “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.” Notice how Paul specifically speaks to prayer without “wrath,” as the King James Version says. Not all anger is bad, however. Righteous indignation has its place, but nonetheless, if anger is allowed to stew and boil, it becomes a way the enemy trips us up. The only way I have ever found to effectively deal with my anger is through face-down prayer. I truly have to prone myself before God and allow Him to gently remind me that He is in control. These episodes tend to also refresh my healthy fear of the Lord and His power.
Finally, and most often, I find myself wrestling with doubt. Doubt is by far the worst emotion to have when it comes to prayer. James, the half-brother of Jesus, in writing what is probably the first book of the New Testament, mentions this subject within the first paragraph. James 1:6 says, “But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” When you doubt God, you doubt His Word and His promises. Doubt is a slippery slope on the way to unbelief, and Christianity requires faith. Had Jesus even considered the word “if,” when being tempted by Satan,the battle would have been over. Jesus did not doubt His place in God; I encourage you not to doubt your place in Christ. God answers prayers that are in accordance with His will, providing He has a calm sea in which to deposit the answer.
So, now that the noise has cleared up, go pray. The nice thing about God is, He can fix line noise better than any telephone company technician I know.
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