Devotion for the Week...
Do you have a prayer warrior in your life? My mother-in-law certainly qualifies. I know that she spends regular time in prayer, that she prays for specific people at specific times of the day, and that she has huge faith in the power of prayer. Paul once joked that if you ever want something to happen, all you have to do is ask Mom to pray about it!
Sadly, I could not be described as a prayer warrior. I do certainly believe in the power of prayer, but I have a hard time committing to a set time to pray. And when I do settle in to pray for a while, it's not long before my mind wanders off in all kinds of unproductive directions. I end up feeling frustrated with myself and feeling like I'm not very good at praying, which seems like it should be the most simple and basic of things to do.
Do you ever have trouble staying focused when you pray? If you do, it turns out you and I are not alone. Acts 10:9-16 says,
"About noon...Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'
'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'
This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven."
Did you see the moment Peter got distracted in the middle of his prayer time?
'He became hungry and wanted something to eat'. The Message renders that sentence as "Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch." Isn't that great? Even Peter sometimes had trouble keeping his mind focused on prayer 😊
God knows us, right? He knows everything about us, including Peter's, and my, tendency to get distracted while praying. But He doesn't condemn us for it! While I get frustrated with myself and sometimes feel like I'm somehow less successful as a Christian because I can't stay focused on prayer, God actually used Peter's distraction to serve His purpose.
Peter was hungry and thinking about food, so God showed him a vision of a blanket full of animals Peter would never dream of eating and told him to go kill something and eat it. In parenting and childcare, this sort of thing would be considered a 'teachable moment'...using some everyday thing that's happening to teach the child an important lesson. In this case, God made use of Peter's thoughts about food to teach him an important lesson about faith in Jesus.
The vision God gave Peter doesn't actually have anything to do with food, that was just the everyday thing God used to teach Peter. He was preparing Peter to go to the home of a Gentile man and teach him about Jesus, even though Jews normally wouldn't associate with Gentiles at all. God used the analogy of 'unclean' food to teach Peter that no group of people would be considered 'unclean' anymore. Anyone would be welcome to come to Jesus, regardless of their race or background.
Obviously this doesn't mean we shouldn't try to stay focused when we're praying, but it does mean that we can stop feeling bad when our minds wander. God knows it happens. And maybe sometimes He'll even use those moments of distraction to serve His purpose.