Sustained focus in prayer

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Series: An edited adaptation of the book Prayer, Power, and Proclamation by C.L.Peppler published by Chrispy Publications in 2009 (ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3). Chap 4; part 5: 

Let me use the analogy of a laser gun yet again (see this post on the Function of Words in prayer, power and proclamation for more background). The weapon has an energy store (battery), a trigger, a mechanism for focusing the energy into a laser beam, and some sort of aiming apparatus. I have already used the trigger as an analogy for faith, and have exploited the battery idea to the limit. However, the laser gun analogy yields two other important components. Firstly, it should be self-apparent, but the direction in which the gun is pointed is of fundamental importance. Point it inwards, pull the trigger, and you are fried! For the weapon to be successfully deployed it must be pointed away from the user, towards its intended target. Imagine that this particular laser gun has a unique property in that its laser beams heal instead of wreaking havoc. This, however, is only true if the object you aim at is at least a few metres away. If the target is too close, then the ray is destructive in its intensity. Because of this characteristic, it has a safety mechanism which will not allow the gun to discharge if the target is too close. This means that the bearer cannot use it on himself. I believe that in the spiritual realm a similar condition exists. If we aim our laser ‘blessings’ gun at ourselves, it refuses to discharge. We have to direct it outwards at someone or something else. The kingdom message is one of giving. Jesus gave his life for us. Jesus calls us to give and not to seek a return for our giving. One of the problems I have with the name-it-and-claim-it doctrine is its inwards directional orientation. The spiritual ‘laser gun’ is designed to bless others, not the user. To put it another way, God has designed us to bless others, not ourselves. Spiritual energy flows outwards, not inwards

The second component I want to return to is the aiming mechanism. If we just wave the gun in the general direction of the target and pull the trigger once, then, with luck, we might hit the object of our intentions with a short burst of energy. It is most likely though that we will miss entirely. If, on the other hand, we take careful aim and then pull, and continue to hold down the trigger, the object will receive a direct and prolonged stream of energy. I call this sustained focus.

If we want to bless people, heal people, or alter the reality of the physical world around us, then we need to focus outwardly and we need to maintain that focus over time. Matthew 6:22-24 records something Jesus said about this. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good (single focused together on one thing), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” The words used describe a boss-eyed person compared to one who is able to focus both his eyes on one thing. The next verses state that a person cannot serve two masters. Focus is the issue. The application in this passage of scripture is God versus Mammon, but the principle is one of single-minded focus.

We live in a world obsessed with materialism (Mammon) and immediate gratification. We are encouraged, even programmed, to focus for very short periods. If we do not immediately receive what we expect, then we move on to something else. In the Matthew 6 passage, the word translated as ‘bad’ comes from a Greek root word meaning ‘to toil’. Our eyes are always ‘toiling’, moving from one brief point of focus to another. Note how directors construct television dramas nowadays. Programmes like Law and Order and CSI always have at least two story lines in each episode. They take us back and forth between the stories. They never expect us to focus on one thing for more than a few minutes.

Sustained focus is a key spiritual principle. In order to apply the spiritual disciplines of prayer, power, and proclamation successfully, we need to focus, and continue to focus. In prayer, we need sustained focus until we hear from God. To receive power from on high we need sustained focus until we receive from the Holy Spirit. In the area of proclamation, we need sustained focus to fully discharge, in word and deed, the conviction and the anointing we have received from God.

Matthew 7:7-8 reflects this principle: “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; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” The Greek tense indicates a continued action. Ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. Ask in prayer with sustained focus. Seek power from on high with sustained focus. Knock on the door of effective action through sustained and focused proclamation.

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