Ihad the privilege of interviewing Bill Elliff for a Q&A that is featured in this month’s issue of the Texan. If you don’t know him, Elliff is an Arkansas pastor, an author, and a lifelong student of historic revivals and spiritual awakenings. He will talk about these things as the guest speaker at the President’s Lunch at this month’s Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Annual Meeting in Corpus Christi.
I not only enjoyed our conversation, but the Lord used it to guide me to reevaluate some of my own personal spiritual disciplines—including prayer. Elliff and I talked quite a bit about the role prayer plays in revival and spiritual awakening. A couple of years ago, he wrote a book called “Simply Prayer,” which I began reading shortly after our interview.
Prayer can be a struggle for me. It’s too easy for me to close my eyes and hastily string together a series of religious-sounding words that feel more like I’m reading them off a shopping list than the tablet of my heart. My mind during prayer is prone to wander (Lord, I feel it!), lining up the day’s troubles and tasks while simultaneously offering a modicum of my attention to the King of kings.
“Simply Prayer” has challenged me in many ways, none more impactful than my lack of focus when I pray. “We charge into prayer,” Elliff writes, “and quickly reel off a laundry list of things we want God to do. Failing to realize who we’re approaching, we never really engage God’s presence consciously.”
Ouch. Yeah, that can be me sometimes. Those last words have stuck with me: engaging in God’s presence consciously. When I pray, does the Creator of all existence have my full attention? Can I really get singularly locked in with Him and navigate Dallas traffic at the same time? Do I ever stop to listen to the Author of all things, or am I just narrating the way I want my story to play out?
One of the practices Elliff offers in “Simply Prayer” is called “entering in,” which is to say that we don’t start speaking to the Lord until His Holy Spirit has carried our minds into the throne room of His presence. There’s nothing complicated or mystical about this; for me it has meant closing my eyes (so you know I’m not praying in Dallas traffic), mentally picturing myself entering the throne room, and kneeling directly in front of my Lord. It’s been a continual battle of swatting a swarm of thoughts away, but I feel like the practice has already benefitted my prayer life.
I hope and pray you’re blessed by what Elliff has to say in this month’s issue. More than that, I pray that we will all take more seriously the privilege and honor of having a heavenly Father who doesn’t demand our attention, but who wants it as a perfect and loving Father would.
We are fond in our Christian culture of saying things such as, “He is worthy!” Surely our full attention is one of the things of which He is worthy.