Deep Work | Matthew 14

Welcome to Real Life. What has your attention?

If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted.
I wish I had some ice cream.

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task,” says Cal Newport in his book by that title. In our ultra-connected, media-saturated culture, distraction-free can be hard to come by. Newport believes it’s worth the effort. Learning to focus deeply improves our concentration which enables us to master new skills. This results in a greater sense of gratification, meaning, and purpose. Deep work enriches our lives.

Prayer is a work that requires deep focus. It’s not always easy to achieve. My phone dings. My husband has a question. My mind wanders to the next item on my to-do list. It takes determination to carve out distraction-free time with God.

Although Jesus Christ did not carry a smartphone, his days were full of distractions. He lived, ate, and ministered with his disciples. Jesus had no office door to close. Crowds followed him everywhere. Yet, even after a full day of ministry, he carved out time for the deep work of prayer.

On this particular day, to escape distractions, Jesus traveled to a remote place with his disciples. The crowds, however, found him. After a full day of ministry and healing and multiplying loaves and fish (see earlier blog "More Than Enough"), Jesus instructs his disciples to take the boat and meet him on the opposite side of the Galilean Sea. Finally alone, he climbs the mountain to meet his Father in deep, focused prayer. We have no record of this intimate conversation. From what happens next, however, it’s obvious Jesus walked away empowered to fulfill his mission.

Deep in the night, Jesus Christ descends the mountain. A storm rages on the Sea of Galilee. He has no boat to follow his disciples. It matters not. Through heaving waves, Jesus makes the sea his path. Who does this? Who controls the elements? The One who created the elements. God alone.

Seeing their rabbi walk on water terrifies his disciples. Is it a ghost? Peter, however, makes an audacious request, “If it’s you, Jesus, tell me to come to you on the water.” We often disparage Peter for his misguided enthusiasm. This time his faith hits the bullseye—and leaves us breathless to catch up.

“Come!” Jesus says. And Peter steps onto the surface of the sea. This, too, requires deep focus. For as soon as the crashing waves distract Peter, he sinks. Jesus reaches out and lifts him safely into the boat. Immediately, the storm calms.

Will you and I ever walk on water? Perhaps not. But none of us escape life’s storms. When the waves are crashing around us, Jesus can form a path for us on the sea. If we focus on the storm, like Peter, we often sink. But if we turn our eyes to Jesus, He can lift us to safety and calm the tempest.

God desires to do a deep work in you and me—to give us a greater sense of peace, meaning, and purpose. The depth of this work relies heavily on the time we carve out for distraction-free prayer. Until it's quiet, we cannot hear God’s still small voice. Jesus himself made this a priority. So clearly, no shortcuts exist. 

In this noisy world, one of the most precious gifts we can offer God is our undivided attention. No, it's not easy. But it's worth the effort. Nothing will enrich our spiritual lives more than the deep work of prayer! 

Dear Father God,
In this world full of distractions,
Help us close the door, turn off the phone,
And give you our focused attention. 
Teach us to be still and know that you are still God.
We pour out our hearts, our fears, our troubles.
Calm the storms raging in and about us.
Show us how to walk in step with your Spirit this day.
We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Image of Peter:  Free Bible Images


  1. This is so true. Thanks for sharing

    1. I'm glad it spoke to you! Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!

  2. If we focus on the storm, like Peter, we often sink. But if we turn our eyes to Jesus, He can lift us to safety and calm the tempest.--reminds me of the song--"TURN YOUR EYES UPON JESUS---look full in his wonderful face--and the things of earth with grow strangely dim--in the light of his glory and grace!" Thanks for the reminder, Peggi! Keep our eyes off the waves!

    1. Yes! I love that song. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amy!


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