Prayer: The Escape from Temptation

Last week was one of the most confronting weeks I have experienced with God in a long time. It was a time of consecration, isolation, and true adoration (pardon my rhyming) of the One who formed life from dust. Prayer was my focus, which was great for me since my prayer life needed refreshing. I have been thinking about our greatest deterrents to prayer and the difficulties we face when approaching prayer. One particular idea stood out to me. I believe one of the most difficult times to pray is when we are battling temptation. (Click to tweet!)

When I was younger I had a dream that I have never been able to forget. In the dream it is dark, so void of light that I can feel the darkness threatening to suffocate me. Suddenly I see a tiny glimmer of light in the far distance. Naturally, I am drawn to the Light and I began to walk toward it. As I mesmerized by this Light, it begins to grow bigger and shine brighter until it is blazing in the horizon. As the light grows, I notice people on either side of this path who represented temptation. They were people who I wanted to associate myself with who were doing things that I wanted to do. They represented all the things that appealed to my flesh. As I walked past them, many of them tried to coerce me to indulge with them, but I was determined to get to the Light. It wasn’t until I reached a certain temptation that I didn’t want to resist that I turned away from the Light. I gave the temptation my undivided attention and indulged in sin. After I sinned, I turned frantically about in search of the Light…but it had vanished.

Jesus handled temptation much differently from the way we usually do. (Click to tweet!) Let’s study how He wrestled with temptation.

And Jesus came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

Luke 22:39-45, ESV

Jesus knew His purpose

In the text, we know that Jesus is preparing to die. He knows that His time has come and He knows what lies waiting for Him at Calvary. He also knows that He exists for one purpose, which is to reconcile God and man once and for all. Before Jesus goes into this battle, He has it in the forefront of His mind that He is not there for Himself. He is not there to gratify Himself. He is not there to do His own will because He has a higher will to accomplish.

Jesus negotiated with God

 Jesus knew that before the world began that He would lay down His life for the souls of man. After the plan was set, the environment perfect, Jesus has finally reached the moment in history where He faces the precipice of His sacrifice. Now He has a choice to make: Am I really going to go through with this? Is there any other way?  Jesus’ prayer is saying, “I know this is the day we’ve been planning for, but is there a Plan B? Is there another trick You want to pull out of Your hat, Father?” His flesh was kicking and screaming out, “If there is any other way for me, then I want to do it! If there is any other way for me not to do what God is calling me to do, then I will.” (Click to tweet!)

Jesus’ humility provided strength

But Jesus remembers that His life’s purpose is to be for God and not for Himself. Jesus then prays, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” He sets aside His personal agenda and submits Himself to God. Then something incredible happens. An angel comes to strengthen Jesus. It wasn’t until after Jesus submitted His own will to God’s will that He received angelic strength. He was vulnerable with God and admitted the weakness of His flesh. When Jesus submitted His will He was in the perfect posture to receive grace and strength to withstand temptation. (Click to tweet!)

Jesus prayed more earnestly

After the angel poured strength into Him, one might assume that the struggle was over. Not so, for the Bible says that Jesus was in agony. Then, He began to pray more earnestly. This is not our usual response to temptation. When the temptation intensifies we tend to collapse from the pressure and tell God, “Nope, I can’t do it. Lord, forgive me in advance.” (Click to tweet!)

Many of us shy away from praying about the things that tempt us because we are ashamed of them. Our greatest temptations are alluring to our flesh and, if gratified, reveals a portion of our brokenness. Our temptations show us what we want, crave, feel entitled to–it is something we might go to extreme lengths to get. It is the guilt of that rush we feel in the middle of temptation that causes us to hang our head in shame and avoid prayer. The adrenaline we experience from the mere tempting thought makes us feel that we have already failed God, so we may as well trudge on into sin. Temptation is not a sin. When we are offered a sinful thought, desire, or opportunity, we can reject it. It is only after the acceptance of that temptation that it becomes sin. This simple truth can free us to boldly approach the throne of grace in the heat of temptation.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15, ESV

James tells us that temptations lure us away (remember the dream I had), and desire conceives sin. Yet, we know that the temptation itself is not sin, but when it conceives it becomes sin to us. How, then, do we stop the conception of sin?

Stay tuned for the answer in Part II of Prayer: The Escape from Temptation.

Join the discussion! What are your thoughts on this topic? What are other reasons why we don’t pray when we’re tempted?

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Intimidation of the Call

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. I’d like to say it’s because I was busy feeding the hungry, laying hands on the sick, building homes for the homeless, traveling overseas and spreading the gospel, moving and shaking my city for the name of Jesus. Of course, I’d love to say those things, but then I’d be a liar. I was actually in the middle of a transitional season with God. It may be more accurate to say I was in the middle of a transitional season with doubt, fear, intimidation, insecurity, complacency and laziness. This is not to say God wasn’t present and showing Himself mightily to me during this summer, but these other obstacles were also in my line of sight.

I’ve known I was created to write for God for years. I’ve never once questioned my destiny or God’s purpose for my life. I did, however, begin to question my ability to be great in the call. Rather than singing God’s grace and dreams over my life, I quickly sank into self-doubt and intimidation. There wasn’t a particular person or writing style that intimidated me; the call itself caused me to quiver in my boots. This occurred because I measured the frailty in my humanity against the spectacular call that God set before me. In my eyes, I looked at what He desired from me and thought that it would take my own strength to perform it, when all He wanted was the opportunity to use me for His glory. He would be doing the work.

This reminds me of Moses, the murderous, adopted son of Pharaoh turned shepherd, who would have benefitted from a few anger management sessions with Dr. Phil. God gave Moses a call that was much bigger than his own perceived ability. God calls a murderer to be the deliverer. What was Moses’ response to God? “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” God says, “But I will be with you…” So begins the verbal exchange of Moses’ excuses and God’s affirmations (recorded in Exodus chapters 3 and 4).

Moses: Who will I say sent me?

God: I AM THAT I AM!

Moses: But, they won’t believe me.

God: I will perform signs through you.

Moses: But, I’m not eloquent. I can’t speak well.

God: I will be your mouth and teach you what you will speak.

Moses: Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.

Reading this conversation makes Moses seem faithless and weak. We would never be this way with God, right?

Right?

How many times have our own prayers facilitated conversations like this with God? How many times have we questioned God’s confidence in us? How many times have we tried to tell the omniscient, preeminent, omnipotent, supreme, Almighty God of all that He is wrong in His choice to use us for His divine purposes? How silly are we to shake our fists at God’s call on our lives!

I have been much like Moses. I’ve looked at the call on my life along with my own weak abilities, and shrunk in fear. Fear fueled my intimidation and doubt. Fear chased away faith in God. Fear caused me to forget that the same God who called me is the same God who will walk with me every step of the way until I fulfill the call. In fact, God is the one doing the work; I am simply the vessel the source of Life flows through.

God’s love and mercy are so rich, in that even when we doubt our own gifts and capabilities, He is sure. He could have easily said, “You know what, Mo, you’re right. Maybe you’re not the guy for the job.” No, God was sure of His choice in Moses. He didn’t even allow Moses’ speech impediment or insecurity excuse Moses from the call. God told Moses, “[Aaron] shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him.” Talk about a promotion from murderous, has-been son of an evil Pharaoh!

The point of the matter is that everyone who is in Christ is God-designed and has a purpose in Him. We all have a call of greatness over our lives. The amazing truth is that God is aware of our defects, issues, and inadequacies when He calls us, yet He calls us anyway. I’d venture to say that our fragility is the reason why God uses us because we cannot possibly take the credit for the glory which will be done through us. People will take one look at us and know that God has been with us.

I choose to shake off every thought of defeat, and trust in the One who called me. God doesn’t need a reminder of why we’re not qualified, or a list of excuses. He needs a ready and pliable vessel. God didn’t have to use Moses (or any man, for that matter) to deliver His people from Egypt. With one blow from His nostrils, the Egyptians could have fallen dead, yielding instant freedom from captivity for the children of Israel. God doesn’t really need the help of man in anything, yet He intentionally chose Moses. Why?

The purpose of the call includes more than the goal of impacting people for the glory of God. The call is an avenue for I AM to intimately connect with you in a way you’ve never dreamed of.