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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You Can’t Serve God

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

–Joshua 24:14, ESV

FLESHVSSPIRIT

Have you ever struggled with faithfully serving God? We have all had those moments in our walk when one day we are worshiping on the mountaintop and the next day we are wallowing in the valley. We attempt to do what we think will atone our bad behavior. We give our time, service, gifts, and even our money to God, yet sometimes it’s almost impossible to keep our attention fixed on Him. There are days when we could spend hours praying and reading the Bible, and there are days when we hit the snooze button rather than spending time in simple devotion. Before we know it, days have gone by since the last time we paused to spend time with God. We become discouraged because we’re still struggling with sins we hoped we would have been delivered from by now. We are angry at our own inconsistency, yet we feel helpless against the capricious whims of the flesh.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.--Paul via Romans 7:15, ESV

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
–Paul via Romans 7:15, ESV

Paul eloquently forms into words the constant struggle within the Christian’s soul. The ferocious battle between the spirit and flesh frustrates the believer and refuses to be ignored. Every moment and every decision requires us to choose between our carnal nature and the spirit of God who lives in us. When I am offended, do I allow my bruised ego to fuel retaliation or do I humble myself and forgive? When I am in rush hour traffic, am I a courteous driver or is my road rage unbearable? When things don’t go my way, do I complain or am I thankful? When someone shares sensitive information with me, do I tell my friends what I heard or do I petition for that person in prayer? When I am hurt or rejected, do I vent on social media sites or do I seek God’s healing?

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.--Paul via Galatians 5:17

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
–Paul via Galatians 5:17

Should this constant battle cause us to surrender to the flesh and forget about our pursuit of holiness? Not a chance.

It’s not enough to want to be good for God. Apart from Christ, there is no good in us. In the Bible, Joshua charges the children of Israel to serve God faithfully and in sincerity. Israel’s response is resounding.

“Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. There we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

–God’s children via Joshua 24:16-18

Joshua says something uncanny: “You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.” Is Joshua telling us to throw in the towel? No. He is sharing a secret that is much more profound. It is impossible to serve God faithfully within our own strength. How, then, are we expected to be victorious in this Christian walk if we cannot trust ourselves to remain faithful to God? We must rely on Christ. God is the One who breathed life into our dead souls. If we needed God to bring us to Life, how much more do we need Him to lead us step-by-step and day-by-day? Without Him, we would still be dead. God did not bring us to life and expect us to rise from the grave and walk this journey without Him. He longs to be our sole source of Life Support. We err when we attempt to do anything for Him without Him. When we admit that we are frail within our humanity, and begin to utterly depend on God to show us His ways, then He will rush in like a flood and become the answer to our deepest quandaries.

The children of Israel tried to convince Joshua that they would not forsake God, but Joshua knew that they could not make such a pledge without God’s help to keep it. We are ill-equipped to be like Him without seeking His help. It is possible for your chains to fall off of you. It is possible for addictions you’ve struggled with for years to melt away. It is possible for you to experience healing and deliverance in your emotions, your mind, your body, and your heart. God rescued you from death to life so that He could walk with you for the rest of your days and forevermore.

Just as we needed God to get to God…

…We need God to obey God.

…We need God to serve God.

…We need God to trust God.


We need God.

 

♫ Lord, I need You | O, I need You | Every hour I need You… ♫