Your phone rings. You don’t recognize the number, but you pick it up anyway. The voice on the other end of the line is a five-star general. He’s calling to inform you that you have just been selected to serve in Afghanistan. You have 48 hours to get ready. “Wait” you respond, “I’ve never served in the military. I’m not a young man. You must have the wrong number.” The general interrupts you in mid sentence. “Son (even though you’re about his age), you better stop your yappin’ and prepare for battle. Where you’re headed is not a safe place.”
The apostle Paul writes,
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-12).
Elsewhere he adds,
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Romans 13:14).
The Holy Spirit has Paul warn us to be battle ready. No where is this so necessary as with the sexual sins. Because this is not a battle of flesh and blood the battle plan is different. It includes these essentials: (1) Praying on purpose, (2) Clinging to Scripture, (3) Running from temptation.
Praying on Purpose is a Must (Mk. 14:38).
Have you ever wondered why, when Jesus had warned them to watch and pray, the disciples fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane? If you always thought it’s because they were really tired. I would offer another cause of their failure to pray. Hours earlier they had been arguing with one another, and with Jesus. They promised him they would never deny him, even though Jesus insisted they would. It’s not their weariness that interrupts their need for prayer. It’s their arrogance. They chose sleep over prayer, because in their pride they didn’t sense the urgency to pray.
Prayer sensitizes our spirit. It makes us watchful, and dependent. Two essential qualities when it comes to battling sexual sins. Again and again the Bible makes the case that it’s not the lust that’s too strong, it’s the pride (1 Cor. 10:12). Pride gives us as sense of entitlement (we think we deserve something). Pride pushes us ever closer to temptations that we cannot stand against.
Prayer does the opposite, and that’s why its essential in the spiritual battle against sexual sin.
Perhaps you might say, but having committed sexual sins I feel shame. I don’t feel worthy of coming to God in prayer. You would do well to remember Frederick Buechner’s words,
To confess your sins to God is not to tell Him anything He doesn’t know. Until you confess them, however, they are the abyss between you. When you confess them they become the bridge (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, p. 15)
So an essential step in getting ready for the battle with sexual sin is to “watch and pray that you enter not into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38).
If you have been battling sexual sins without a consistent and focused time in prayer there’s a good chance you’re slipping back into the sin repeatedly. Start by praying. And don’t think it won’t make a difference when you speak to God, and plead with him to strengthen you against the temptation.
Karl Barth wrote,
He is not deaf, He listens: more than that, He acts. He does not act in the same way whether we pray or not. Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action…this is what the word ‘answer’ means (Prayer, p. 63).
God is listening. Are you praying?
Tomorrow: Preparing for the Battle by clinging to the Scriptures.