Decision #4: I Will Pray

Why?  Because God desires it, and because you need it.

If all the power resides with God, and you never talk to Him, just how do you expect that power to transfer to you?  Prayer demonstrates to God that you believe in Him.  Prayer helps you get to know Him.  Prayer also allows you to reflect on your own thinking.  Often, when you start honestly praying about something, you discover what you really believe.  Or don’t believe.  Prayer opens you up to be influenced by the Holy Spirit.  And that’s the primary reason to do it, in our context.  Prayer is another weapon of our warfare, able to tear down strongholds.

So let’s look at five things to start praying for.  These need to become part of your regular prayer time.  They are not one-time requests.

Pray for your needs
Because so much shame gets associated with porn or any addiction, it is difficult to talk to anyone about it.  Talking to other people is good, but talking to God–that’s absolutely vital.  Until you are able to be honest–and I mean completely honest–with God about your problems, how are you really going to expect Him to help you with them?  This is especially true in light of the legitimacy of your sexual needs, as we established previously.  When you accept that God created you with needs, and that these needs in themselves are not sin, then that means you can ask God to meet them.

I started getting really specific when I realized this.  I told God the kinds of women I was attracted to.  I told God how much I was looking forward to having sex with my wife, before I even met her.  I described to Him the kinds of physical features I desired most.  Without getting too detailed here, you get the idea.  There is no limit to the detail you can express to God.  Guess what?  He knows women too.  He knows all about them.  He doesn’t blush when you talk about the aspects of them you find desirable.  And this is not sin, to pray about this stuff.  I realized, when I started doing this, that God longs for us to talk to Him about this stuff.  This is how we trust Him to meet these needs–by asking.

Jesus says, “You have not because you ask not.”  You don’t just have to pray general prayers like “Lord, please give me a wife.”  I started praying things like, “Lord, I thank you someday that I will have delightful sex with a woman I love, whom you have given to me.”  That’s a prayer of faith, based upon the Bible verses we saw previously in Proverbs and Song of Solomon.  I mean, what else does it mean to “be exhilarated” with her love?

Now, some people always ask about making specific requests like this.  Isn’t it presumptuous to give God a list of features and measurements?  Hair and eye color, height, personality, etc.  The answer is, it could be.  It depends on your motives for asking.  But if you ask because you recognize that God alone is the one who is able to provide for your needs, this is a faith-based motive.  You recognize you might not receive the specific details you ask for, but in asking for them, you have given God the right to provide for your needs.  You have put your trust in Him, and He will find the person that meets your needs the best.  I cannot emphasize enough how crucial this is.  Prayer is fundamentally about trust, when it comes to things you need or want.

When Jesus taught us to pray, one part of it was to “give us this day our daily bread.”  This is the part of the prayer where we pray for our needs.  Now, don’t neglect all the other parts of this prayer.  You aren’t the only person in the world.  But when you do pray for your needs, remember that your sexuality is one of them!  How many men who struggle with porn can honestly say they pray about this stuff, in this much detail, with God?  Based on my own experience, when I was at my worst, I would guess hardly anyone, because I didn’t.

Why don’t we?  It goes back again to the false belief that sex is shameful and dirty and inappropriate for prayer.  Prayer is “holy,” whatever that means.  Well, sex is holy too then, in the right context.  How do I know that?  Because God created and instituted it as a part of marriage before sin entered the world.  Sex was here before sin, and was never meant to be corrupted or abused.

The Fruits of Prayer
This kind of prayer demonstrates faith, and God longs for us to ask Him about these things.  And you don’t pray just to get answers.  You pray because it changes you.  Philippians says it better than I can:

Philippians 4:6,7
Be anxious about nothing, but in everything–by prayer and petition with thanksgiving–let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God surpassing all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NT Transline)

Think about this stuff.  This is a tremendous verse to speak out loud every day for a year.  When we present our anxieties to God in prayer (with thankfulness, notice that there…), it results in peace that surpasses understanding, and this peace guards our hearts and minds.  This peace is beyond our understanding.  What does that mean?  It means, where did this come from?  It means the stress, the fear, the discouragement–they just aren’t there any more and I can’t explain it.

And this peace guards your heart and mind.  Think about that!  What two areas does the enemy attack the most?  And which piece of armor protects us?  The shield of faith.  So praying for our needs, releasing our anxieties, builds your faith!  It protects your heart and mind from the lies we’ve exposed, lies the whole world believes.  I have come to know this peace over the years, and it truly is beyond understanding.  You just don’t feel like sinning.  You don’t want to, because God is here, and there is joy in His presence.  The joy of the Lord is our strength, it says.

Here then are two more spiritual weapons:  Peace and joy.  This is the best part about the story of Joshua and Jericho.  They march around the city seven times, and they’re worshiping.  The physical walls crumble.  When did they crumble?  When they shouted and played their instruments.  Those were their weapons.  There’s another passage featuring Gideon where they bang on their pots in the middle of the night, and the enemy flees.  God is more than able to fight our battles and meet our needs.  But we have to ask Him.  When we do, He comes.  Do you think He wants you mired in sin all the days of your life?  If you really desire His help, you will receive it.  Remember the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:6
Blessed are the ones hungering and thirsting as to righteousness, because they will be filled to satisfaction.  (NT Transline)

Blessed are those.  See, it’s not complicated, it’s just hidden.  You do have to search a little.  This is why I started this whole study the way I did, with the reasons to want freedom.  If you don’t desire the freedom God offers; if you don’t fervently, passionately desire it like a dying man in the desert needs food and water, then you probably won’t find it.  You have to perceive and believe in the value of eternal life before you will be motivated to go after it.

So then, do not denigrate your sexual needs.  Do not call them sins, and do not be ashamed of them.  Know the difference between a legitimate need and a lack of trust.  This is why God hates idols–because an idol is something a person puts their trust in to meet their needs.  God wants to be the one who does this (also, not coincidentally, He’s the only one who can).

See, we think too much of ourselves.  This is why one of the steps listed before is to accept that humanity is evil.  I used to look through the Ten Commandments and think that I was meeting most of them.  Kind of like the rich young ruler who went to Jesus looking for eternal life.  He thought he was keeping the commandments.  He thought he wasn’t stealing, or lusting, or lying, or committing adultery.  We also often think that hey, I’m not lighting any candles around statues or praying to any pieces of wood.  That second command is an easy one.

Oh no it isn’t.  It’s the most commonly violated one.  Anything you put trust in before God is an idol.  And you put trust in something when you turn to it instead of Him.  The more you know the Bible, the more you realize how sinful you are.  But, at the same time, you learn all these great truths, so you don’t feel condemned for it.  I know God loves and has forgiven me, so I accept that I am wretched, poor, blind, and naked without Him.  That’s my true state, and I know it more now than ever.  Yet I feel closer and more accepted by God at the same time.

God doesn’t want our sins dividing us from Him.  But until we accept that they’re there, the division remains.  There are so many hidden sins–the ones that do the real damage–that we don’t even know exist.  In America, especially among white Christians, probably the most common unacknowledged sin is racial prejudice.  I had the good fortune to have this challenged in me during my college years.  God opened my eyes to some things, and I had to accept that I owned a lot of prejudicial and fearful attitudes toward other races.

Yet what do we hear all the time in the media (and in many of our homes)?  We hear racism is overblown.  Those days are over.  We hear complaints and accusations and labels with no substance.  We hear very few honest conversations, especially introspective ones.  Our culture is losing its ability to reflect.  If you don’t know yourself, how will you know what to pray for?

Pray to be Transformed
Next, pray for God to fashion you into the person He wants.  This is what we call humility– releasing our ambitions and self-definition and letting God determine the direction our lives should take.  When you open yourself up to this, God takes everything you care about and throws it away, and makes you do what you hate.  No, actually, He doesn’t.  But if you struggle believing God is good, then that last sentence caught you.  This is another reason we pray–so we may know our God, and start to believe He is as great as the Bible describes Him.

But, what does God want to do in us?  Into what new creation does He plan to transform us?

In the Bible we read a lot about fruit.  Jesus talks extensively about producing fruit; in fact, it’s the central theme of the parable of the sower.  The thorns choke the word and make it unfruitful.  The irrelevant lives of many Christians today produce nothing of value for God.  But fruit is not only about people being saved.  Fruit doesn’t come in bundles of converts for $7.77 a pound.  Fruit also applies to your heart.  In Galatians 5, we read about the fruit of the Spirit

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and everyone’s favorite, self-control–God will grow all these excellent character qualities in you, by the Holy Spirit.  But the religious right–meaning many Christians in America today, just kind of assumes that because we’re Christians, we have all these.

This is the poison of religious thinking.  It’s the exact same thing the Jews did in Jesus’ time.  They overlook or justify their own sins, and look down on all the other people who don’t live up to the ones they’re doing right.  They assume all these promises just happen to them because they’re “saved,” and they overemphasize or just plain misread certain verses, such as that we aren’t saved by works.  True, we aren’t, but as should be clear if you’ve read everything prior to this, growing in Christ requires a lot of work.  It doesn’t just happen.  A seed does not instantly transform into a tree full of fruit.  And this is the work we were called to when we were saved.  Look what Paul prayed:

I Thess 3:12,13
And may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another and for everyone (just as we also for you), so that He may establish your hearts so as to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones. Amen (NT Transline)

This lifelong process does not just fall into your lap because you grow up in church.  It is seized, violently, by a faith and a hunger that are willing to sacrifice present desires for future glory with God in the resurrection, when Jesus comes.  Establishment of heart implies a spiritual maturity that gets produced by the work of the Holy Spirit.  And Paul says here we can be blameless and holy in this life, on earth.

Become a True Christian
Many of us today have distorted our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.  I fight this battle regularly with my liberal friends at work (and they are my friends too…amazing, huh? Imagine if we would all step out of the comfortable, shielded, hermitic enclaves we’ve constructed and actually talk to people who don’t think or believe like us…we could change the world).  But my liberal friends struggle mightily with the concept of what it means to be a Christian.  They think it means you look down on people who are different, that you’re against abortion and don’t care about the needs of others, and that you judge anyone who doesn’t think, act, or look like you.

Now, some of their beliefs have been distorted by other sources, like the religious left and the media, and their own worldviews.  But some of this is because we have a lot of “Christians” out there.  The tea party likes to accuse some Republicans of being “RINOs,” Republicans in Name Only.  I wonder though, how many people might admit that we have a problem with CINOs as well.  Are you a Christian?  What does it mean to be one?  When we lap up the pornified culture and drool over all the enslaved women, we’re tarnishing our witness and the image of God, and the world is watching.  God will hold us accountable for this.

I think we should stop looking down at all those other people, and get the porn out of our houses.  Until we do that, let’s knock off all the superiority-posturing.  Let’s get honest about our own spiritual depravity.  Let’s get the logs out of our own eyes.  Before I came to terms with my porn addiction, my racial prejudice, my cynicism, and my self-righteousness, I had about as much compassion as a monkey.  Do you have any of these sinful attitudes and beliefs?  Or maybe others?  Think about your reaction whenever a racially-inflamed event takes place in the news.  What’s really inside your heart?

But what does a real Christian look like?  A real Christian grows!  After ten years, you ought to see a little fruit of the Spirit developing.  If you don’t, something is deeply out of place.  If you’re as complacent, angry, arrogant, proud, selfish, apathetic, materialistic, or lustful as you were ten years ago, that’s a big problem!  You’re not growing.  That means you’re not pursuing God.  You can’t be.  How do I know that?  Because Jesus taught it.  “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you,” He said.  Remain in the vine.  Hunger and thirst for righteousness.  What does He promise?  You will be filled for the next few hours.  No, you will be filled until next week.  No.  You will be filled to satisfaction.

That last phrase, “filled to satisfaction,” is actually one word in the Greek.  It also shows up in another place, in one of the best passages I know about relying on God’s strength, rather than our own:

Philippians 4:11-13
Not that I speak in relation to a need, for I learned to be content in the things in which I am.  I indeed know how to be humbled; I also know how to abound.  In anything and in all things, I have learned the secret–both to be filled to satisfaction and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need.  I can do all things by means of the One strengthening me. (NT Transline)

Pray for God to Be Your Strength
Jesus is the source of our strength.  No matter what circumstances in which Paul found himself, he learned–and this didn’t come to him the day he fell off the horse; you don’t know everything about being a Christian because you grew up in church or got saved ten years ago–he learned to persevere through it because of the strength of God working through him.  And he didn’t just scrape by.  We can do all things.  All things.  We can go years, decades, entire lifetimes, without falling into sexual sin.  Yes we can.  But not because we grew up in church and know stuff (or think we do).  We can achieve victory because God lives in us.  Because we live by faith, not by what we see around us.  We live by trusting in God, not in all the slimy temptations that sit behind the counter at the convenience store.  We walk by the grace of God, and we don’t have to abuse the internet.

You too must learn to rely on God’s strength and not your own.  I think it’s an incorrect prayer to ask God to “give me strength.”  I don’t have any strength.  You ask God to fill you with His strength.  You ask Him to “be your strength.”

Psalms 46:10
Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (NAS)

Cease striving.  Stop working so hard.  You can’t do it.  You will fail.  Your willpower is weak.  It’s like Darth Vader says: “Your powers are weak, old man.”  More than weak, I have no power.  This verse is amazing, actually. What does it say to do after we stop trying so hard?  It just says to “know.”  Just “know” that God is the Lord of all.  Wow.  Remember what we read before in II Corinthians?  Our struggle is against every height raised up against the “knowledge of God.”

What Do You Know?
To “know” that God is the Lord is the key to total freedom.  It will take your whole life to know that He is God.  Your whole life.  The enemy fights against this in the battle for your mind.

What happens if we lose?  We start striving and working and straining again.  We start worshiping the idols of self-reliance, willpower, and lust (in the general sense).  It’s interesting to look at the world and see them doing this fervently.  They’re trying desperately to figure out how to overcome all these problems.  We’ve got to solve the crime problem, the drug problem, the poverty problem, the health problems, the budget problem, the education problem, the anger problem, the depression problem.  We need more training, more awareness, more seminars, more brochures, and most of all, more money.

And what is the end result of it all? (I’m not saying not to care and be active in these areas, please understand my point).  The result is we can’t solve these problems on our own strength.  How do I know this?  Jesus taught it.

Mark 14:7
For you always have the poor with you. And whenever you want, you are able to do good for them. But you do not always have me. (NT Transline)

Jesus and the apostles go to great lengths to minister to the poor, so He’s not saying we should ignore social problems.  But He is saying that we will always have them.  These problems will not go away.  You will not eradicate disease.  Cure one; another takes its place.  The death rate of life is 100%.  You’re not going to cure life.  Again, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ease suffering.  But we can try and try and try to solve the world’s problems, and there will be more problems to solve.  People will continue to suffer, one way or another.  That’s life apart from God.  You cannot legislate or educate or masturbate your way out of it.

And you can’t solve your own problems either.  Evidence for that?  All the failed “resolutions” every year after the arbitrary New Year.  People declare they’ll do a lot of things, but they seldom do any of them.  And if they do, new problems surface they didn’t plan on.  An illness, a death in the family, a job loss, a son goes to jail.  Boom, life changes, and you don’t know how to handle it.

Pray for God to Protect You from Evil
When you pray, and thereby walk with God, He helps you through all this stuff.  Porn addiction is no different.  God alone can protect you from sin and evil.  How do I know this?  Jesus taught it.  It’s in His instructions to us on how to pray!

Matthew 6:13
And do not bring us into a temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (NT Transline)

Do you pray and ask God to protect you?  To deliver you from evil?  We spend so much time praying for ourselves, but how often do we pray for the stuff God himself tells us to pray for?  We need God’s help with this!  I don’t have a demon-gun in my house. I ordered one online, but it never arrived.

God has wanted to protect us from evil since the beginning.  Here’s another great verse:

Isaiah 52:12
But you will not go out in haste, nor will you go as fugitives; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard. (NAS)

See that?  God protects us.  In this image, He protects us from behind, and He leads the way to protect us from what lies ahead.  He guards us all around.  As we saw earlier, one way He guards us is through peace.  Do you know how much suffering, heartache, and regret you can avoid if you get filled with the peace of God? Another of my favorites:

Isaiah 41:10
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (NAS)

The Bible is full of promises like this.  Build your faith.  I’ve been speaking that last verse out loud for years now.  And you know what?  I’m starting to believe it.  We can also go back to Psalm 23, that most famous of psalms.  It’s famous for a reason.  Listen to this:

Psalm 23:4
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (NAS)

The valley of the shadow of death.  That’s suffering.  That’s isolation, loneliness, the threat of despair, hopelessness.  But we must fight for hope by the power and grace of God.  It anchors our souls.  Don’t give in to fear, which leads to insecurity, which is the source of all our sexual sins.  God with us is enough.

I also started praying for my future children, that God will protect them from evil.  With all the vile corruption out there at school, on the internet, in the grocery aisles, and at the mall (what about television?), it’s basically impossible to shield your kids from it.  But God will shield them from the stuff He knows will harm them that is avoidable.  When I hear the kinds of things other people have been exposed to, I realize even in my own life what God shielded me from.  If you don’t go looking for it, you can avoid a lot of evil, and God will protect you.

Pray for things like these, and your life will change.  Watch one by one as the fruits of the Spirit start manifesting in your life.  You’ll start being more generous.  You’ll stop swearing as much at other drivers.  You’ll stop being so angry, without knowing the reason.  You’ll stop sizing up every woman who walks by.  All this takes time.  Perseverance.  Desire.  Hunger.

Pray for Mercy and Restoration
Confess your sins to God.  Confess your fear, your discouragement, your selfishness, and your greed.  Turn from them, by His power.  Ask God to heal your soul, your heart.  To refresh your spirit.  To purify and renew your mind.

Ask God to cause you to hate your sin.  I prayed this prayer for several weeks a few years back, along with praying for the porn stars.  This is a prayer God will answer.  I guarantee it.  If you want to hate your sin, hate it so much that it repulses you, that you see it for what it is, God will answer that prayer.  He hates it too, and wants it out of your life.

Shift your life such that prayer becomes part of it.  You must make this decision if you want freedom.  It brings you close to God, and Him close to you.  When you get close to God, your sin flees from you.  The two cannot coexist.

This is one of the best things about the book of Revelation.  Read the whole book, but don’t get all hung up on all the symbolism the end-times fanatics spend all their money and time obsessing over.  Dwell instead on the pictures of heaven.  The glory and majesty of God.  How awesome He is.  When you read Revelation with this goal in mind, it’s an incredible book!  It encourages and strengthens your spirit in a big way, especially in the New Testament Transline, because the structure is clearer.  I don’t believe Revelation was primarily written to tell us the future.  It was written to encourage us to keep going.  That’s why it starts with the seven churches.  As we saw at the outset of this section, each one ends with the phrase, “To the one overcoming…”  This book is about winning.  We can win in this life, and we must live out the whole thing in expectant faith, because God wins it all in the end.