Day 6 - The Power of Prayer
I used to think prayer was only reserved for desperate situations; a last resort when all of my own efforts had failed. I didn’t pray because frankly, I didn’t see immediate results from prayer. Prayer is far less about the immediate or even long term results that come from it, and far more about bringing ourselves to a place where we recognize God’s sovereign place in the universe. This story, despite what we've been told, is not about us - it's about God. Through the humility and reverence of prayer, God’s is made bigger and we are made smaller.
“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” -Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)
The above passage came during a dark time in the life of Jeremiah. The army of the king of Babylon was attacking and destroying Jerusalem, Jeremiah (a prophet) was confined in the palace of Judah. In what may have seemed a hopeless time for his nation, Jeremiah was spoken to directly by the Lord. There are things in this world we cannot find, cannot fathom, and cannot comprehend without prayer. Prayer, according to God's words to Jeremiah, is able to reveal ‘unsearchable things.' Prayer acts as a light on the dark road of life. Prayer is the expression of our hope for something greater than our current circumstances. Jesus, God in human form, saw the importance of prayer.
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. -Luke 5:16 (NIV)
By coming before God we recognize that we are small and frail in the grand scheme of His universe. All things are held together by Him and for Him. The list of what we're actually in control of is remarkably small:
PRAYING IN TIMES OF TEMPTATION
Sexual temptation has no doubt entered the lives of most Christian men. I was told that once I put my faith in Jesus, all of my problems went away. Since I instead continued to struggle, I thought there was something wrong with me, as if Jesus somehow didn't work for me. In reality, I was far from alone:
- 55% of married Christian men look at pornography at least once a month 
- 35% of married Christian men cheated on their spouse in an extramarital affair 
- 16% of surveyed pastors visited a porn site in the last 30 days 
- Those who identify as Christians are 91% more likely to look at pornography 
This is the problem with teaching that tells us we'll be immediately fixed as soon as we put our faith in Christ. If that's the case, how can we explain the above stats? Clearly, God is working on you and me daily, molding us into men and women that look more and more like Christ. Let us pray like this: "God thank you for the process... thank you that you love me as I am and not a future version of me... thank you that in my weakness, you are glorified and grace abounds... thank you that salvation isn't an excuse for me to sin, but a humbling moment that puts me in awe of your mercy."
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. -Luke 18:1 (NIV)
In my struggles against sexual sin, I wanted to give up many times. If you're still struggling, wanting to give up, thinking to yourself “I’ve fallen too far and too often”, remember that Christ died once for all sins for all time. His sacrifice on the cross paid the price for every sin. When we come before him in recognition of this truth we are forgiven and freed from all guilt and shame. Failure is never an option for the man or woman walking with Christ. No matter how many times you fall, God loves you and gave everything for you. He’ll hold on to you until He has completed the work He started:
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
When we begin to recognize the magnitude of what God has already done for us, how He has already forgiven us and set us free from our sin, our prayers change. Instead of our prayers being about how God will bless us (He has already done that through the cross) they become about how we can carry out that blessing and honor Him with our lives. The difference between prayer and pleading is one focuses on God and the other on ourselves. Our job on this earth is to worship and glorify God with our lives. Our prayers should be a reflection of how we want to honor God through our bodies. And yet this proves time and time again to be incredibly difficult for us. Why? Simply because we are so caught up in our own guilt after falling into sin that we lose sight of the bigger picture. God already paid the price for all we've ever done against Him.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” -John 8:36 (NIV)
Too often, as Christians, we pray simply out of obligation, treating God as though He is Santa Claus, there to simply fix problems. Prayer is communication, as in any other relationship. Open your heart to God, pour out how you feel and be completely honest with Him. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing, The Holy Spirit has you covered:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. -Romans 8:26 (NIV)
One student going through the course wrote:
Romans 8:26 really hit home with me, as I noticed there are often times I will really want to seek God and communicate with Him, but I feel like my words can't do justice to what I'm feeling, and sometimes I will be too focused on "saying the right thing." So I want to grow in having a greater dependence on the Holy Spirit when I pray and to not have a filter, but truly come to God with my brokenness and all that I am.
Here is an entertaining skit on how you should (and should not) pray:
FLESHING IT OUT
- Pray at specific times
Set a time, or multiple times in your day where you will commit to prayer, no matter what. You can pray anywhere, at any time, in any way.
- Replace Worry with Prayer
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. -Philippians 4:6 (NLT)
Worry focuses on us and how we are incapable of fixing or relieving a situation. Faith is about God and His power to change any circumstance.
- Pray immediately after you stumble
The best time to pray is often the most difficult time to pray… right after we have fallen. Do not neglect this truth, God comforts the broken in spirit, His desire is to heal you and raise you up out of the darkness.
Day 6 Application
How will you practically commit to praying more often? Are there specific times during the day that you can dedicate to prayer?
In only a few lessons we will be talking about the importance of accountability. Have you sourced an accountability partner yet? If not, do you have someone in mind?
Since the last lesson, how have you been with maintaining your sexual purity?