Prayer plays many roles in our lives. There are reasons why you don’t pray, ways to make prayer a priority in your life, when praise becomes a sacrifice in our hard times and ways of pouring our heart out to God when we feel overwhelmed. We can ask for wisdom in prayer, we need to be praying for our enemies and leaders of our countries and we also need to be praying to keep ourselves from temptation.
Prayer can keep you from temptation, do you believe that? Temptation is something that all of us face on a consistent basis yet many of us may not realize that we should be praying to avoid it and not give in to it.
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:40-41
Jesus reiterates a principle here that he shared in the model prayer in Luke 11 and Matthew 6 when he was teaching his disciples how to pray. Clearly, this is an important thing to pray for. But why didn’t Jesus tell them to simply pray that they wouldn’t sin?
James tells us that temptation is the beginning of a cycle that only leads to a single outcome. Temptation yields lust, then sin, and then finally death. But being tempted is not of itself sinful. We know that our existence means that we will be tempted. Paul even reminds us that when we are tempted, it will not be anything we are unable to bear and that God will make a way of escape for us.
Jesus modeled the best response to temptation when he was tempted in the wilderness. By quoting Scripture, He was able to defeat Satan three times even though He had starved Himself and made Himself extraordinarily weak in the flesh.
Every person has their breaking point. If you are trying to refrain from eating potato chips, and an opened bag is sitting right in front of you, you’ll be tempted. How many times will you be able to resist grabbing “just one…”? The first time is easy. You’re not that hungry and you remind yourself of your dietary goals and how amazing it will feel when you’ve reached them. The second time is a little harder. Nine hours later and you begin to talk yourself into a bite. You’ve earned it. You deserve it. And after the 100th temptation, you give in.
Sin is like this. While you may not cheat on your spouse the first time a temptation arises, if you expose yourself to thousands of tempting moments, eventually you will cave. It is inevitable and it is why Jesus wisely admonished us that we pray that we enter not into temptation.
Notice how far away from the line our Saviour wants us to be! Let’s move beyond the point where we think “we can handle it” and recognize fully that we can’t. We are made of human flesh and all flesh is weak. Put the potato chips in the trash and don’t even go into the grocery store without someone there with you! If it is not physically possible for you to eat a potato chip, no matter how weak your flesh is or how strong your justifications are for cheating on your diet, you won’t!
This is also a spiritual battle. Satan is known as the tempter. When we pray that we will not enter into temptation, we are effectively engaging in spiritual warfare. We are asking for Satan to be unable to whisper “Yea hath God said…” into your ear. I cannot put too fine a point on this. We ought to pray that Satan does not have an opportunity to attack us with temptation.
Do you think that is the kind of prayer that God will ignore? God himself told us to pray that way! He would not have done so if He didn’t intend to follow through as a loving father for His children.
If your son or daughter comes to you and expressed an earnest desire to have a temptation to sin removed from their lives would you do it?
Prayer changes you. It just does. You can’t spend 30 minutes on your knees speaking to the creator of the universe and come away the same. As you draw nigh to God through prayer, He will begin to change the desires of your heart. You will begin to see sin as God sees it – black, horrible, and destructive. This will cause you to take a step away from sinfulness. As you take each step, eventually you will be in a position where you are not just avoiding sin, but temptation altogether.
I think Jesus had it right when He taught this principle as an essential building block of a successful prayer life.
Pray that ye enter not into temptation!
Your turn! Have you ever considered how prayer can keep you from temptation? Will you be adding it to your prayer list?
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