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Eternity 9 - Prayers That Work - Praying To Avoid Temptation

(Matthew 26:41 NKJV) "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

(Matthew 6:13 NKJV) And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Prayer is one of the great weapons to avoid temptation. Prayer sets the mind on God and once the mind is truly set on God and the spirit is tuned in to Him then temptation loses its power. Temptation tries to set our mind on the things of the flesh while prayer sets our mind on the things of the Spirit. This battle is neatly summarized by Paul in Romans 8:

(Romans 8:4-6 NKJV) that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. {5} For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. {6} For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The flesh is that weak and sinful part of us that gives in so readily to temptation. People of strong carnal appetites and weak moral wills are called "fleshly" or "carnal". Yet even spiritual people can occasionally give into temptation in an unguarded moment. Prayer is important to set our minds on God and away from sin.

Now praying to avoid temptation falls into two parts - firstly praying to avoid the temptation altogether and secondly praying in the midst of temptation not to succumb to it.

Firstly, prayer can also be answered so that we don't face the temptation at all. God can arrange the circumstances so that the strongest temptations are completely avoided. Many times I have been grateful to God for doing this in answer to my prayers!

(1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV) No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Secondly we may have to pray in the midst of temptation so as not to succumb to it. There is a right way and a wrong way of doing this. Some people when faced with temptation, pray "about the temptation" which fails completely - because then the mind is fixed on the temptation and the flesh!

For instance someone may pray fervently about sexual temptation and visual images - and as they do so the visual images only get worse! Why? Because the mind is anxiously and fearfully fixated on the very thing the person is trying to avoid.

To avoid such a temptation - don't pray "about it"! Instead switch tracks and think of Jesus, of Scripture, of the throne in Heaven , of praise to God or anything that is good and noble and praiseworthy and true.

(Philippians 4:8 NKJV) Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.

The Lord's prayer is a good example - it fixes the mind on things above - on hallowing God, on the Kingdom, and many other things before it deals with the question of sin and temptation. Once the mind is fixed on God - then its time to take authority over your sin and temptation.

Matthew tells us to "watch and pray" - our awareness of encroaching temptation is an important factor. We should not entertain wrong thoughts or dwell on them or play with them in the theatre of our minds. Instead we should watch our minds carefully and immediately discipline out those thoughts that are unworthy.

Now, I need to quickly add that I am not inventing a new legalism here. Some Christians burn themselves out through being hyper-vigilant and anxious about their mental states. We just need to have a relaxed and balanced awareness of where our mind is dwelling and the ability to calmly bring it back to where it should be - on our work, God, in a conversation etc.

We need to calmly master our temptations through gracious watchfulness and steady prayers of adoration to God.

God has given you instructions to pray in order to avoid temptation. It is a prayer that he will answer. Why not pray it today!


John Edmiston


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