All I Need is Prayer?
Luke 22:40 Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
I once told someone that I went to a Christian drug treatment program to which she sarcastically replied, Is that where they teach you all you need to do is pray? The implication was that Christians deny the reality of addiction and ignorantly rely on the silly idea of prayer to fix everything. I understand what she meant. I too have been frustrated watching others struggle alone, refusing help and refusing to do anything as they are just going to pray it out.
Jesus though, in the garden of Gethsemane, on the night of his arrest, twice told his disciples to pray, lest they enter into temptation. He knew of the coming trial and He insisted that they prepare themselves for it. As He was purposefully taking time to connect with the father, He insisted that they follow his example.
Instead, their eyelids grew heavy and they succumbed to their physical needs. Sleeping is, of course not wrong, but they did not prepare themselves for the coming storm and when it hit, they scattered. Peter quickly denied even knowing Christ.
Jesus’ message was that it is always our responsibility to turn our minds to God. It is in drawing close to him that He draws close to us. We cannot complain that God is distant when we have spent no time with him.
Jesus did not teach that prayer is all I need. He taught that I am to take radical action, doing whatever it takes to avoid sin. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away (Matthew 5:30). If I am struggling with a temptation of the flesh, whether it is pornography, drugs, money, anger, pride or a need for affirmation, it is my responsibility to do whatever it takes to avoid that temptation. I am not to use Jesus command to pray as an excuse for doing nothing.
Jesus did insist though, that the solution to my temptation lies in pointing my focus at God instead of self. This starts in my mind, in prayer. It may well not end there, but I bear the responsibility for my thoughts. Jesus taught that it is in the secret thoughts of my mind that I first begin to travel down the road of destruction. Adultery and murder begin in my imagination in the forms of lust and hate (Matthew 5). Whatever my struggle is, it starts with a desire that I either feed or starve. It is only in turning my mind to God that I receive his divine help.
For many of us, this is a foreign concept. We have, perhaps out of ignorance or apathy, surrendered the battle for our minds. We have not realized that our destructive behavior starts in our imagination and that we are responsible for choosing our thoughts.
It is my responsibility to continually connect with the father in prayer, pointing my life at him instead of self. Jesus did not teach prayer as a substitute for action. Prayer may well lead to radical action. He did however, teach that I need to continually pray, focusing my mind on him instead of self.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.