“Pray that you may not enter into temptation” (Lk 22:40)
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:14-19).
“We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:9-10)
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 1:11-12)
“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death” (1 Jn 5:16)
I’ve been talking about how to set goals and how to reach those goals. I’m trying to lose weight and finish a book, but those goals are not really all that important. I pray my book will bless people and help them draw closer to God, but my weight won’t matter in eternity (I understand that the mortality rate for those who lose weight is around 100%). But, there are far more important goals in my life – walking more and more like Jesus, praying more, spending quality time with my children to show them Christian character, loving my wife as Jesus loved the church, sinning less, and being an example to others. How can we achieve the important goals in this life, goals which will reap eternal rewards? On Monday, I gave some general suggestions for setting goals, and yesterday, I posted how to go to Scripture to uncover the holiness God desires for each one of us. Today, I want to focus on the power of prayer to achieve the goal of personal holiness.
Here are five suggestions for using prayer to achieve the goal of holiness.
Pray to escape temptation.
Succumbing to temptation draws us further, not closer, to the holiness God desires for us (and, I pray, the holiness we desire for ourselves). Prayer for strength in overcoming temptation is always wise and right. Jesus taught His disciples to pray for escape from temptation: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt 6:13). When the Lord took Peter, James, and John into the Garden of Trial, Jesus told them, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41). Pray for the strength to overcome temptation, just as Jesus taught His disciples. Pray that you might look for the way out (cf. 1 Cor 10:13) and that you might honor your heavenly Father when you are tempted by the devil.
Pray for God’s wisdom.
God will always answer our prayers for wisdom: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (Js 1:5). Do you need wisdom as you move toward the goal of divine holiness? Pray to God for that wisdom. He’ll grant your request every time.
Pray for God’s strength.
Paul found himself in a dilemma – He had received a great and surpassing revelation, but the Lord had given him a “thorn in the flesh” to keep the Apostle from becoming conceited. Paul prayed three times for the Lord to remove the thorn, and Jesus answered him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). No removing the thorn. Instead, grace and power made perfect in weakness. I have weaknesses (my wife will happily make you a list), and I know you have weaknesses. Let’s pray that God’s power may strengthen us, rest upon us, and be made perfect in our weaknesses as we move closer to Him.
Pray for others to achieve holiness.
Jesus prayed that Peter might obtain holiness: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Lk 22:31-32). Jesus prayed for Peter’s holiness; He had prayed that Peter’s faith not fail. How often do we pray for the holiness of our brethren? How often do we pray that their faith may not fail? Why not pray that prayer this very day?
Pray for forgiveness when you fall short.
You’re going to fall short: “All have sinned [perfect tense] and fall short [present tense] of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Yet, when you fall short of your goal of holiness, do not despair. Pray for God’s forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). In prayer, confess your sin to God – He, in faithfulness to His promises, will forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
May you pray as you strive for the holiness without which no one will see God. Tomorrow, we’ll explore how to put away the sin which so easily ensares us. Until then, be blessed as you walk with God!