Resisting Sin Begins with Prayer
At some point during each day, you feel a familiar tension: immaterial objects of your fancy tug on your worn heart strings while you vacillate between what you want to do and what you ought to do. We all have been in that battle. And we all have lost. Perhaps the struggle concerned clicking an internet link that led to a pornographic webpage. Maybe the struggle regarded releasing a verbalized rage that destroyed the spirit of a spouse. The specific sin might be different for each one of us, but we all have given into temptation because we all have sinned (Romans 3:23).
The question that remains, however, is “why?” Why do we, who know God’s will, keep choosing to disregard it? Why do we keep giving into the temptation to gratify ourselves according to our lusts? And why is it that we find ourselves even committing the same sin that we feel like we just confessed? As we ask these questions, certainly we can echo Paul’s own frustrated observation about himself, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19 ESV).
But Paul does not leave us without a solution. After identifying that the real problem lies in being led by the flesh, Paul says that only those who live according to the Spirit can submit to God’s law and please God. Thus the power that we need to forego fulfilling our fleshy desires and follow the will of God only comes to us through the Spirit of God. And this Spirit, Paul says, is the very Spirit of Christ Himself (Romans 8:9). Therefore, Paul concludes in no uncertain terms, it is solely by the power of the Spirit of Christ that we may “put to death the deeds of the body” and “live” (Romans 8:13 ESV). The Spirit, then, helps us crucify the flesh by teaching us to deny ourselves and live for God.
Jesus Himself says that the life of discipleship begins with denying self (Matthew 16:24). That is, in essence, what it means to have the Spirit of Christ: to empty ourselves and make every decision with the intention of accomplishing the will of God. This is the selfless mind that Paul says Christ had in Philippians 2:5–8. It is the mind that denies self in order to serve others.
Prayer initiates this new mind as we enter the court of our king and offer Him our everything. And perhaps that is where we make our first mistake. Perhaps we do not offer these prayers, the prayers that communicate, “God, my mind and body are not mine but Yours, so use them how You see fit, and I will submit to whatever Your righteous will requires.” And perhaps the reason we do not sincerely offer these prayers is because we want to allocate a little bit of mind and body for self. But as long as we are holding onto self, we are holding onto sin; and we are kidding ourselves if we think we still will be able to resist temptation. Prayer must be the genuine expression of our desire to give up every notion of doing anything our own way. It must be an utter denial of self. And unless resisting sin begins with prayer like this, our efforts are doomed to fail.