Three Prayers When You're Tempted
Have you ever been to Gettysburg?
It's a beautiful little town close to Pennsylvania’s southern border.
I drove there when I was a freshman in college.
Today, Gettysburg boasts a stunning landscape, but a little less than two hundred years ago, its large fields and rolling hills were filled with charging soldiers and wounded infantrymen.
Now, the town is home to the Gettysburg National Cemetery, which President Lincoln dedicated and consecrated in his famous Gettysburg Address.
Because of my great love for American history, I just had to see this historic site for myself.
So I made the 1100 mile round trip to Gettysburg from Indiana.
And I had a wonderful time.
In the car, my friends and I laughed and sang and chatted.
And at the battlefield, we walked where soldiers had marched.
The trip was very exciting and profoundly moving. And upon my return, I was immediately grateful to have made the long drive with dear friends to a place so significant to this country’s story.
The only problem was:
I hadn’t told my parents I was going.
And I'd used a credit card that was billed to them to pay for the trip.
A few weeks after my glorious historical adventure, I got a phone call from home.
“Tyler, do you know anything about these charges from Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania?”
I’d gone too far - literally and figuratively.
I’d made a thousand mile round trip , and paid for it all without saying a word to my parents. I’d gone on a spur of the moment adventure using someone else’s money.
And there on the phone, it caught up with me.
Have you ever had one of those moments? When your choices catch up with you?
When decisions you’ve made or actions you’ve taken come and stare you right in the face?
Have you ever gone too far?
I have. Countless times.
But it's something I want to do less.
I want to become the kind of person who lives with fewer regrets, who thinks before he speaks, who doesn't hurt others carelessly, or use others selfishly.
I want to be wise, kind, and loving.
I want to be more like Jesus.
So, when I find myself considering a course of action that I have a hunch isn’t what He would do, I'm learning to stop, press pause, and pray.
In fact, these are three prayers I pray when I'm tempted to sin. Tempted to do something Jesus wouldn't do. Or say something Jesus wouldn't say.
And these three prayers have the power to change everything. Here's the first:
1) Lord, show me the cost of this action.
A close friend of mine is a strong advocate of this prayer.
Because sin always has a cost. And that cost is always higher than advertised.
A pastor I once admired put it this way "Choose to sin. Choose to suffer."
He also said, "When God says 'Don't', He means 'Don't hurt yourself'."
When I was younger, I thought this pastor was being cute and trite.
Now, I'm convinced he knew exactly what he was talking about.
"Lord, show me the cost of this action."
It's a prayer God's used in my life to add helpful weight to the brake pedal, to stop me from heading somewhere or doing something that I'd later regret.
Perhaps it's a prayer you need to pray.
Praying this prayer in a moments of temptation might allow God to steer your imagination towards your future and help you see clearly that what you’re considering doing isn’t something that’s harmless. It isn’t insignificant. It’s something that comes with a real cost because it contradicts God’s good design.
What if this prayer could help you avoid serious heartache and regret?
Doesn't that make it worth praying?
That's the first prayer I pray. Here's the second:
2) Lord, remind me what I really want.
Sometimes, we know the path we're traveling isn’t taking us anywhere good, but we feel doomed to travel it anyway.
Perhaps our sin has become a habit. Or perhaps we've convinced ourselves that it is what we truly desire, even though it hurts us or hurts those around us.
In such instances, asking God to remind us what we really want can give Him the opportunity to whisper once more to our faith-filled hearts that His desires for us are good. That He wants nothing more than for us to lead lives of integrity - lives with nothing to fear, nothing to prove, nothing to hide.
He's invited us to live lives of real freedom and true happiness.
To enjoy carefree, regret-free, joy-filled life - the kind of life we've wanted all along.
As God grows this vision of free, renewed, healthy existence within us, I believe that along with it will come motivation to speak up, or to seek help, or to enter counseling, or to admit the addiction, or to confess to a trusted person.
"Lord, remind me what I really want."
It's a powerful prayer.
Lord, remind me that this mess I’ve made for myself isn’t how it has to be. Remind me that you’ve designed me to crave intimacy, wholeness and integrity. And give me the motivation and support to pursue that path.
That’s the second prayer that helps me in the midst of temptation. Here's the third:
3) Lord, cover me with your love.
Because this is true:
From Adam and Eve’s time until today, God has continually, faithfully poured out his love on people who disregarded him.
We see it clearly in Genesis 3, as God stitches clothes to cover Adam and Eve in their newly discovered nakedness.
And we see it most clearly in human history when we look at Christ on the cross, and see God giving His own life so that our sins might be covered by grace.
As a friend of mine says, “If Jesus blood doesn’t cover everything, it covers nothing.”
No matter what you’ve said, what you’ve done, where you’ve been - God loves you.
With Jesus, even when you've gone too far, you're never too far gone.
He always moves close to those who invite Him near.
So if you feel like you’ve blown it. Or if you're convinced you’ve gone too far, remember your Heavenly Father loves you. And ask Him once more to cover you with His love.
He never gets tired of doing it. So we need not get tired of asking.