This is The next level series on Fervent Prayer. We are using the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, and I highly recommend you purchase it as a resource. You’re probably going to want a paper copy, because it’s one you will pull out again and again if you’re like me. We are going through the 10 most common strategies the enemy uses in our lives, and we are leaerning how to strategically pray so that we can combat those dealings in our lives. This is a deeper series that the previous one we went through. It’s spiritual warfare. Are you ready to go to war on this?
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts, you can find them here.
If I were your enemy, I’d tempt you toward certain sins, making you believe they are basically (even biologically) unavoidable. I’d study your tendencies and proclivities till I learned the precise conditions that make you the most likely to indulge them. And then I’d strike right there. Again and again. Wear you down. Because if I can’t separate you from God forever, I can at least set you at odds with Him for the time being.
Your Purity. Staying Strong in Your Most Suceptible Places.
The enticing temptation that tickles you curiosity, piques your interest, and placates your personal proclivities has been festering in the devil’s sick, sinister mind all morning, all week, all year maybe. Just sitting there, soaking up vileness and filth. Cruelty and conspiracy. Waiting for the right time- the moment when you are most weakened and susceptible to attack. But once he’s cleaned it up for presentation, sliding it meticulously into view, you’d think it was the shiniest, most desirable bit of unclaimed satisfaction you’ve ever seen. He sets it out there where your eyes can’t help but be drawn toward it – at least, you know, to pick it up and look at it. Feel it. Play with it.
The moral compromise. The unhealthy habit. The enticing addiction. The allure toward sexual impurity. Do you think their uncanny ability to show up when you happen to be exhausted or hungry or lonely is just a coincidence? Don’t you detect some design at work in the timing, the placement, the package?
Look at what we know from Satan’s temptation of Christ in Matthew 4. The devil came out into the wilderness where Jesus had been fasting for forty days, a time when (physically speaking) the Lord was hungry, alone, tired, and depleted. What better setup and situation to make the suggestion of, well… bread? I mean, I don’t know about you, but slide a warm roll in my direction, topped with a smear of soft butter, and I’m a goner. Even when I’m not hungry. But that’s the enemy’s way. Precision, personalization, and persistence. He’s always scouting for what Luke’s gospel describes as the “opportune time” (4:13) – the moment when a well-placed temptation is most likely to be its most irresistible.
So again I ask – the devil’s temptations, the ones he picks out and personalizes for you… coincidence? Uncalculated? Just happenstance?
Stop and see what’s happening. Stop at the place where you first recognize the scent of temptation in the air. And before you touch it, remember… remember where it’s been. Remember where it came from and who’s behind it. And if it’s one of those repeat temptations you’ve been battling against for years, remember the places it’s taken you… the places it always ends up taking you. Because as soon as you say yes to it, you’re headed there again.
The kind of prayer strategy we’re about to employ treats every temptation as the potent, life-threatening stick of dynamite that it is. Despite how inviting it seems, despite how natural it feels, despite how much simpler the rest of your day would seem to go if you just gave in and went along with it, temptations are never innocuous. The consequences are never minimal. The waves of your choice will ripple outward into your heart, mind, soul, and body, possibly even to future generations.
Sin has consequences. Always has and always will. Keep this revelation fixed squarely in your mind. Because whether we like it or not, here’s how the spiritual economy of life works for believers: Obedience to God garners intimacy and nearness, divine blessing and favor. Always. And disobedience creates a sense of distance and loss, grief and regret. Alway. Sometimes the consequences of caving to temptation are practical and tangible, changing your daily experience, drastically enough in certain cases to fundamentally effect the rest of your life. But no matter how immediately noticeable the cost, the ripple effects of sin always affect your connection to the Father. And this, this is exactly what the enemy is hoping for. It’s why he is so personalized and meticulous in his advances to tempt you.
Impurity weakens your praying – which in turn weakens your power. When our lives are not aligned with the teaching of Scripture and the transforming work of God’s Spirit – when we’re resisting His wise, loving instruction converning our lifestyle and attitudes – our prayer closets start to feel like soundproof rooms. The energy we expect our prayers to access and generate is momentarily choked off and shorted out. We’ve compromsied the system. We’re leaking oil, leaking power. We end up, in practical terms, living like the double-minded man in the New Testament book of James, who the Bible says, “should not expect to receive anything from the Lord” because he’s unstable in all his ways” (James 1:7-8).
Separation. That’s what sin creates. Which is why the enemy is dead set on crafting temptations for our lives. He knows that the “effectual fervent prayer” that James 5:16 says “availeth much” contains parameters. Prayers have a power that comes from a person in pursuit of righteous living. Righteousness matters.
That’s why you and I must deliberately strategize a prayer for the daily, ongoing protection of our purity. Prayer keeps us on guard, our spiritual radar sensitive to the enemy’s ploys and clever decoys. Without this close contact with the Father, we become convinced that our careless behavior, our decisions, our habits, our general sense of what qualifies as worthwhile entertainment is somehow OK, that it’s “not so bad”. Yet all the while the enemy’s carefully crafted options of impurity chip away at our spiritual reserves and effectiveness.
Impure living, impure thinking, impure relationships, impure affections – creates the perfect environment and breeding ground for demonic activity. It invites him in and then fosters the perfect place for his turmoil and trouble to thrive. Unrighteousness disrupts our peace. It scares away any lasting sense of rest and contentment. It spoils what could otherwise be enjoyable. It complicates experiences that were meant to be nothing but pleasures and blessings. We can’t knowingly create this kind of an environment – the kind that invites the devil to make himself at home – and then blame God for whatever sense of distance we may feel from Him. We must choose righteousness, while committing to pray fervently and consistently that we’ll recognize the ploys of the enemy the moment they come into view.
Because not only does our prayer deflect the enemy, our purity deflects the enemy. God calls you to purity because He wants your heart protected and at rest, inhospitable to the devil and his intentions. God wants you full of power and confidence and spiritual vitality. He wants you to feel free to bless and encourage others, to receive and celebrate His goodness, to become such a stick-of-dynamite prayer warrior that Satan just hates hearing your coffeepot start up in the morning.
How’d you like to start experiencing those kinds of consequences? Not the ones that leave you feeling disgusted and despondent, misreable from another failure, but totally energized instead. In Jesus.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll never do anything wrong again. We’re not built for that. But a prayer strategy can even help you here too… because the only thing worse than not prevailing in purity at any given moment is failing to respond humbly to God’s discipline after a setback. His conviction is never meant to berate you but simply to correct you and bring you back to Himself. No divide. No separation. Pure.
Purity leads us to fervent prayer, and fervent prayer leads us to purity. And when we start putting this cycle to work, building momentum like a spiritual turbine, surrendering our hearts with the nearness of God’s protection, we strip Satan of the power to rope us down to the same old cycle of sin we’ve always known. We say to him, in so many words…
can’t touch this.
God is inviting you right now to realms of glory. To wide-open spaces of genuine freedom and possibility. To scenes where victory can become, no kidding, an everyday occurance. You’ll think you’re just sitting in whatever little place you call your prayer closet, but you’ll actually be in a whole new world where He is King and where even your nastiest individual sins are utterly subject to His power. Now here’s a place you want to be.
So grab a pencil, get comfortable, and write them down. Your struggles, I mean. Name them specifically, individually. Call them out from hiding. Unmask them and make them show their faces. Because when you come to these Scriptures, you’re going to find some phrases of truth in there that, while you probably know them, perhaps you haven’t been praying them in connection with specific areas of temptation in your life- Scriptures that authorize you to throw off the chains of slavery to sin and put on the breastplate of righteousness. Find the phrases that speak to your heart most clearly in connection with the specific issues you’re struggling with, and then use them (along with all kinds of other Bible verses the Spirit will give you) as part of your customized prayer strategy.
Don’t worry now. This job of overcoming temptation and living in purity is not something you’re tasked with pulling off on your own. When God saved you, it was with the understanding that He’d be providing you “sanctification by the Spirit” all along the way (2 Thess. 2:13), from the inside out, His purity and holiness changing your heart until it comes through as purity and holiness in action. As you yield yourself to Him in prayer, inviting Him to do His work, it won’t just be the sweaty, exhausting chore of avoiding sin. It’ll be God Himself building up strength at your core, enabling you by His resurrection power to passionately pursue righteousness. Then go from your prayer closet, ready to “walk in a manner worth of the calling with which you have been called” (Eph. 4:1). Strategize your obedience as diligently as the enemy is strategizing those temptations. You’ll be blown away with the blessings of purity. So why not make them the norm rather than the exception? And here’s why they can be…
There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. Romans 8:1-2
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. 1 Peter 2:24-25
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry the desire of the flesh.
What fruit was produced then from the things you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification – and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:14
Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. Luke 22:31-32
My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. Psalm 73:26
The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. 2 Peter 2:9
Let me give you one more. Psalm 91 says that God has created a shelter for you, a place where the covering shadow of His love thoroughly, shades you from the highnoon heat of temptation. Your God, it says, is a refuge. Your God is a fortress. Your God is trustworthy. And your God is a deliverer. The arrows can fly by day, pestilence can stalk in the darkness, destruction can lie in wait for you in the middle of the afternoon. “A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you… For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.” Psalm 91:7,9
And then… you are safe.