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Saturday, April 26, 2008

When Not To Pray

"Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." Matt 4:1

Scripture tells us there is a time for everything (Eccl 3:1) and whilst Paul tells us to "pray continually" (1 Thes 5:17) that is not quite the same as praying continuously. There is a time when prayer is an inappropriate response and we see this in the way the Lord Jesus deals with temptation.

Prayer Prepares
After His baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the place where He was to be tempted by Satan. As we read this passage we perhaps interpret the account to mean that the devil waited 40 days, until Jesus was weakened by fasting and hunger, before attempting the assault. But the parallel passages in Mark and Luke suggest that the temptation was going on throughout that time.

Fasting may weaken the body but, when accompanied by prayer, it strengthens the spirit. Knowing that it was the Lord's regular practice to find lonely places to pray, we can be sure that much of His time during these 40 days would have been spent praying. The prayer and fasting were part of His preparation for dealing with the tempter.

Triumphing Over Temptation
Jesus taught His followers to pray, "lead us not into temptation." In Gethsemane He urged His disciples, "pray so that you will not fall into temptation." If we are to triumph over temptation as the Lord did then our prayer against it has to happen before we face the trial. If we wait until we are tempted we are likely to fail for two important reasons. The first is that praying about a temptation focuses our mind on it at precisely the time we should be taking captive every thought and thinking about something else. Secondly, if we haven't prepared ourselves in prayer we will not have settled the matter, in our own mind and spirit, of whether we actually do intend to be obedient to the Lord, or if we might allow ourselves to be swayed. We open ourselves up to the possibility that the tempter may be able to convince us to do the wrong thing.

Wielding the Word
At the point at which Jesus came face to face with Satan, He did not pray. He simply quoted the Scriptures at him. He took God's word & wielded it as a sword to counter the devil's attack. All the quotations He used came from Deuteronomy. It seems He had been spending some of His time in the wilderness studying and meditating on God's Law.

It has become unfashionable in some churches to pray the Lord's prayer yet it contains powerful petitions to protect us from the onslaught of the enemy. To deal with temptation we need to pray for protection against it and for the determination to stand firm before we face the temptation. If we have a vulnerability in a particular area we need to search the Bible to find specific Scriptures we can quote at the enemy when the time comes.

Prayer College Assignment
Begin to incorporate prayers against temptation into your daily prayer time. Also, take some time this week to delve into the Bible and find some verses you can memorise to speak out to the devil when he tries to drag you down. Notice that Jesus spoke God's word out loud to the devil. We should do the same. For some reason speaking the words, rather than merely thinking them or whispering them under our breath, is more powerful.

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