One of the kids on our school bus route in middle school was a guy named Kendall Weaks. Kendall was quite slim and looked weak, which, unfortunately, made him an easy target for bullies.
Once in a while I tried to defend Kendall when someone was pestering him. But I often regretted not defending him more decisively. I didn’t want to become the new target of the bullies. But Kendall needed protection.
You and I need protection. Spiritual protection. We need protecting prayer.
Jesus expected us to pray for protection. In His model prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus taught us to pray; “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13 ESV).
The Bible clearly tells us that the Christian life is a life of spiritual warfare, see Ephesians 6:10-18. If we have not been praying prayers for protection, we have disregarded Jesus’ clear example and left ourselves open to attack.
The Bible presents three areas of temptation from which we need protecting prayer:
- The world
- The flesh
- The devil
Let’s consider each of these three areas of temptation in which we need protecting prayer:
01. The World
Scripture describes the threat of the world in this way: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16 ESV).
Do you get the picture? The world waves all kinds of allurements before us: possessions, ungodly actions, prideful attractions, negative influences, idols of success and attainment. These are usually not totally bad, but are a perversion of what God has made that is good.
At the same time, the Bible promises protection: “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4 ESV).
02. The Flesh
The Bible describes the threat of the flesh in this account at the time of Jesus’ passionate prayer before going to the cross: “Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’” (Matthew 26:40-41 HCSB).
Can you relate? “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” How true.
Our temptation is to blame—even to blame God. But Scripture corrects us: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” (James 1:13-14 ESV).
Scripture is clear—if we sin, it is not God, the devil, demons, angels or any human being beside ourselves that is at fault. We have been lured into sin by our own desires.
Reminds me of the famous quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” The flesh is a powerful foe, and it is us!
Thankfully, Scripture says there is hope: “You are tempted in the same way that everyone else is tempted. But God can be trusted not to let you be tempted too much, and he will show you how to escape from your temptations” (1 Corinthians 10:13, CEV).
03. The Devil
While some overemphasize the work of the devil and try to blame him for all temptations and sins, others minimize his impact to the endangerment of their spiritual walk. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8 KJV).
Praise God we are not powerless against the adversary. In fact, the Bible promises, “The angel of Jehovah encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7 ASV).
Scripture also says, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: Because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4 KJV).
How to Practice “Protecting Prayer”
All of us are tempted to sin. (I wrote about this in my article “Why I Burned My Sister at the Stake.”) But what can we do?
Jesus is a wonderful example of how to handle direct spiritual attack. In Matthew 4:1-11 we read the account of His temptation by Satan in the wilderness. He spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, preparing for three years of ministry.
While He certainly prayed for strength, He did something else vitally important in spiritual warfare. Each time he was tempted, what did Jesus do? He responded with Scripture, saying, “It is written …”
What should we do? When tempted by the world, the flesh or the devil, we must recall pertinent Scriptures and respond to our temptation with scripture-based protecting prayer.
This means that sometimes we will have to search the Scriptures for God’s answer to our temptation. And if we want to do what Jesus did, we will memorize it—a beneficial practice that will keep it right in front of us right when we need it.
To summarize, when tempted we must: Pray scripture-based protecting prayer.
For example, if tempted to view lewd or pornographic images, we should respond, “No, the Bible says (or “it is written”) in Psalm 101:3 (GW), “I will not put anything wicked in front of my eyes. I hate what unfaithful people do. I want no part of it.”
Or one might choose to cite Philippians 4:8 (ESV): “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
IMPORTANT NOTE: Praying protecting prayer in this way will help protect us from evil initially, as it did for Jesus. If however someone is addicted to a sin such as pornography, gambling, alcohol and so on, other help will be needed. Prayers will likely need to be accompanied by accountability, Christian counseling, a support group and other spiritual disciplines that can help to bring victory.