Avoiding Temptation with Prayer

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Luke 22:40 …Pray that you will not fall into temptation.

Be in prayer so that you can resist temptation. When you are not praying the door is open to the devil.

Read Psalm 141 This is a prayer for God’s protection against doing wrong, or having wrong done to them.  This is a Psalm of David.

Read Psalm 23, 91, 142, 143 These are also prayers of protection.

When in danger, or in a dangerous place, or in temptation, pray to God to keep you from falling to temptation, or being hurt or destroyed in danger.  This is a good prayer to use with soldiers, or missionaries.

Read 1Samuel 24:  This is the story of David hiding in the caves and Saul coming into the same cave to relieve himself and David being tempted by his men to take advantage of Saul’s vulnerability and kill Saul. 

Remember that at this point David has been anointed to be the next King of the people of Israel.  He knows this.  He is being chased by King Saul (the present King) and his men and hunted.  He is hiding in the caves with his men, in fear for his and their lives.

It isn’t much of a mental leap to believe that David, who is described in the Bible as a “mighty man”, a very strong warrior, who has already killed many men in battle would be tempted to go ahead and kill King Saul and take the throne.  He could have even justified it to himself that this was the opportunity that God had given him to do just that.  That is what his men do, that is how they saw the situation.  David did step up for a few seconds and feel tempted…he actually went so far as to sneak up on the King while he was at what most people would consider an extremely vulnerable moment and cut a corner off of his robe.  Then God pricked his conscious about doing anything bad to someone who was anointed by God.

King Saul was after all, such a person.  He was the first anointed King of the People of Israel.

David explains to his men, that it doesn’t go well for anyone who stands up against the one that God has anointed…even if it is another anointed one doing it.  Now that makes for an interesting thought doesn’t it, since Saul is also going up against one who is anointed by God…David, himself.

However, King Saul, by virtue of already being the King was sovereign over David.  David recognized this….King Saul was his master.  David actually loved King Saul and looked up to him.  We see this a bit when we read the story of David and Goliath through David’s interaction with King Saul over the offered use of the King’s armor.  (1Samuel 17)

David also loved King Saul’s son, Jonathon.  He was his best friend.  Imagine how hard it would be to be in David’s position of going up against the father of his best friend.  So, in the end David waits with the scrap of cloth in his hand for King Saul to finish doing his business and leave the cave.

Then he comes out of the cave, and bows before his King and announces, “I could have killed you, but look I didn’t…here is the proof of how close I was to you.”  “Why are you listening to those men who say that I am trying to kill you?”

This was a magnificent gesture of love and bravery on the part of David.  If it were not for the intervention of God this could have turned out disastrously.  King Saul was touched by David’s sincerity toward him, and repented of his desire to kill David.  He accepted a pledge of loyalty from David and they both went on their way.  Now there is a lot more to the story of David and King Saul, but the important thing for this lesson is that David recognized God and left God’s plan to God, himself.  David did not get caught up in the temptation to “make” God’s plan happen in his own way.  It is a very human thing to fall into that temptation…the thing is that there is the way that God wants it done and there is the wrong way.

Whenever we are tempted to take matters into our own hands we should always pray that God will open our eyes and hearts to see the way that he wishes for things to go, and to have the patience to follow that way…no matter how long it takes.  We should pray that God will keep us from temptation.  Just as we are told that Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:9-13

9“Pray, then, in this way:
            ‘Our Father who is in heaven,
            Hallowed be Your name.

      10‘Your kingdom come.
            Your will be done,
            On earth as it is in heaven.

      11‘Give us this day our daily bread.

      12‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

      13‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]

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Morning Prayer by Jean-Baptiste Greuze in 1780
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Faithfulness and Integrity of Heart-God’s response to Solomon

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Read 1Kings 9:3-9: The Lord said to him:“I have heard the prayer and plea you have made before me; I have consecrated this temple, which you have built, by putting my Name there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.“As for you, if you walk before me faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command and observe my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’“But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples. This temple will become a heap of rubble. All who pass by will be appalled and will scoff and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this temple?’ People will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and have embraced other gods, worshiping and serving them—that is why the Lord brought all this disaster on them.’” (NIV)

This is God’s answer to Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication. The guidelines that God gave to Solomon are pretty simple aren’t they?  God tells Solomon in these verses to have “integrity of the heart and uprightness” like his father David did.  What do you think God means by integrity of the heart?  I mean we know that David was someone who sinned….he was an adulterer, and a murderer he had Bathsheba’s husband killed by ordering him placed at the front of the battle and having the troupes than back away from him…in order to hide his adultery because Bathsheba came up pregnant and he couldn’t get Uriah to sleep with his wife after he ordered him home from the battle.  When I think of David, I certainly it certainly doesn’t seem like he had integrity of the heart and uprightness.  He was a sinner plain and simple…but in God’s eyes after David had passed away and the throne of David was given to his son, Solomon, God still saw David as someone who had integrity of the heart and uprightness.  How can this be?

In Acts 13:22 we are told that God had found David, a man after God’s own heart to replace Saul as King.  So how can a person who is a sinner be someone who is after God’s own heart.  Someone who is an adulterer and a murderer be someone who has “integrity of the heart and uprightness?”

David did not recognize his own sinfulness.  He fell into the trap of thinking that because he was King he was above everyone who recognized him as their King.

After all, it isn’t like Bathsheba had a choice in the matter…she was taking a bath, and David saw her, and wanted her.  So, as her King, he sent for her, and probably pretty much took what he wanted from her, or coerced her in some way.  It is highly unlikely that she was allowed to say no to him.  Women in David’s time did not have a lot of rights, and a woman who was called for by the King would have even less rights than usual.

Yet, she could have been stoned for being an adulterer and so could King David.  How desperate might she have become when she found she was pregnant and her husband had not been around in time to get her that way.  I am not saying that Bathsheba was innocent, just that her choice to say no might have been a hard one to make.  She might have considered that if she had said no, then her outcome would have been bad that way also.  I don’t believe that fairy tale that we are told as kids in the sanitized children’s version of the story of this great love….after all, David did have other wives besides Bathsheba…around 8 of them at least that are named, and he had children with most of them.  (2Samuel 3:1-5, 1Chronicles 3:1-3, 2Samuel 5:13, 1Samuel 18-19:24, 1Samuel 25)  

At any rate, the fact that David sinned is well documented in the story of him and Bathsheba.  In fact, we are made aware of how far David had fallen from grace in that instead of allowing Bathsheba’s pregnancy to wake him up to his sin, he just committed more sins to try and hide it.

He had so far forgotten that his role as a King was to serve his people and he reversed it that they were there to serve him…that God had to send him a reprimand in the form of Nathan the prophet.  2Samuel 12:1-13 tells us that Nathan delivered a parable to David which made David wake up to his own sins.   God dictated the penalty of David’s actions, which were dire indeed.

Finally, David repented. Then God forgave.  God is faithful to forgive.  I think that what it means to have “integrity of the heart” is that even while he was in sin, and separated from God by that sin, David was still very aware of who God was, and it was not his desire to ever be separated from God.    David still had faith in God, and understood that God was the supreme King of his own life.  So the minute that he was confronted with the reality that God knew what his sin was and that he might be able to hide it from people, but never from God…he repented…because his faith and his relationship with God was the most important thing in his life.

This is also the reason that God calls David a man after his own heart.  David loved God with all his being and he was truly committed to following God and doing what God wanted him to do.  There were still repercussions for David’s act of sin, that is the thing about sin, it hurts us and it hurts those around us, so there is always fall out from it.  God forgives us but we still have consequences with the people and society we live in.

We know that God’s forgiveness was complete because when he responded to Solomon’s prayer of dedication, God told Solomon to be like his father, and describes David in verse 4 as “walking faithfully before Him with integrity of heart and uprightness.”  God doesn’t want us to fall into sin. If we belong to him and we do so, then he will continually try to get our attention through various means to make us to understand what our sin is and get us to choose to repent of it, and put our eyes back on him.  David fell into sin when he took his eyes off of God for just long enough to stare at a bathing Bathsheba. Yet, David had the integrity and humbleness to apologize to God and ask for forgiveness for straying so far from what God deemed was upright.  God is looking for people who love him with all their hearts, minds and souls and will keep their eyes on Him for eternity.  God isn’t looking for perfect people, but willing, loving and faithful people who are humble enough to recognize that God is sovereign over them and that God knows what is right and best for us.

That is what we can learn from God’s response to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple and from the story of David and Bathsheba.

Grace Defined

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The empty cross is a reminder of God’s grace toward us that he wipes our sins clean as though they never existed to him. 

Grace Defined:   Grace is when you are forgiven for something which you should have been punished for, and you have done nothing and there is nothing you can do to deserve not being punished.  It is simply a demonstration of grace that you continue to not be punished in spite of your wrongdoing.  You must accept the fact that you were forgiven, and that something happened in the person’s or God’s eyes which mitigated your sin, but was not of your own doing.  You cannot get to heaven by doing good things.  You only get there by accepting Jesus as your Savior who died for your sins, which mitigated them because he already paid for them.  Then by accepting Jesus, you are living under God’s grace.  You may still fall into sin, but as long as you continue to genuinely repent, and accept God’s gift of his son in your life, you will continue to be saved by Grace.  As you grow in grace you will find that your old self is put aside, and that many things which you enjoyed which were sinful are not things which you want to do now.  With God’s help and the Holy Spirit living within you, you won’t want to do things outside of God’s approval. In the old testament, people lived under the law of Moses, not under Grace.  However, there were times when God demonstrated grace towards old testament people.  For instance in Lot’s case, Abraham used intercessory prayer and God spared Lot as a righteous person out of Sodom.  The Old Testament shows us that grace can be a synonym for mercy.  Traditionally by Christian definition there is no grace without Jesus Christ.

Note:  When I say you may still fall into sin and you will repent…it is not to say that sin is acceptable if you just plan to repent later…the Bible clearly warns against doing that sort of thing.  

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Read:  Genesis 18:17-Genesis 19:29.  This is the story of Abraham praying for Sodom and Gomorrah.  It was evident that Lot was the only righteous man in Sodom.  Therefore, due to Abraham’s prayer Lot was spared along with his family.

Remember that Lot was only marginally righteous at best, he was Abraham’s nephew, and when given the choice of land he chose for himself the “green land” and left Abraham the desert.  This speaks to Lot’s character of greed, and his need for personal comfort which makes you believe that he probably didn’t go to any great lengths to discipline his children.  However, he did stand up for the angels in Sodom, when the crowd came to harass them. 

Thought questions:  Were there times when you were forgiven for things you did wrong when you weren’t expecting it.  How did that  make you feel?  Think about times when you have been unforgiving!  How did being unforgiving toward others affect you?  Did you feel bad or good about still harboring a grudge?  Was it easy to keep harboring a grudge, or was it hard work?  How do you feel when someone is unforgiving to you?  Grace, and mercy and forgiveness are all linked together!  God directs us to forgive.  We are to forgive repeatedly as God forgives us repeatedly.  Even when the person  doesn’t deserve forgiveness.  You forgive in obedience to God.  He forgives you repeatedly and you don’t deserve it either. 

Do you know that being unforgiving toward others and toward yourself stands in the way of your relationship with God and also stands in the way of your happiness and contentment in life?

Matthew 5:22-24  “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.…(NIV)