God’s will is paramount. There is a need to remove superstition, gripping most people in assuming that all manner of inner feelings come from God. Appreciating God’s existence invites no superstitious tendencies, where one becomes a victim to Satan’s confused communication. Without appreciating God’s existence it is not possible to understand God’s will.
God communicates clearly to those with sober and purified sincerity. The behaviour of Christians should reflect Christ’s thinking, attainable through The Holy Spirit: “I have been crucified with Christ: and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me….” (Gal. 2:20 ASV).
Heaven is viewed as something to look forward to. But this scripture suggests the state of being in heaven as presently achievable, for those with Christ in their lives. Which other heaven would a person look for, if Christ dwells in one? (Rev. 3:20–21 and John 14:1-7, 20-23). Heaven is the state of being in the spirit of Christ, as also confirmed. See [How possible is living heavenly on earth?].
Christ assertively stated that those with such faith become victors in physical challenges (John 14:12–14). Zimbabwe, being rich in Christianity, judging by several denominations, should not have survival challenges. The truth is that it is not the number of churches that count, but how many Christians uphold the faith of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit flows––enabling application of God’s will––achieved by discarding own will first, in favour of God’s will. Paul admonishes: “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:17 NIV). Prayer enables God’s will in one’s life. The disciples were instructed to pray to avoid falling into temptation (Luke 22:40).
We have to explore this in order to appreciate what Christ meant, as on this, also hinges faith needed for salvation. How can prayer help in avoiding succumbing to temptation? This calls for understanding what prayer is, before answering this question. Prayer implies pleading with God, desiring to achieve what is naturally impossible without Him.
We are at liberty to ask anything in Christ’s name (Matt. 7:9–10). But what is good is associated with what was originally declared as very good at creation (Gen 1:31). Oftentimes people ask amiss: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3 NIV).
Prayer is not about asking God to execute one’s own, but God’s will, which naturally, is ours. Christ said that we should specifically pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt. 6:10). Prayer commits us to God’s will, intended for our well-being, without having to manipulate Him to meet our selfish desires.
Exercising God’s will includes even graciously appreciating things unpleasant to the flesh, instead of complaining (1 Thessalonians. 5:18). The opposite of giving thanks is complaining, which humans are susceptible to––as implying that God would be unaware of such circumstances. As Paul indicated, nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Christ lamented: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8 NIV). With the faith that Christ was referring to, no reason remains for worry about anything, as everything becomes attainable. Even the fear of death goes! While people get healed of their infirmities, physical lives still end in a manner not likable to ordinary humans.
When committed in that kind of prayer––to attain the faith that Jesus was talking about––painful experiences cannot alter a person’s conviction towards God. Some people misapply the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-6), supposing all personal desires are met in prayer. But Christ was not talking about praying so that one’s own personal desires are met ahead of God’s will.
That parable was given after Jesus had given the Pharisees, terms and conditions of God’s Kingdom, which are spiritual (Luke 17:20-21). A spiritual person cannot be harassed by physical things. He does not despair when facing physical trials.
Those accepting God’s Kingdom are no longer obsessed with perishable things of the flesh. They are able to experience anything, but able to cause only those things that other people are able to experience. Christ shows how impossible it is for God to fail to cater for the welfare of the petitioner, having become His own child.
If physical desires were to be met by constant prayer, the apostles could not have died. But their physical lives ended according to God’s pre-designed prerogative, befitting of what was best for them and us today. See [How necessary is Prayer in problem solving?].
Jesus revealed that God’s will is not necessarily always appreciable to human nature (Matt. 26:36-44). Positively responding to a request to teach them how to pray, Christ gave exact guidelines, as a model (Luke 11:1-4). Unlike the Lord’s Prayer in John 17, this model resembles Matthew 6:9–13, which is erroneously referred to as the ‘Lord’s Prayer’:
“When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2 NIV).
This can be viewed as insignificantly short, to those who envision prayer to be long and dramatic; yet Jesus advised: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:7-8 NIV).
Let us carefully analyse this provision before answering the question on how prayer helps in avoiding temptation. The first obsession implores God’s help in pursuing programmes that keep holy, His name. The Christian conduct either glorifies God’s name or dishonours God’s name.
This assertion bestows weighty responsibility for God’s name to be glorified. Like Jesus, one seeks ways that glorify God’s name ahead of own interests, regularly asserting––coupled with meditation: “Our Father, hallowed be your name.”
Another way of dishonouring God’s name is reducing Christian faith to another religion of the world. Imagine a preacher in passionate zeal and charisma, stating that Christianity has better solutions in human relations––quoting Christ: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this, sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12 NIV).
This belief happens to be the basis of the doctrine of the Lotus religion; taught by Gautama, the Buddha––living more than five hundred years before Christ. This could, obviously, put Christ in unfavourable comparison with the Buddha?
But the Buddha’s enlightenment, could not have been through any other way, except through the same God of Christians. What other reason could there be, for Christians to militate against other religions if, the role of Christians is that of reconciliation?
Comparing Christianity with other religions can be another way of dishonouring God’s name. Christian faith represents God’s character traits, not necessarily comparable to religions. God’s nature cannot be compared with anything. Christian practice should cause God’s name to be hallowed, revealing God’s love in humility.
I am personally not aware of any other religion that was conferred with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Those doing so without espousing Christianity may, actually, be Christians without them affirming to that reality (Matt. 5:9). See [The enigmatic Sons of Peace, represent Truth].
Paul confronted the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers by not introducing Christianity or Judaism, but the “God who created all things” (Acts 17:16-34). Paul also effectively avoided reducing God to an object of ridiculous arguments, shunning habits of localizing God in terms of sectarian religious doctrines (1 Corinthians. 9:19-23).
When requesting for His Kingdom to come, one gets reminded of God’s peace, generally needed by all. One avails oneself in the advancement of the gospel, acknowledging the importance of it by living its fullness, encouraging others to do the same. A Christian is God’s child––identified by being a peacemaker (Matt. 5:9).
Requesting for God’s Kingdom to come confers responsibility in projecting His name with high esteem. One avoids imploring God to be always on one’s side when facing life’s challenges. But desiring that God be on other people’s lives as well. Having died at baptism, one is no longer guided by self-centredness anymore. He pursues peace earnestly, as God represents peace (Romans 6:5-11).
“Give us each day our daily bread.” This petition––applied wholeheartedly––takes a person away from worldly cares, when reducing requests to daily basic provisions for one’s survival. There is difference between assumption that food sustains someone’s life and that God sustains a person’s life.
Our lives are often cluttered in multiple physical demands, leaving no time to think about God’s will. But our physical lives are not designed to exist forever. True Christians acknowledge God being in charge of all provisions. However, this petition may not necessarily be about physical meals; “man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (Matt. 4:4).
The daily bread petition suggests focusing on spiritual demands, as Christ declared: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33 NIV). God’s word should be sought daily, ahead of emphasis on professional careers, instead of advancing the gospel.
Jesus revealed folly in hoarding wealth without considering God’s will (Luke 12:13-21). The behaviour of that rich fool suggests prudence; storing excess gains for future needs, yet missing the obvious reality of not being in control of life.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you….” (Heb. 13:5-6 NIV). Material cares serve to choke the seed, as Jesus implied in Matt. 13:22.
Projecting plans for future personal requirements appears good, but only God holds prerogative for long life. Foolishness lies in failure to appreciate the possibility of dying, leaving one’s wealth improperly managed by those not endorsing God’s Kingdom. A true Christian’s appetite is spreading the gospel.
“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” One cannot remain in physical condition without regularly violating God’s principles. Our relationship with other fellow humans makes us vulnerable. Asking for God’s forgiveness makes a person feel good.
But there is more than just feeling good when forgiven by God––just as John stated; “If a man says, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20 KJV). See [Seven obstacles of Christian faith].
Likewise, seeking God’s forgiveness, without sincerely asking for forgiveness from those against whom one sins is meaningless. God forgave us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8). The test of Christianity also lies in the ability to say “I am sorry” to those against whom one sins––in addition to forgiving one’s own offenders.
In forgiving, one takes full responsibility on wrongs by those inadequately equipped with the knowledge that one is privileged with. The person empathizes with them in their misdemeanours. Anyone regarded as enemy, gets invited for dinner, in order to forgive after appreciating the offender’s standpoint.
“And lead us not into temptation.” It is not possible for God to lead anyone into temptation (James 1:13). Entreating God that way enables appreciating that falling into temptation is as easy as failing to prayerfully apply all the affirmations, as listed in this prayer model.
These proclamations are gradient steps from one to the other. When applying them, one avoids temptations that violate one’s relationship with God. It cannot be possible to attain perfection, without God. To reflect His image, humans need to change, instead of petitioning God to change to meet one’s selfish desires.
The prayer is short, but not in terms of being guided through its content. One may take a full day, in a closet––meditating on its significance, accordingly, taking corrective measures. Alternatively, one uses this prayer model for purposes of praying without ceasing. But the prayer generally leads towards intelligent decisions in all endeavours, as God is intelligent––not susceptible to errors.
Another interesting, but significant observation is that the prayer is plural, as to link other people’s problems with oneself. Their problems become one’s problems as well. Jesus demonstrated this behaviour, dying for all sinners when not a sinner Himself. We fall into problems because of other people’s problems and we receive blessings only when others become blessed.
Back to our original question: How can prayer help in avoiding temptation? Temptations come when the mind is disconnected from God. In this prayer, the person thinks like God. Jesus handled Satan’s temptations after fasting for forty days, also praying incessantly at Gethsemane, constantly seeking God’s will, ahead of His own (Matt 26: 39).
This petition seeks to remove personal desires, in favour of God’s will. Fasting enhances prayerful attitude, as the weakened physical body succumbs without food. This is why exposure to poverty may strengthen one’s relationship with God when realizing the futility of chasing after the material things.
When one is physically weak, he/she becomes spiritually strong––yet when physically secure, the spiritual composure relatively deteriorates. The spirit weakens when assuming safety without God, considering good accommodation, good insurance cover, good financial security, etc.
It could be difficult to convince someone in abject poverty to appreciate that Godlessness is also present in wealthy Christians. A person gripped in abject poverty struggles with Godlessness, due to focus on concerns for physical necessities. Yet, the self-sufficient ones are also known to slither out of faith, due to blessings of material nature.
King Solomon was blessed with everything material, but drifting away from Godly wisdom, towards the end of his tenure. Others fail to maintain spiritual composure due to judging those considered rich, seen as not caring enough. Praying without ceasing is necessary to remain attached to Godly wisdom.
This implies keeping communion with God on every decision in life, meditatively thinking like God. Prayer needs to be accompanied with passionate Bible study. Jesus easily handled the tempter’s schemes, because of His familiarity with scriptures (Matt. 4:4-10).
The common phrase on those bouts of temptations being; “It is written,” showing Christ’s constant connectivity with God’s word. Prayer, with regular Bible study, enhances appreciating that all survival challenges have answers in scriptures. Bible study enables effective appreciation of God’s will.
However, Bible study, prayer and fasting, should not be taken as necessary practices for attaining salvation. These become enjoyable, as happens when involved in an enjoyable pastime. We enjoy eating our favourite meals, not as chore, but because the food is palatably enjoyable. The same applies to prayer and Bible study, which nourish the spirit.
A person who loves God enjoys praying and Bible studying regularly. This is just as successful sports people take rehearsals as hobby––activities which others consider dreary and tiresome. God desires Christians to commit themselves to God’s will. But He also provides latitude for consideration of a person’s own will, ahead of God’s will. It is either God’s will or one’s own will.
God respects people’s choices; though, obviously grieved by choices that lead to people’s destruction. God’s will is supreme over scrupulous discipline in seeking to attain what God has offered unconditionally. We cannot add or subtract God’s will, as what we ask, no matter how appealing, cannot change God’s will.
God expects us to change, instead of us constantly imploring Him to change to suit our selfish programmes. Of paramount importance is purely adopting the faith of Jesus, without working out salvation by our own standards. Unwillingness to break entrenched customs and traditions stifles God’s will. Which is only appreciated when internalizing the significance of Jesus’ prescribed prayer model.
Stephen Neil, Christian Faith and Other Faiths 99 Published by Oxford University Press, 1970
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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