Breaking Habits Through Prayer :: By By Eric Lowther

“Are you struggling with a habit so stubborn that it has a life of its own? A mind that thinks for you, a voice that speaks to you, a power that keeps pulling you down? Nothing brings victory like ‘praying the Word’, for God says, ‘I am watching over my Word to perform it’’ (Jeremiah 1:12 (NASB). So begin each day by praying:

“‘Lord, Your Word says that if I call on You, You will answer me. You will be with me in trouble, You will honor me and You will deliver me (Psalm 91:14-15). You said that through the power of Your indwelling Spirit I would be set free from this vicious cycle of temptation, sin and failure (Romans 8:2). You said if I fully commit my life to You, I’d have the strength to stand up to the devil and he would flee from me (James 4:7).

You said You have given me the power to pull down all my old mental strongholds and take control of every wayward thought, imagination, and impulse (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). You said that by reading Your Word each day and meditating on it, I would become a partaker of Your divine nature, and overcome the destructive tendencies of my flesh (2 Peter 1:3-4).

You said I’d be strengthened in my mind, my emotions and my will; that my self-worth would be based solely on Your love for me; and that You would do exceedingly abundantly above all I could ask or think — because You are at work in me (Ephesians 3:14-21).

“Today I thank You for helping me to overcome this habit. In Jesus Christ’s precious name I pray, Amen. ” — The Word for You Today.

“When God gets ready to do something in the world, He sets His people to praying.” —Anonymous

“Habits” here could just as easily be synonymous with “addictions.” If you are struggling with a habit and/or addiction that has you in spiritual bondage (enslavement), if you are living with guilt from past sins, you are not alone. This is certainly nothing new. Take for example:

We also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another … You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy — their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols” (Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 4:3 NLT)

To live a whole(some) life in Christ, this is what needs to be done (as the apostle Peter advised Simon, who was previously a sorcerer):

“Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity” (Acts 8:22-23).

When one understands repentance and forgiveness is what must be done, the process may take awhile . But this is what God offers you:

“When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared … you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (Titus 3:4; 1 Corinthians 6:11).

One big dilemma that someone who is new in Christ may face is this: “How can I be in Christ, feel like I’m a Christian, a child of God, and yet still struggle with the same old bad habits/addictions?”

I believe part of the answer is that while Christ’s salvation may seem instantaneous to some, salvation initially affects only the spirit, not the body and soul. The fleshly body retains its craving for the old habits/addictions, while the soul struggles with guilt and remorse due to the ongoing undesirable behaviors. It may take months or even years to retrain the body to ‘the new self” and to purge old junky routines, patterns, practices … whatever you want to call them.

To effect the spiritual purity and cleanliness Christ offers, this re-evaluation must take place on a daily basis, a conscious decision whether to go with the spirit or desires of the (carnal) body. Even then, after much cleansing, just like a house that’s been thoroughly cleaned, each day when the morning sun enters, there are still visible scratches on the walls, dust on the baseboards, and scuff marks on the floor.

Even a brand new house will have a bit of debris hanging around; so how much more an old ramshackle building that has been torn apart, gutted from the inside, then rebuilt from the foundation up? Daily prayer, communing with the Holy Spirit, is not only helpful for spiritual housecleaning, it is essential.

Even though one does not want to live in the old habits or “traditions” as Paul wrote to the Romans, one may continue to do so:

“I do not understand what I do [continuing to live in sin]. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do … As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:15,17-20 NIV).

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly [wicked],

Nor stands in the path of sinners nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish” (Psalm 1:1-2, 6).

Rehabilitation centers teach that is essential for ‘addicts’ to stop associating with those who encourage addictive behaviors (known in psychology terms as ‘enablers’). Realistically, this is not always possible. Psalm 1 is both a beatitude and instruction (~or~ law, tôwrâh) for how to live life according to God’s Word. Forget the modern negative connotations of “law” Christians are to delight in living by God’s law/instruction.

In Psalm 1 there is no ambiguity between “righteous” and ‘wicked’ with no gray areas, one either lives life according to God’s Word or one does not. The wicked clearly represent incongruence in the world between the will of God and the will of humans. By not following God, the wicked are living in the wrong by their own autonomy (Job 21:13-15). But this does not mean that those who are anointed by God’s calling should withdraw from society in general, as supposedly recommended by rehab centers.

On the contrary, the anointed may socialize with the wicked, but not to the point of allowing themselves to be influenced by such. After all, Jesus ate with sinners, but did not follow their ways (Mark 2:16-17). And while there are those who argue that ‘The Law’ was overridden by the New Covenant, keep in mind there is a New Testament tôwrâh: the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). For Jesus said, “blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28).

While the above paragraph may seem to have nothing to do with breaking habits, it actually ties in with the moral decisions a Christian faces each day. Some of my mature Christian friends have mentioned that every morning upon awaking they still struggle between the body/flesh & the spirit. They tell me that, even after being in Christ for many years, one must choose early on how the day will proceed. Unfortunately, it is the soul — itself an imperfect being — that has to take ‘middle ground” to cast the “swing vote.” This is why I believe morning prayer and devotional time is vitally important, even if you have to get out of bed at 5a.m. to do so.

Another part of the answer to the big dilemma is this: Dr. Neil Anderson, in his book Released from Bondage, poses the question: “Can we be a bond servant of Christ and at the same time be in bondage to sin?” From my experience the last four years the answer is definitely “Yes!” Neil continues “sadly, many who have been delivered out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son are living as bond servants to both kingdoms.

Even though we are no longer in the flesh because we are in Christ, we can still walk & live according to the flesh if we choose to.” Take note here: if we choose to (Romans 8:5). He goes on to recommend, “If I had to summarize two essential functions that must take place in order for a believer to become free and stay free, they are: 1) take action. Do something about the neutral disposition of your physical body by giving it to God [in other words, don’t be lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16)]; 2) win the battle for your mind by reprogramming it with the truth of God’s Word (Romans 12:1-2).” The bond to the kingdom of darkness must be broken, for one cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24)

Expect to encounter resistance from the enemy. The more you spiritually mature in Christ, the stronger your heartfelt prayers become, the more vicious & numerous the adversary’s attacks will become. In addition to the opening prayer above, pray each day on Ephesians 6:11-18, asking for the Lord’s help in suiting up for the day’s spiritual battles. Be prepared for spiritual warfare, but take only the defensive. The enemy will certainly counter-attack offensively, but always remember: Satan & his entourage are already defeated! They simply can’t stand their circumstances and are continually trying to claw & crawl their way out of the hole that the LORD put them into (Isaiah 14:12-15; Luke 10:18).

Another big part of breaking the habit(s) and/or addiction is forgiving yourself. I’ve found it much easier to forgive others than to accept God’s forgiveness for myself, my own past actions. But there is also a Scriptural truth I must accept: as long as I’m alive & living in society I will have to continue forgiving others and myself (Mark 11:25-26).

Ordinary life is accompanied by experiences of antagonism & hostility that run the gamut of spheres in which life is lived. Opposition can arise anywhere, from inside the family, to the neighborhood, the workplace, even religious communities. In fact, holding on to anger & grudges and not forgiving is tantamount to the worst, most deadly sin: pride & ego. Praying to God for release from the bondage of bad habits and/or addictions, then accepting God’s grace and forgiveness, creates a spirit of humility, making it easier for the spiritually cleansing waters of Christ to flow through us. Only by God’s grace can we be saved, delivered and healed.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works … that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life … For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Titus 2:11-14; 3:7; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Finally, pray faithfully every day, allowing God’s grace and peace to flow into your life. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16):

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Hebrews 12:14-15).

Grace, which is the sanctifying presence of God in an individual person, is available to everyone. Every human person is oriented toward God and possesses the radical capacity to receive the grace of God. Human existence, therefore, is graced existence. We are fully human, yet, by the grace of God, we have the capacity to become more than that, namely, to become partakers of the divine life itself and to share ultimately in God’s eternal glory. —Richard P. McBrien, Lives of the Saints