How Come My Prayers for Help With Sexual Lust Don’t Get Answered?

Have you ever prayed that God would deliver you from sexual lust and temptation? Have you read scripture, gone to Bible studies and church groups, or gone down to the altar numerous times to get help or rededicate your life? I have worked with countless men who have agonized over why God doesn’t seem to help them. They have tried all kinds of strategies to get God to help them. I even knew a man once who was so frustrated with his pornography addiction–and I’m not making this up–he actually followed through on the biblical advice to pluck your eye out if it offends you.

How long have I been praying about this?

For 25 years I prayed and prayed for help from God for my sexual addiction. The first time was when I was 12. I had been looking at pornography for a year, stealing magazines from the local drug store. At the closing bonfire of a church camp that summer, I threw a piece of paper with the words “Playboy Magazine” on it into the fire. The camp director assured us that the Holy Spirit would consume our sin and we wouldn’t have to deal with it again. Three days later I stole another magazine.

When I was 16 I went to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp and dedicated my life to Christ and His ministry. In return, I was hoping that God would simply wipe away my lust. Simultaneously, I hoped he would turn me into a professional tennis player. Several months later, I was matched up against a guy who was a year younger than me–someone named Jimmy Connors–in the Illinois State High School tennis tournament. Playing at a much higher level, Connors beat me and gave me a wake up call that God does not always answer our prayers with miraculous intervention.

Next, I hoped that by entering seminary and becoming a minister, God would take away my lust and sexual sin. Ministers don’t struggle with this problem, or so I thought. I did more sexual acting out in seminary than I had before. I was really angry with God that He wasn’t helping me.

Finally, I thought that marriage would save me. Paul says, after all, in I Corinthians 7 that it is better to get married than to struggle with sexual lust. When my patterns with pornography and masturbation continued after the honeymoon, I was really in a mess. Was it my wife’s fault? Had I married the wrong woman? Was it God’s fault? Was it my fault? Was I not doing something right?

The hidden barriers

In short, I had several spiritual choices. Some of them led me further down roads of sexual sin. If God really wanted me to be pure, I thought, He would take away my lust. In some twisted way I blamed God and everyone else that I was not getting well and this gave me, in my mind, justification to sin sexually.

The real problem was that my own spirituality was totally immature. I had given parts of my life to Christ, but not others. I thought that God could magically deliver me from all inappropriate sexual thinking if He wanted to. I depended on the “highs” of sexual excitement and I didn’t trust God to be able to do better. There was a real spiritual struggle going on inside me, one that I really didn’t recognize. A large part of me wanted to be free of sexual sin, another part didn’t. I wanted God to heal me without any pain, without any work, without any consequences, and without any sacrifice.

Why couldn’t God heal me in a way that I would never be sexually tempted again? Why couldn’t God just remove all sexual temptation from the world? Why was it so hard? At other times, I was really angry with others who didn’t seem to know how to help me. A number of pastors and counselor gave me simplistic answers; that I should just repent more or believe more or try harder. I was feeling like a victim.

Part of the problem was that I was using sex to deal with my feelings of loneliness. Sex was equal to love. It was the only way I knew how to relate in what I thought was an intimate way. I had no friends who knew the real me. My sexual sin was making it worse. Who could I tell what was going on inside me? My life was a vicious downward spiraling cycle. This was not God’s problem. It was mine.

Steps toward healing

My first step required understanding original sin. It was my pride that kept me in darkness. I thought I could provide myself with relief better than God could. I didn’t trust Him that a relationship with one woman for a lifetime was enough. I didn’t trust him that a accountability relationships with other men would meet my needs for intimacy. The story of the healing of the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda was important for me. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” Did I want to get well at any cost?

In Romans 12:1-2 Paul tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. He also says that we must transform our thinking not to conform to the patterns of the world. It is important to remember that the world teaches us that sex is the answer to loneliness. It isn’t. That is a lie. I had to transform my thinking. I had to be willing to consider the possibility that sex wasn’t my most important need and that I could live without it if I had to.

The next step was to consider what James instructs us in 5:16. We must confess our sins to one another. This is not so that we can find punishment but so that we can find fellowship. Paul tells us that there is not sin that is not common to man. There are countless men and women who struggle with sexual sin. We can find an answer to our loneliness through fellowship with other Christians who really know us and who know what it is like to struggle themselves. Are you willing to find fellowship with others who struggle like you? Are you willing to sacrifice your fears of what might happen if others know about your struggles? The truth is that fellowship is equal to freedom from lust.

Sexual response is a normal part of our human makeup. It is normal and natural to be tempted. God calls us to live in the world but to not be of the world. Like the writer of the Psalms, there are times when it’s OK to be angry. God hears that and understands. We must be honest enough with God to allow for true intimacy with Him and with others to take place.

We must be willing, therefore, to sacrifice our selfish desires for instant gratification. The final step in the spiritual journey of healing is to create for ourselves a vision of what God wants us to be. He wants us to be monogamous in marriage because He knows that a lifetime relationship with one person that is emotionally and spiritually connected is much more satisfying that anything else.

In Ephesians 5, Paul teaches us that the relationship of a man and woman in marriage is like the relationship of Christ and the Church. This is not a vision of rampant sexual submissiveness to each other, this is a vision of being willing to die for each other whether sex is wonderful or not. A spiritual journey of healing from lust doesn’t mean all the things we tell ourselves not to do. It consists of telling ourselves all the things we should do to live a life consistent with God’s calling.

Are you willing to sacrifice your lust totally to God? Are you willing to say if you never had another sexual encounter you would be satisfied? My experience is that if you are, you will find a joy that is beyond description. The truth is that God does answer prayer. It usually is not in the manipulative ways that we would like. It is more often the result of the humility in which we come to Him asking him to truly do whatever it takes to help us get well.

A closing note about professional help

In many circumstances, a Christian counselor can help you identify the scope of your problem and guide you through the process of recovery. Your openness with a professional may be the key to unlocking areas that keep you from fully surrendering to God. Often men and women who struggle with lust have childhood wounds or developmental immaturity that has not been addressed. For example, a harsh and abusive earthly father can create the type of wounds that make it difficult to trust a loving and gracious heavenly Father. A Christian counselor can help someone in that position to understand those wounds and move towards healing.

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