Sometimes Scripture is our fix-me manual rather than God’s revelation of himself as the only true God. We spend more time in spiritual analysis than we do in prayer. We look for that biblical principle to solve our problem and once we settle into a satisfying insight or self-assessment, we consider the job done. Prayer rarely has the last word.
Biblical counseling, including my own counseling, can be guilty of this. My own life can be guilty of this. It can look good on the surface: I really am trying to think biblically about the daily struggles of life. But, in fact, my system is less than biblical; I live as though God’s job is to give me a relevant principle and then off I go to figure things out. I need less analyzing and more praying! Perhaps an app that gives me a mild shock every half hour would useful. It would remind me to talk through my thoughts, fears and questions with the Lord. In other words: it would remind me to pray.
These can be messy prayers. Here is a single woman’s prayer about sexual temptation:
Lord, here is what is on my heart. I just don’t know what to do. I am so confused about my relationship with this guy. I try to keep my desires in check, but that seems impossible. I want to keep this relationship, which scares me, and I want to stop this relationship, which scares me even more. I am such a mess.
This woman is learning to cast her cares on the One-who-Cares (1 Peter 5:7). Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to figure it all out using biblical principles about purity and temptation, and once we know what to do, there seems to be no reason to pray. After all, who prays, “Okay, Lord, I am going out on a date now. I know what I am supposed to do. Talk to you later.”
Prayer requires more than that.
Recently, I spoke with a woman who is plagued by hallucinatory voices that egg on sinful thoughts. She relies on food to quiet herself. Many would consider her spiritually weak. In one meeting with her, as I offered a biblical analysis of her issues, she asked, “Could I read you some of my prayers?” A few weeks before I had suggested that she begin to write out her prayers, but in the short time we had I was not planning to follow up on that suggestion. I didn’t even remember that I made the suggestion. Then she started reading her prayers.
Jesus, please help me. I am tempted to binge right now. I know it’s wrong, but I have turned to food for so long that it has replaced you. I don’t want to live like this.
Jesus, I had a great conversation with a friend, so I didn’t binge or purge. I am really happy about that. Today I will seek her out again when I am tempted.
Jesus, I blew it so bad today. I stubbornly – rebelliously – turned to food and I didn’t care what you or anyone else said. Food is my refuge. I am so sorry, but I am afraid this could happen again. Thank you for hearing me, and thank you for making the sacrifice for sins once and for all.
I interrupted her after about five minutes because I was late for another appointment. All I could say was, “Thank you. That was just beautiful. Your words have been an inspiration to me and I can’t wait to hear more of them.” Then I prayed for her. She was just the shock I needed, better than any app. She reminded me that spiritual analysis is no substitute for prayer.