As long as we are human we are going to be confronted with issues of sin and temptation, often a besetting sin or a particularly difficult time of temptation. Sometimes we (or someone for whom we pray) need a special strength to deal with things such as a bad attitude or anger at someone. Other times we or they may be struggling with a moral issue, or pride. If we happen to be praying for someone else’s sin or temptation, the first thing we should do as intercessors is try to identify with the particular struggle of the petitioner, even if the temptation they are facing is not one with which we personally wrestle. In fact, identification with the one for whom we pray may be even more important if we don’t struggle in the same area.
Jesus was without sin and yet He has so fully identified with our sin and our struggles that He can intercede before God’s throne for us with passion. His example of identification helps us in the following ways:
1. Identification with the temptations others face helps us to be humble as we pray. We may not be tempted in that exact way, but we know what it is like to face temptation, and even to fall in the midst of it. We know we need God’s grace as much as they do, and we use this humble identification to pray passionately for God’s grace and strength to meet them in their area of weakness.
2. Identification keeps us from judging the sin of others. The Pharisee prayed: “Thank you that I am not like that man”, and received condemnation for himself. What he really needed was to be like that man—humble, repentant, and dependent on God’s mercy. When we identify with others as a fellow strugglers, in need of God’s mercy and grace, we, again can pray from hearts which deeply feel their need, and embrace their dependence on God to supply strength to face the temptation.
3. Identification ignites our compassion. When we identify with the pain, shame, weakness or desire for holiness that others may have, our hearts reach out to them. We can then mobilize that compassion into more fervent prayer.
4. By tapping into our identification with the petitioner’s need, we will find it easier to know how to pray for them. We will more readily remember how God met our own struggle, what encouragements we needed, what scriptures strengthened us, what truth the Holy Spirit breathed to our spirits, how it felt to fail, what shame or condemnation the enemy may have tried to heap upon us. These memories will fuel our intercession.
Paul reminds us that there is no temptation we face that is not common to mankind. We don’t have to wrestle against the world, flesh, and devil all alone. As we pray for others we have the privilege to join their battle with them, and call on our victorious Savior to deliver them in their time of need.
In the instruction on prayer Jesus gave to His disciples, He said that we should pray that we would not even enter into temptation. I wonder how many fewer sins we would commit by avoiding the temptation completely if we would follow this principle in our prayers for ourselves and our intercessions for others.
As we prepare to intercede in terms of besetting sins and temptations, we would do well to take a time of self-examination to allow God to search our hearts for any matters in which He would want to bring conviction. Do we have a besetting sin with which we battle? Is there an area of temptation which is troubling us right now? Have we stumbled in anything? Are we discouraged because of repeated failure in some part of our walk with the Lord?
Another thing to examine is our attitude regarding the sins and temptations of others, particularly those where we don’t have a tendency to struggle ourselves. Do we ever feel superior when we see someone else tempted or stumble where we are strong? Do we have difficulty “identifying” with them in their weakness?
The Bible cautions us to deal with others gently when they sin, lest we find ourselves falling under the same temptation. And even if we remain immune to what troubles them, any judgmental spirit on our part is a sign of pride, which the Lord says He resists. The last thing we need, as intercessors, or in our walk with the Lord, is to fall under the resistance of God.
Very often those called to intercession have strong gifts of discernment. God has given that gift to intercessors so they can get to the heart of the matter and pray specifically. Unfortunately the discernment into the faults of others can turn to judgmentalism or a critical spirit when not brought under the control of the Holy Spirit. We need to learn to keep the use of this gift under the Spirit’s direction, operate it from a position of humility and in identification with the weaknesses of others.
Here are some examples of prayers we can pray as we pray for ourselves or others in regard to sin and temptation:
1. May we not even enter temptation in the first place. Guard us from our besetting sins.
2. Deliver us from the evil one and all his deceptions.
3. When we are tempted, fill our minds with Your truth and your Word.
4. When we are tempted, may we automatically turn to You in prayer for the strength we need to resist.
5. May we not grow weary when the battle to overcome temptation is long. May we persevere through the trial.
6. May we not lose heart or become discouraged if we stumble, instead may we repent and renew our dependence on You to help us overcome our temptation.
7. Forgive us when we judge others when they stumble, instead of humbly holding them accountable, encouraging them to repent and continue to depend upon You, and praying for them. Enable us to have the courage to do this.
8. Help us to be wise and aware of the snares of the world, the flesh and the devil.
9. Grow us in the compassion, identification, humility, and discernment necessary to be effective intercessors, encouragers and exhorters.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries