8 minute read

“Great Prayers” God Can’t Answer

Last Updated: April 11, 2016

Jon Snyder
Jon Snyder

Jon Snyder is the author of the Mighty Man Manual and founder of Mighty Man Ministries. After battling with lust and pornography since childhood and trying everything under the sun to quit, it was a unique encounter with the love of God and its subsequent lessons that began to unravel a lifetime of bondage and bring about true freedom. Jon now sees these same lessons radically set men free world-over.

“God deliver me out of this sin!” “Increase my willpower, Lord!” “Jesus, make me more spiritual!” Have you ever prayed any of these prayers? As “right” as any of these prayers sound, they all actually reveal unbiblical stumbling blocks in the heart that keep you stuck in sin. I prayed them for years and wondered why God wasn’t answering my prayers. God can’t and won’t answer any of these prayers–at least not the way we think He should. Does that sound shocking?!

Woman hands praying with a bible in a dark over wooden table

As I coach men out of addiction, I regularly see wrong patterns of thinking that God had to correct in my own heart before I was able to navigate clear of lust. So many earnest believers who hate this sin cry out year after year, praying “wrong” prayers and wondering why God isn’t answering their prayers and helping them. After a while, they are tempted to become callous and jaded, wondering if God even cares or if they are really saved and if they are simply beyond hope.

The Bible says that God’s people perish for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). It isn’t that God doesn’t care, it isn’t that you aren’t saved–the Bible says that if the desire to hate sin is present, it is evidence that you have the Spirit in you. So it is just that we need to begin to see from His perspective. All change in behavior comes first with a change in thinking.

 Prayer 1: “God, deliver me out of this sin!”

I’d say 100% of the men who come to this ministry have the impression that this sin is a HUGE issue and they are trapped under it trying to get out. But what is God’s perspective?

Jesus defeated sin once and for all. If you are in Him, you are already a victor, more than a conqueror (Ro. 8:37)! You died to sin (Ro. 6:2, 6:11, 1 Pe. 2:24). You died to what you were held by so that you can live in the newness of the Spirit (Ro. 7:6), and you must consider yourself dead to sin once and for all. The list of verses that prove the finality of Christ’s victory is endless.

The finished work of Christ is the backbone of the Gospel. If you aren’t fully persuaded that Jesus won this victory already, and that He who began a good work in you will complete it (Php. 1:6), the devil has stolen the very foundation you need to walk in victory. The enemy has made victory a question mark rather than a certainty.

The same men who would unwaveringly defend the fact that Christ died to save mankind will waver at the rest of the promises associated with the Gospel. In Luke 4:18, Jesus lists all the reasons He came. Salvation is just the first of six complete works. He didn’t accomplish salvation and fail at the rest; so we can be equally confident that His victory in us is certain and complete.

I tell the men who come to our ministry that their starting point will dictate their finish line. If you are fighting for freedom rather than from freedom you will fail because you already see yourself under the power of the enemy. This is a spiritual agreement with a lie that empowers the enemy. It shows your reality isn’t the Bible’s reality. Even though the Bible says your old man is dead, those who still approach this sin as though it has power over them are resurrecting the old man rather than living from the resurrection power of Christ.

But if you are fighting from freedom, you will do what you are called to do as a child of God: destroy the works of the enemy. If you know you are a victor, you will start to act like one. I promise you, when you start to realize you are not a carnal man any longer, you may just start acting like a son of the Most High.

“Deliver me out of this sin” isn’t a “legal” prayer for a Christian. God can’t answer it because He already answered it when Jesus won the victory; and to pray it only shows we don’t really believe it or know who we are in Him. So a better prayer would be:

“Father, cause my soul to realize the freedom that Christ purchased for me. Teach me to see myself as free so that sin should have no space in my heart; and to cast down every lie I’m tempted to believe based on my feelings or experience that doesn’t line up with the Word of God. Teach me and train my soul to know what it is to walk with You and live as a son rather than as a slave to sin.”

Prayer 2: “Increase my willpower, Lord!”

I’ve had men say to me, “I don’t understand, I have such strong willpower in other areas, but I just can’t overcome this sin.” I can’t count the number of men who come to our ministry who share this common idea that when they’ve “arrived,” when they are spiritual enough, when their willpower is strong enough… then they’ll finally be able to resist the strength of this temptation.

That’s not how this works. The Bible says in Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts.” Over and over the Bible teaches that by the Spirit we put to death the deeds and desires of the flesh (Ro. 8:13, Ga. 3:3, Ga. 5:16). This isn’t a battle of willpower or one that can be won in the flesh–this is a battle for the Spirit to win through us.

Man’s strength and willpower, no matter how strong and hyped up you may feel at any given time, will fade and invariably falter. So when the Bible tells us to flee lust, it doesn’t remotely imply that we do this in our own will, might and power apart from the volumes of other Biblical teaching that tell us to learn to walk in the Spirit to see victory.

Trying to fight sin with willpower is like trying to fight a fire with a wax sword. You may get in a few good swings, but that sword will melt like a candle sooner or later.

If God were to allow you to find victory through your own willpower, you’d be far worse-off in the end. You’d be a Pharisee, cut off from the power of the New Covenant. Jesus condemned the Pharisees because they had the act down but didn’t know the Father. God won’t allow you to become a Pharisee; and He won’t allow you to get free apart from relationship–because that is why He created you in the first place.

Even if you could get free from this apart from deeper relationship with God, what then? You’d be lacking the foundation for what comes next in life; because He didn’t design your calling to work apart from relationship with Him either.

Don’t get trapped in the lie that your relationship with God will be better when you’re no longer struggling with sin. Your relationship with God will get better when you make it a priority to spend more time with Him.

Sin is supposed to propel you into relationship and intimacy with God, not drive you from Him! We are supposed to run to the throne of grace to find help in time of need, not from the throne of grace when we feel dirty. Jesus died and gave us His righteousness so that we can run to God without having been perfected in the flesh so that we can receive the things from Him we need to get free!

Prayer 3: “Jesus, make me more spiritual.”

Many men get this idea that if it isn’t about willpower or a stronger mind or a stronger flesh, then God will just make the temptations go away. Or if they can just become spiritual enough, they’ll float effortlessly over sin and temptation, and temptation won’t be tempting any longer. I hate to burst your bubble… but here it goes.

This is a similar mentality to when the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith (Lu. 17:5). What was Jesus’ answer? “Hey, great prayer, guys. You are on the right track.” No. Jesus rebuked the disciples for that prayer–their answer wasn’t about them having greater faith. Rather Jesus redirected their faith from themselves back to its proper place: Him.

Christians have this notion we have to get more powerful and spiritual. That is just an excuse to keep living the way you are living until “God does something.” God has already given us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Pe. 1:3). You are as spiritual as you are ever going to get!

When you got saved you received the Holy Spirit, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and all of Christ’s righteousness. The Bible says you literally become the righteousness of Christ (2 Co. 5:21). You can’t improve on spiritual perfection. Even in heaven, you will not possess a more superior righteousness or spirituality than you have now in Christ! Your good works don’t make the Holy Spirit more spiritual; and your bad words don’t make the Holy Spirit dirty.

This whole idea of a more spiritual, stronger version of you is actually spiritual idolatry. I call it “The Idol of Potential Future You.” It is the version of yourself you believe will finally be acceptable before God based on works rather than Christ’s completed work. This idealized version of yourself has all the answers, is totally acceptable based on self-performance and self-perfection, and finally feels “qualified” to do all the things for God you’ve put off doing until the day you become your idol. In short, this thing is the version of you that no longer needs a relationship with Jesus.

This idol has to die before your sin can. If God were to allow you to get free from sin while this thing was still in your heart, He’d be confirming your idol and reinforcing the stronghold of your insecurities. Likewise God’s plan isn’t for the temptation to go away so that you no longer need to walk with Him. Victory over sin is just the training grounds for all of life and your calling. None of it is designed to work apart from relationship and intimacy with God.

If you’ve been living under the lie that God still needs to give you something He hasn’t already given, or you need to be somehow more powerful in and of yourself or you need anything other than a closer walk with the Lord, a better way to pray is as follows:

“Father, I thought I needed more of me. It turns out I needed more of You. Forgive me. I thank You that You have given me all things that pertain to life and godliness in Christ; in Him, I am complete; teach me to walk in the Spirit–to do life and each moment with You. Fill my heart with the joy and excitement of all the possibilities of a life lived in the Spirit. Teach me to count my life as a prize and treasure each moment.”

Walking in the Spirit

Walking in the Spirit isn’t mystical or weird. It has two main components: truth and time. First, we put on the new man as the Bible tells us to do over and over. We put on the belt of truth–the truth of who we are in Christ and reject every lie about ourselves and our position before God that doesn’t line up with what the Bible says about us. Walking in and agreeing with our “spiritual reality” in Christ is the first step to walking in the Spirit, and it’s the foundation for the next step: intimacy.

Intimacy with God, abiding in Him, doing life and dialoguing with Him 24/7: this is the other component to walking in the Spirit. Here we receive the things our soul has been deprived of when pornography provided a counterfeit. We receive the healing of the heart wounds that keep us bound to sin. We develop a love and zeal for God stronger than the pulls and pangs of lust. In this place, we learn to love ourselves with God’s love–which then makes it impossible to use others for our own selfish gratification.

Receiving God’s love, living from the power of our identity in Christ, learning to walk in the Spirit and so many of these other things mentioned in this article (and other lessons that we don’t have space in this article to go into) were critical lessons as the Lord led me out of lust and into an amazing and powerful life of intimacy with Him.

If you’d like to go deeper in any of these areas, the Mighty Man Manual by Jon Snyder and its companion workbook may be great resources for you. Visit www.mightymanministries.com for more information; and remember: your starting point will determine your finish line. Blessings!

  • Comments on: “Great Prayers” God Can’t Answer
    1. Craig White

      Great material, right on spot. In dealing with my sexual purity problems, the solution was to realize my position, “in Christ” and to learn day by day to walk in the Spirit. With God’s covering which I receive by being “in Him” and walking in the spirit helping me to live life a day at a time for a single audience of one – The Lord. It was incredible to see that all I needed, I already had, I just needed to do life “In Him”. I also realized that this is not a quick fix, it takes time.

    2. Jocelyn Ghazzawi

      I praise and thank God, the One Creator of all of us. I want to share that I am convinced that the bible is not the books that God Gave to Moses and Jesus, I ask God humbly to Bless both of those noble men. Please consider that a man was born after Jesus, named Muhammad, and that God Spoke to Muhammad and Gave him a scripture called the Holy Quran. I read an English translation of the Holy Quran back in 1983, and I was convinced that this was REALLY a Holy Book from God, unaltered. God Said to Muhammad that He Knows that people changed the Books that He Gave to Moses and Jesus, and God Gave another Book, and Promised that He would Preserve this Book. In this Book God Said that He is One and has no partner and no children. We are all His creations. God Told us to worship Him only and to only pray to Him, not to Jesus or Muhammad or any human. God never referred to Himself as “father”, but rather Told us that He is our Merciful Creator, and no one other than Him Creates even a fly. God Said that He Hears everyone when they speak and He Sees everyone, always. God Said that He never sleeps, and slumber does not hit Him. We fervently believe that the Message that God Gave Jesus is the same that He Gave Muhammad. We don’t believe that Jesus died yet, but that God Raised Jesus up physically when people wanted to kill him, and another man was killed instead. We believe that God Will make Jesus come back to earth, to finish his earthly life, and Jesus will preach as Moses and Muhammad preached: telling people to worship God only and telling people what the sins are, urging people to not sin, and telling people how to repent of sins. I really hope that God Makes Jesus come back in your lifetime and you hear from Jesus the truth about God as I just explained.

      • Steve

        Jocelyn, I hope you are still checking the responses to your post. Thank you for your spiritual input! Even Mohammed was not sure he was going to heaven when he was dying. It is the matter of atonement for sin. If your Muslim brothers who kill others and themselves are going to heaven to have many virgins, what about for you? What awaits you in heaven? It is still about atonement. Many people believe that if I join the right religion, church, mosque, do the daily rituals, weekly meetings, baptism, or if I am a good person, I will go to heaven. I could never atone for my sins, past, present or future. Scripture tells me that when I sin today I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, The Righteous. “He died for all, the Just for the unjust, as an atoning sacrifice for sin.” St.John 1:12 says that, “as many as received Him (Jesus Christ), to them He gave power to become the children of God, even those who believe on His Name.” It is my faith in Jesus The Christ that will save me when I die, not my self goodness or my efforts to please God. I could never do enough good deeds to wipe out my past and future sins. Thank you for caring enough about my soul to offer your message. I am at peace and very secure in Christ! I pray you would consider Jesus because your current beliefs will not be enough. Steve

      • David

        Dear Jocelyn, I realise the Covenant Eyes ministry web-site isn’t really the place to be debating the authenticity of Scripture, but the revelation you described to us regarding the Quran was repeated with the Book of Mormon & The Pearl of Great Price by Joseph Smith. Mr Smith essentially said, everything you said, Muhammad said! What marks The Word of God as distinct and truly holy is it’s origin, it’s history, and it’s proven results in people’s lives. I won’t be reading the Quran or the Book of Mormon to help me overcome my sexual sin – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16 The power to overcome sin lies in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His true Word, and the ministry of The Holy Spirit. That’s what both you and I need. No where else…

      • J

        Dear Jocelyn,
        I respect your right to follow Islam and I appreciate that you also believe pornography is bad. However, this site was built by Christians with an aim at helping other Christians who are struggling with this very powerful addiction. The last thing I (and other Christians going through this addiction) need is to be told that their faith is wrong. I have my faith and your words will not sway me, likewise I understand that you have your faith and I more than likely will not sway you with my words. I was offended by your post, but I have since forgiven you. I know that in the Quran, God (Allah) loves believers but does not love non-believers; but in my Bible, my God loves all humans – believers and non-believers alike; he loves you just as much as he loves me, and everyone else who is reading this article. Also, don’t forget that I love you as a being created in the image of God as my Lord Jesus Christ commanded me to. God Bless you Jocelyn.

      • After reading your response I thought about you …how in your response, you are actually showing love towards others by trying to reach out. Your sincere hopes for us seem obviously genuine and that is admirable. I wanted to explain something though. The life and death of Jesus was prophesied in earlier written scripture years before He came on the scene. If your belief is that another man would die in his place what would really be the point? If that happened, then are we to believe that Jesus will come back again and live out the prophecies that were spoken of Him, and then, would He die for our sins at that time? According to the scriptures, His death was to atone for our sins. So then, to have a mock death (someone other than Jesus) and then to have Jesus translated into Heaven, to return on a later date is not lining up. If He returned on a later date, would it be then, that the scriptures would be fulfilled. The scriptures are clear, that he would be wounded for our transgressions and He (not another) would die for our sins. Think about this would you. See the scriptures below:

        Isaiah 53:3 3 He was despised and rejected 2 by men; a man of sorrows, 3 and acquainted with 4 grief; 5 and as one from whom men hide their faces 6 he was despised, and we esteemed him not. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.
        6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression[a] and judgment he was taken away.
        Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

        There are many scriptures that point to the Lord dying for us. Not Mohammed. I think the problem with adding and(or) removing text is that Isaiah is not in the Quran, right? Jesus earthly life and cause of death are verifiable, by eyewitnesses many who were put to death, and by others who risked their lives rather than to say otherwise. I know this might be hard for you to accept, but I’m praying for you to have a confrontation with the Holy Spirit as you seek and search.

        I had planned to respond to this message but I thought your response was worth tackling. Now I have written too much and I am tired. I will write again concerning how well Jon explained his points. I was really moved and I feel more hope now, than what I felt before.

        Its funny this article is about loving God out of our issues. Now we have a neighbor that shows up intending to show us love. Let us show Him Your Love Lord. Amen!!

      • Helen

        Oh what evers


        You don’t believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and certainly don’t read his only word THE HOLY BIBLE. You speak the same words of people who oppose Jesus when he walked the earth. The Holy scriptures tell the truth when it says it is impossible for unbelievers to understand or discern the Bible.

    3. Phenomenal article Jon. Just phenomenal! God showed this proper perspective to me as a rebuke about 3 years ago. Caught in the trap of spiritual idolatry (aka a religious spirit), He set me free with exact teaching. Now I also get to witness men’s lives change from habituation to failure and ego-centric spirituality, to pure freedom in Christ. Again, this teaching is in desperate need in the church and in counselor-counselee settings. I thank Jesus for you and your passion to see others experience true Christ-Purchased FREEDOM! A+++++

    4. Andrew

      Hi Jocelyn, appreciate you giving feedback to this article. I can see from previous posts that you believe pornography is wrong. I agree also. You can also read in this article that Jesus died so we would have forgiveness of those sins and many other sins. But you don’t believe Jesus died but that God took him to heaven. My question to you is why did people want to kill Jesus? People wanted to kill him because he claimed to be the Son of God. Even books other than the bible testify to that he claimed this. Jesus said that he and the Father were one. So if he claimed these things, and according to you he was not the Son of God, could he then be a prohet of God? He would then either be the Son of God or a liar. Which do you believe?

    5. This is an amazing article, and has given me much food for meditation. I have the Mighty Man Manual, and keep putting it aside for yet another book that others recommend that I read. Sounds like I need to move it up on my priority list.

    6. Wow. I’m really struggling with temptation at the moment, and was looking for something to help. This is VERY helpful. Thank you!

    7. George A.

      Thanks so much for your love of truth and for putting this article out there for us.
      It is helping me greatly to actualize my faith in Christ. Defeat is certainly one of the most powerful tools in Satan’s arsenal.

    8. i wish to remain anonymous

      I’m sorry, but it seems that Jon Snyder’s opinion is in direct conflict with what Luke Gilkerson has written here at this page. https://www.covenanteyes.com/2014/02/28/hypofrontality/ Luke Gilkerson says that we need to build willpower. He writes, “informed by the process of how our brains can change, the addict can avoid porn and fantasy knowing that real change is possible. Change is built into the very fabric of our brains. Change is exactly what our brains are designed to do…”

      I’m not trying to criticize anyone. I’m simply saying that either Jon Snyder’s opinion is correct, or Luke Gilkerson’s opinion is correct. Why are there seemingly contradictory views on the website?

    9. runaway shepherdess

      Jon, I believe your view is the scriptural one. Willpower is not capable of mortifying the deeds of the flesh and cannot sustain in the long run. I imagine there is a place for it, but when it amounts to do it yourself bootstrap Christianity, then its an endless battle where victory is lost if you relax but for a moment. It has to be `on Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand“. I have never heard anyone talk about this self idolatry but you are right and I am struggling with it right now. I can`t figure it. I turned to Christ and then suddenly was off and running pursuing self, and figured I was now set to be able to be that person I had always wanted to be but never thought I could be. I find that I want the victory, but I want it to be my victory and for the credit and glory to go to me; as in, because she was so valiant and courageous, she overcame. I guess that`s different than `they overcame by the blood of the lamb`. Frankly I find this thing with myself a pain in the rear, like having to drag an annoying relative along like Eustace in the Narnia series. It is just so all about me and I am completely stuck in this spider web of not being able to let go of that self idol. I hope that doesn`t mean I am not saved but it is shocking how cold it makes my heart towards God and how easily I could just grab the goodies and run off somewhere.

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