This post has been updated as of May 2021.
Over the years, I must have asked God over a thousand times to set me free from lust and pornographic addiction. To no avail.
I just couldn’t understand why I seemingly received no help or response from God after asking Him for something that should line up with His word. It made me question everything:
- What’s wrong with me?
- Doesn’t God care how hard I’m trying?
- Why won’t God help me?
- Has He abandoned me?
- Am I too dirty and rejected for God’s help?
I knew these questions didn’t align with what I read about God in His word. I knew this in my head at least, but my heart was confused and frustrated. Did I have to clean up my act before God would help and accept me? I knew that wasn’t the Gospel either. But I was stuck and tired of “trying harder.”
So why wasn’t God answering this “good prayer?”
Answer: My heart wasn’t really asking what my mouth was praying, and God was answering the cries of my heart.
Open Heart Surgery the “Great Physician Style”
Our sins are equated with wounds more times than can be counted in the Bible. God’s desire is to heal the wounds of our heart that cause us to sin. It is easy for God to heal our hearts–He’s the Great Physician, after all.
If we need heart surgery in the natural, the surgeon must cut through layers to get to the heart: skin, muscle tissues, tendons, etc. The same principle exists in healing the spiritual heart. There are often layers that God must deal with first–things your heart is crying out for that you may not even be aware of.
God heals as He sends forth His word (Psalm 107:20), and the word of God is like a surgeon’s scalpel, “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
God answers the prayers of the heart, not the words of the mouth. We don’t understand this because the heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9-10, Romans 7:15) and we don’t always know its intentions over what we think we need.
God is Spirit–He, therefore, operates at the spirit level, not the surface level. He’s always working, always ready to send forth His word and heal you. He simply does it with wisdom higher than ours. He operates and answers prayers in His divine order and understanding rather than the order in which we think He should operate.
We need discernment to get on God’s page rather than assume that He needs to get on ours. One of the best pieces of spiritual advice I ever received was from a Bible school teacher I had, “If God isn’t talking about what you want, find out what He wants to talk about.” That is so simple, yet so profound.
When I started caring more about what God wanted to work on in my heart, I was letting the Surgeon decide what needed to be cut first in order to expose the deeper issues. I discovered why God’s timing and order is perfect.
Related: “Great Prayers” God Can’t Answer
3 Heart Cries That Take Precedence
If God had answered my prayers for deliverance from lust before He addressed other foundational heart cries, the results would have been disastrous. God actually knows what He’s doing and doesn’t need my “great wisdom” or help (or sarcasm) to guide Him.
The following are a few examples of issues God needed to heal in my life before He could begin working on the lust addictions. These by no means are all the issues I had, nor all the issues that may be common to man. In fact, the Mighty Man Manual goes into greater detail on these and other issues.
These are, however, foundational issues I’ve found that most of the men who come through our ministry can relate to. When you read and understand them, it should become clear why these must be dealt with first.
The Cry for Worth
We live in a performance-based society. When we don’t perform well, we are often scorned, rejected, and devalued by men. When we perform well, we’re often honored, esteemed, and valued. In the world, our value system and self-worth can become tied to performance.
But God doesn’t value us like the world does. We are wrongly tempted to conclude when using carnal measure and thinking in our heart-of-hearts that when we’ve sinned and blown it time and again, we are less valuable. This attitude is made manifest in the person who beats themselves up after sinning and just feels like dirt. Ever done that? God needs to do some open-heart surgery on that.
God needed to heal this heart cry for worth before He could work on the other issues that caused lust. You see, God doesn’t save and deliver us to make us valuable. He saves and delivers us because we are valuable. To be trapped in a worldly values system overturns God’s entire paradigm of worth.
In Lamentations 4, God mourns over how “the precious sons of Zion, weighed against fine gold, are regarded as earthen jars.” He equates their sin to pouring out precious stones in the streets (verses 1-2). He’s saying that if we knew our worth, we wouldn’t sin–we sin because we don’t know our value or that of others.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6). He counted our value, even in sin, to be worth the life of Christ. He saw your life as a good value–a good trade. There’s not time enough to list all God says about our worth or the fact that we, having died to sin once and for all through the blood of our Lord, are undiminished in our value even when we’ve fallen into sin.
However, to the soul that doesn’t know their worth, though their lips say, “God set me free from sin,” their heart cries, “God make me valuable in Your sight.” God must answer that heart cry first and teach that soul their immense worth.
Understand then: what would happen to that soul if while they believed their performance gave them worth, God would allow them to perform, to gain victory over sin? Disaster. That performance idol would be reinforced. That individual would go deeper and deeper into performance-based, Pharisaical living in bondage to their works rather than the liberty of Christ.
Do you see the wisdom of God’s divine order as He heals our heart and delivers us from sin?
The Cry for Blessing and Not Cursing
In the world, good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished. How many parents have “bribed” their way through various events, “If you are good, you’ll get a treat”? We carry these beliefs that God will bless us if we’re good and punish us if we’re bad into our spiritual life as well.
Does God chasten those He loves? Yes, of course. But chastening, when studied in the Bible, is for those who are in rebellion and refusing a relationship that lovingly and gently corrects our weakness and immaturity–not for those earnestly seeking God.
We can’t manipulate God’s blessing by being good or working the system like we can with earthly parents. We can’t earn blessing through our works. We don’t get “spiritual brownie points” when we’re good that we can cash in for favor. God’s favor is because He favors us. Through faith in Christ’s work, we receive the promises and blessing of God.
But despite the clear Biblical teaching, a lot of fear of cursing remains in the church and many still believe blessing comes from being bless-worthy.
Blessing and cursing are both settled issues in Christ. God has blessed us (past tense) with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Every passage about blessing in the New Testament is past-tense and Christ-based through grace, not works. Likewise, Galatians 3:13 settles the issue of curses forever, stating, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us.”
So we understand, the Law which was contrary to us, having been fulfilled, canceled, nullified, and done away with as the scriptures teach over and over, no longer has the power to bring a curse. The enemy has been disarmed and made powerless, unable to bring a charge against God’s elect.
And even if he could, the righteous requirements of the Law have been fulfilled in us, Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to our account, also adding to our account all the blessings and promises of God which are “yes and amen” in Him. Praise God.
So we, being under grace, now have something amazing: space and time to overcome sin, no longer living under fear that our sins will curse us and our performance will bless us. God is now able to lead us by the heart and not by the hand, by love and not by fear.
But for the soul that doesn’t know this in their heart-of-hearts, oh the dread and regret they feel after sinning. The self-deceiving desire to get it right for selfish reasons of spiritual gain–these desires lurk below the conscious-level thought. Thus the lips pray, “God set me free from sin,” but the heart cries out, “Don’t curse me. Deliver me so I can be blessed.”
Understand what would happen to this soul were God to allow them breakthrough while in this condition: they’d be steeped in their spiritual manipulation, striving to “buy” their blessing and position with God by their works and their latter state would be more devastating than that of a simple soul struggling with sin.
The Cry for Access to God
The world teaches that when we’ve wronged someone that we are “in the doghouse” with them until some arbitrary time when they’ve decided to forgive and forget. We feel this same spirit of shame permeate our relationship with God.
How often after we’ve sinned, like Adam and Eve, do we “hide” from God (often spiraling into sin for hours, days, and weeks before we come crawling back)? How different is our response from God’s invitation to “boldly come to the throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16)?
If God were to keep us from His presence when we’ve sinned, He’d have cut us off from the very thing we need to overcome sin. It is by the Spirit we put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13), not by our own works, will, or might.
Does God keep us at arm’s length when we’ve sinned? No. Our High Priest, Jesus, lives to make intercession for us, therefore He is able to save those who draw near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25).
This means when we’ve blown it the worst, the right posture isn’t shame or groveling or hiding from God, but to excitedly run to God with the expectation of mercy, help, and life-changing power. At our worst, Christ intercedes for us and provides unrestricted access to the very lap of love where change happens and freedom is found.
But to the soul still steeped in shame, though their lips say, “God set me free from sin,” their heart cries, “God, do You still love me after I sin? Do You accept me?” God must answer that soul’s heart cry first that they may know it is all about Christ and not about them. Otherwise, they will build a life and ministry on their strength and steal the glory that only belongs to God.
God Has Not Ignored Your Cries
Do you see from these few examples the wisdom and perfect order of God’s dealings with us? Do you see that though you’ve been crying for deliverance, He hasn’t abandoned you or ignored your cries? Can you trust His love is great enough to accept you fully, yes fully, despite this sin in your life, while He works on these deeper, foundational issues of your heart?
So how do we get started? If you can relate to any of these issues, a good place to start is to spend some time with the Father, confess these sins and receive His healing and forgiveness. Then ask Him to give revelation of what He’s working on in your life now and allow the Spirit to lead you in wisdom, understanding, and healing.
If you’d like more detailed teaching on these and other foundational issues, the Mighty Man Manual by Jon Snyder may be a great resource as it follows a progression of deliverance from foundational truths like these, growing in the love and grace of God, followed by teaching on dealing with temptations, then getting to the core issues and healing the heart wounds that keep us bound to sin and finally, living in freedom as we walk in the truth of our position in Christ. Real and lasting freedom from lust and pornographic addiction is God’s plan for every believer.