“Why can’t I just pray porn away?”
It’s a good question! After all, we know prayer is powerful. Jesus tells us that whatever we ask in his name will be answered (John 16:23-24). And while prayer isn’t listed in the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17), it is essentially our best tactic for spiritual warfare (vs. 18). When we look at the miracles in the Bible, it seems like we should be able to pray porn away.
Unfortunately, that’s usually not how it works. When we put our faith in Jesus, he takes on the penalty for our sin, including our porn use, but he doesn’t usually break its immediate power. More often, we find ourselves like Paul, begging God to remove our thorns in the flesh, only to be told that God’s grace is enough—not to remove our weakness, but in spite of it (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Still, prayer is important for finding lasting freedom from pornography. We just can’t expect a full recovery after a once-and-done prayer. Instead, we need to learn how to pray effectively against pornography.
What to Pray Against Pornography
1. The Lord’s Prayer
To learn how to pray against pornography, we first need to see what effective prayer looks like. Our first example is from Jesus himself. In Matthew 6:9-13 (CSB), he teaches his followers this prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Far from teaching these as magic words, in this prayer, Jesus taught his followers the characteristics of a good prayer. Let’s walk through them briefly.
Our Father in heaven.
We are to pray to God as his sons and daughters, not as strangers or peasants petitioning a king (even though he is also our king). Don’t underestimate the importance of this!
Later in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points out that even earthly fathers give their kids good gifts, providing what they need, and therefore we can trust our Heavenly Father to provide us with even better gifts (Matthew 7:9-11).
He may not give us what we ask for immediately in the form we expect, and he may discipline us when we stumble in disobedience, but we can approach him knowing that he loves us far better than even the best earthly father loves his children.
Your name be honored as holy. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
One critical part of prayer is to spend time worshipping him—stating what we know to be true about him back to him.
My hunch is that this serves two purposes. One is for God, of course—he has earned our praise. But God is sufficient unto himself; he doesn’t need our praise. We are the real beneficiaries of worshipping God in prayer: we are reaffirming the truths about God to ourselves.
Our adorations also remind us of our position. “Your name be honored as holy,” for example, calls us back to the third commandment in Exodus 20:7 and should serve as a sobering reminder to ourselves: are we sullying God’s name by claiming to follow him but behaving sinfully? If I claim the label Christian and am willfully sinning through unrepentant porn use, I am smearing mud on the name of Jesus Christ.
Give us today our daily bread.
We can ask God freely to supply our needs, and he will.
It’s worth noting, though, that “our daily bread” means we’re asking God to provide for our needs, not mere desires. When it comes to our sexual temptations and porn, for example, those of us who are single may beg and plead God to provide a relationship so that, among other things, we can enjoy sex without sinning (I’ve prayed variations on that prayer many times). But God is in control of our needs, and he knows what is best for us. Sexual satisfaction is a strong urge but is not ultimately a need, and God may choose not to provide a spouse.
Still, when we pray this prayer, even as we ask God to give us what we (and others) desire, we can trust that God will supply all our needs, and if He doesn’t provide it, we can trust that he didn’t provide it for a reason.
And forgive us our debts.
Practicing repentance is vital for our recovery! It stirs up in us the godly grief that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). More than that, though, if we practice a daily habit of repentance for our specific sins, we are partnering with the Holy Spirit to identify patterns of sins and even triggers.
If we find ourselves praying each night before bed in repentance of our porn use that day, it makes us more aware of the frequency of our porn use in general, and it may help us why we use it. For example, your confessions may be along the lines of “Dear Lord, forgive me of my frustration at my boss and my porn use” one day and “Dear Lord, forgive me of my anger when my kids broke something and my porn use” the next. These prayers might indicate that one of your triggers is anger.
The trick is that your confessions should be specific. God will listen to and honor them even if they are not (the psalmists ask for cleansing from secret faults for a reason), but being specific will train you to look out for the snares that lead you to sin and avoid them in the future.
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
Most of the time, we bundle this in with the previous point, but it’s worth exploring as a separate idea. What if we did start forgiving others in our prayers?
It would get us in the habit of practicing forgiveness in general. On top of this, it may be inappropriate to forgive some things before anyone but God. For example, you probably shouldn’t walk up to your boss and tell him, “I forgive you for running a meeting really poorly yesterday, even though my frustrations made me binge on porn later.”
Forgiving people in prayer will keep us in line with the will of God, who desires us to pass on the love he has shown for us and also helps shape our own hearts and actions to show more mercy and compassion on others.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Pray against your triggers and temptations. Pray specifically. For example, if work stress is a trigger, pray for that project to go well or for pleasant interactions with the coworker who grates on your nerves. And pray that you will be on the lookout for the ways of escape that God has promised—and for your willingness to take that escape path (1 Corinthians 10:13).
2. Praying through ACTS
The Lord’s Prayer gives us the principles we need for prayer, but sometimes praying through a specific pattern to stay focused and keep our minds from wandering.
My preferred method of prayer is ACTS, an old Sunday School acronym that stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.
- Adoration covers the “Our Father” through “as it is in Heaven” from the Lord’s Prayer. Adoration is about who God is; focus your prayers around praising him for his attributes and how he saves and cleanses us.
- Confession covers “Forgive us our debts.” Pray specifically about the sins you committed that day. Take them before a holy Lord and watch him cleanse you from them.
- Thanksgiving isn’t directly covered in the Lord’s Prayer, but it’s an important aspect as well. Take time to thank God for the specific details of how he has worked in your life. Did he answer a prayer request? Did you get a pleasant surprise? Thank him as the giver of all good and perfect gifts (James 1:17).
- Supplication covers the rest of the Lord’s Prayer. Ask God to supply what you need physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That includes both your daily bread and your “way of escape.”
3. Liturgical prayers
One of the most common types of prayers available is liturgical prayers, in which you repeat specific words, often in community. Even those of us from a non-liturgical church tradition probably know the Lord’s Prayer best as a church liturgy, for example.
The risk with liturgies is that they will devolve into “meaningless repetition” instead of personal communication with our Savior, but they can also be very helpful. For one thing, they connect us to believers across the globe and, in some cases, spanning centuries. When we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we are joining our voices with nearly 2,000 years-worth of believers. For another, they can help us put words to our struggles when we’re not sure how to pray. Finally, the origins of the word “liturgy” mean the works of the people. Modern church use draws this connection to our participation in Christ’s greater works.
If you’re looking for a liturgical prayer against pornography, we offer a Novena for Purity for Catholics. If you’re not Catholic, the good people at the Rabbit Room gave us permission to reprint “A Liturgy for One Battling a Destructive Desire” from their book of modern liturgies, Every Moment Holy. You can find that at the beginning of our free ebook Hobbies and Habits.
How to Pray Against Pornography
Sometimes the problem with praying in general, let alone against pornography, is that we have a hard time praying. Our minds wander (or at least mine does), or we simply forget. So how do we make this a regular practice?
1. Make it a daily habit
The first trick to building up our prayer lives is to set aside the same time every day to pray. One trick is to bundle it to a different activity you already do daily to reduce the stress of finding time to fit one more thing into your day. Try praying while you brush your teeth, on your commute to work, or on your lunch break. The main thing is to find a time that works for you.
2. Experiment with form
I don’t just mean praying ACTS vs. praying liturgically here, though that’s part of it. Rather, this is about knowing yourself and knowing what will help keep you focused, and using that knowledge as you pray.
For example, instead of praying silently with my eyes closed, which inevitably makes my mind wander, I write out my prayers, usually in the form of a bullet list using ACTS. The simple act of writing out my requests keeps me focused, and it also gives me a way to look back and see how God has answered my prayers (immediately or over time).
In other words, if silent prayers work for you, great! If not, try writing your prayers down, typing them out, or speaking them aloud. Find what works for you.
3. Pray with your ally
The final—and, in some ways, most obvious—way to make your prayers against pornography effective is to pray with someone, like your ally. Whenever you and your ally meet to talk through your Covenant Eyes reports, open in a brief prayer that God will guide your conversation and reveal triggers to you. Close in prayer as well! Thank God for your meeting, and pray for strength to take action on whatever you may have discussed.
In all of these, remember: the goal is not a specific form of prayer—it’s simply to find a way to communicate with our invisible God and stay in relationship with him.
Do you have any tips or tricks for praying against pornography? Share them in the comments!
Thank you for this useful article.
Thank you for this powerful word from the Lord.
recite the shema. have it on your door posts.
Been struggling off & On For Many Years…would be Happy To just Put it All behind me 100%…
I’m so encouraged to hear of your desire to put away porn for good! We’re cheering for you and here to help any way we can. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend this post about how to quit porn. It’s got some really helpful steps!
i praise, thank…for The Spirit….to help me flee. .claiming 1 Cor.6:12,13
and declaring that now…i am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus….
This has strengthened my resolve to live a porn-free life. I had a terrible relapse last year and I though it was all over
Pornography is usually a symptom of an underlying issue. Prayer that does not address the underlying issues or root causes, as well as shame and fear, will simple be attempts to put a bandaid on a gaping wound.
My own personal experiences in coming to terms with porn have involved an extended process of healing of heart and mind and includes the repeated embracing of the crucified body of Christ that He has provided. While accountability is great, listening prayer and seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance in finding the root causes of our bondage is equally as important.
Much of it is based in past sinful actions that need to be renounced and repented of. Often the Holy Spirit is the only one who can reveal this to the person struggling. The accountability partner needs to be aware of this and also needs to express the the forgiveness of sin, and the mercy and compassion of God even if it means doing it time and time again.
Ask God to show you where the roots are. Confess the reality of your sinfulness, embrace the forgiveness and cleansing every time even though you may lose patience with yourself. Remember the infinite patience of God as he leads you towards greater freedom. He loves you even as you struggle.
Thank you Lisa for sharing and reminding us how to pray. Prayer is such an important daily to remain free from pornography and fantasy. Along with accountability and fellowship, the victory is ours!
Here’s my 2 cents:
I’ve struggled with porn for more years than I care to divulge. I started looking at it for amusement, then entertainment, then it became a lifestyle. I always ended up in confession and swore I’d never look at it again. I found out the hard way that confession alone is not enough. It took awhile before I realized that when we go to confession God does his part, but we still need to do our part. For me, prayer alone never worked – at least not long term. It took prayer, fasting, porn blockers, and a will that said NO MORE! But you know what no one ever tells you? We have to pray for the people who create porn and place or upload it to the internet. Like the apostle Paul said in one of his letters: The reason why you don’t get answers to your prayers is because you pray selfishly. Pray not only for yourself, but for the other people struggling, uploading, creating, and participating in porn. Porn is not only a sin, but a tremendous waste of time, energy, and
the quickest way to ruin a marriage. It’s like fighting a war, but it’s a winnable war – we just have to use everything at our disposal.
Thanks for the article. I appreciate all of these comments to God bless you all.
For me, it’s been a 50 year addiction. I’ve prayed, I’ve stopped & started this unclean practice many times. It is the weighty millstone of unrelentance. It scares me mightily. I’m 73 & most of my days spent. Hell is a a horrible thought. I’ve asked God many times to remove this monster but to no avail. I don’t know, Satan has had me in his clutches for years. I almost feel like an exorcism is what I need. I use to drink to try & cover the guilt & shame. Now 33 yrs. sober I still wrestle this horror. It’s sad & depressing and Satan loves that. Oh Father God, sacred heart of Jesus my I find Your mighty help.
After reading your post, it made me think about a lot of things. Im 47 years old and have struggled for many years. My addiction began due to several things I was exposed to as a young man. Satan has a unique way of attacking during the adolescent years only to resurrect it later in life. (usually after you are married and/or established) I have tried everything in the book and while I have had great distances in time in indulging, I always seem to find my way back usually due to some type of stress in my life. With all that being said, I have found that free will is probably the most powerful tool that we as humans possess. You see, I accepted Christ as my savior as a young man. I was active in church, I always helped others and still do. However, that did not stop this ugly beast from rearing its head. After many years of struggling I finally came to one conclusion….I was already free. Because I accepted Christ as my savior, I was immediately set free from the bondage of sin. The problem was I did not allow myself to be free. Almost like being in a prison cell with the jail door wide open and a sign saying “You have been set free” but yet choosing to stay a prisoner. I believe that when a person comes to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and truly understands the freedom that they have, then satan loses his power and control. It is a hard battle wrought with victories and losses but it is a battle worth fighting. God loves you no matter what. If you’ve accepted his son as your savior then your eternity is secure with him. If you have not, then I implore you too. Identify your triggers sir, realign your schedule if you must and above all continue to seek God. Many blessings to you
Please help avoid pornography, its imaginations, temptation to watching it once a while and its imitative act of masturbating, once a while but I am sick and tired of it.
Hi Elijah! We’re here for you to help any way we can. Do you have an ally who can help you in the fight? Here’s an article with 6 practical steps you can take.
God bless you!
Thank you for this article, it is very inspiring. I am on the path towards a life free of porn and I’m searching my personal way to communicate with our Lord, after a long time I was far from him. Last night I tried to include the “Pater Noster” the pray that Jesus taught us and this allowed me to start praying telling my sins and asking for the strenght I need to keep on the path towards my goal. I’m taking everything by small steps, the next will be to find a parish where I can go.