Defeat Lust & Pornography
Defeat Lust & Pornography 3 minute read

My Prayers for Purity Don’t Seem to Work – What’s Missing?

Last Updated: February 20, 2014

by Stephen Nielsen

I have struggled for most of my life in sexual sin. And I am a Christian. As a Christian I have desired purity and have prayed for it. But my prayers didn’t seem to work; I have lusted daily with sexual fantasy. Whenever I saw the opportunity I would give in with my eyes to pornography (this was not daily, or weekly, or even monthly, but it was enough to fill my fantasy bank). What went wrong all these years (about 40 years)? Why wasn’t God answering my prayers for purity? Why have I continually been giving in to sexual sin?

The answer, which I see now, is found in James 5:16 (NIV):

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

What I see, first of all, in this verse is that in order for my prayers for purity to be effective I have to be a righteous man (like Elijah, v.17). If we are praying for purity and we haven’t found it, it is because of our lack of righteousness (or holiness). Well, if that is true, we are in a real dilemma, because how is an impure man supposed to pray for purity if the requirement for prayer is purity?

I believe the answer to our quest for righteousness and purity is found at the beginning of verse 16. James says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Here James is telling us that in order to be healed of whatever we are plagued with, sexual bondage included, in order to be free of it, there must be complete confession, not just to God but to each other—to key people around us that we are in fellowship with and that we trust.

So why were my prayers not answered? Because my confession and prayers were only to God, never to anyone else, and therefore I know there was hypocrisy in my prayers; there was a lack of honesty; there was some hiding of secret sins; there was not a complete openness—which is critical for purity. In order for anyone who is struggling with sexual sin, to be free of it, there must be a total honesty with it; sins of lust, all thoughts, all inclinations, all habits, and all looks must be laid out in the open; and there must be a resolve to be rid of it.

This is where accountability is so helpful—and it was so helpful to me. When I confessed my sins—all of them—to a partner (and also to the entire group of men that I was in), it helped me to be free of them and of the strongholds that they had on me.

When we confess sins to each other, we are also confessing to God, and we have a promise from God that He forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). So where does that leave us? What are we then? We are righteous! Yes, we are the righteous man of James 5:16. If we confess our sins others, there seems to be more power there for cleansing, because we are being completely honest. And so, when we desire purity and pray for it, our prayers will be answered.

I wish I could describe to you what happened to me a few years ago when I got into a purity group and when I regularly confessed my sins to the group, and especially to one partner (daily over the phone), and prayed with him. What power I experienced! Not all at once, but over 4 or 5 years God has done a marvelous work in me. I now feel so clean inside; and I feel an incredible power in me to fight off temptation whenever it presents itself.

I should also mention that there is another part of accountability besides confession and prayer. Our accountability partner may serve as another pair of eye to keep us honest in terms of what we view on the Internet. Covenant Eyes makes that possible. Every once in a while my partner asks me about something he saw on my Covenant Eyes Report that he didn’t think was very good. It’s kind of embarrassing sometimes to try to explain why I clicked on something I shouldn’t have, but that’s good for me. It keeps me honest, and it keeps my conscience healthy.

. . . .

Stephen Nielsen is the author of Prayer A to Z. He writes at StudyingPrayer.com. Stephen has owned his own residential painting business for the last 30 years. He is a member of Grace Church Roseville, an evangelical church in Roseville, Minnesota.

  1. Glad you’re feeling better now, but I have some observations. If God doesn’t answer a prayer for 40 years, then what you’re praying about is a non-issue to him: porn and masturbation are non-issues to God, with some exceptions of course for the illustration of forbidden relations (Lev.18) You seem so happy in the picture that I hate to oppose you on this. You are expressing the current Christian philosophy on freedom from sexual sins, and I really disagree with it. I feel it is dishonest and dishonors God’s word. It spreads shame to other men for what our natural feelings and desires that God expects them to have. When we were born again, we died to sin. That’s all we need to know. Sin will not have dominion over us because we are under grace not the law. His grace has killed the old man and made us new. Legalism revives the old man.

    James 5:16 isn’t about recovery from moral problems, its about a person for whom the prayer of faith failed to bring physical healing. In such a case, this person needs to confess secret sins and then pray for healing. If your secret behavior hasn’t made you physically sick, then that indicates God doesn’t have a problem with it since “if we sow to the flesh, of the flesh we reap corruption”. Masturbation, being a form of orgasm, is a contributor to our health.

    Group psychology is man’s effort to police himself or have others police him; its not the work of the Holy Spirit or the cross, in my opinion. It may help some who have some deep seated issue, but by and large, it strikes me as being unrelated to the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation (deliverance). Likewise on the purity, porn blocking software… I’ve used them, they are human crutches and often produce the opposite of the desired results.

    When a man is over 50, esp. over 55, his testosterone and sex drive drop off significantly and is a natural aid in reducing the occurence of extramarital longing. There is nothing sinful in looking and lusting for other women; we have made that up. If it was wrong, then God sinned when He told David through Nathan that He had given David his 8 wives and 10 concubines(sex slaves) and if he wanted more, God would have doubled them. His wives didn’t complain when he had sex with other women, let alone looked at them, because it was within God’s provision for men. Adultery laws only applied to married women, not married men.

    • Luke Gilkerson

      @Korn

      Interesting thoughts. I have some questions however:

      1. “If God doesn’t answer a prayer for 40 years, then what you’re praying about is a non-issue to him.” No offense, but this does seem a bit overstated. To say God has no “issue” with something merely because a specific person doesn’t see a positive answer to prayer concerning it is nowhere found in Scripture. On the contrary, many generations of believers have been faithfully praying for the return of Christ and the renewal of the world for 2000 years, but the Lord tarries on. To say something like the return of Christ is a “non-issue” for God would be clearly false.

      2. “Porn and masturbation are non-issues to God.” Why do you say this? Merely because they aren’t listed in Leviticus 18? I agree with you that masturbation as an action itself is not sinful, but sexual fantasy is (read my post on this). As for pornography, not only is is designed to feed sexual fantasy, but it is an industry driven by the commodification of sex and the objectification of men and women created in the image of God. By intentionally clicking on pornography we are lending support to an industry that is brutalizing its women and encouraging millions to embrace false and destructive sexual beliefs.

      3. “It spreads shame to other men for what our natural feelings and desires that God expects them to have.” I agree it is natural to want sex, to desire sex, and to pursue intimacy, to be sure. But our natural desire for sex is also warped by indwelling sin, warped into what Christ called lust. To say God expects men to lust in such a way that they repeatedly turn to solo-sexual fantasy or commercial sex (pornography) makes God out to be a sexual sadist.

      4. “Group psychology is man’s effort to police himself or have others police him; its not the work of the Holy Spirit or the cross, in my opinion. It may help some who have some deep seated issue, but by and large, it strikes me as being unrelated to the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation (deliverance).” Here, I largely agree with you . . . with one caveat. I do believe the church is one of the instruments of grace God uses to sanctify His people. The community of the church is to faithfully engage in the various “one anothers” found in the New Testament, showing our earnest love through giving preference and honor (Romans 12:10), edifying with out words (Romans 14:19), admonishing and instructing (Romans 15:14), bearing burdens and restoring those trapped in sin (Galatians 6:2), encouraging one another with eternal truths (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 5:11), motivating each other to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), and confessing sins and praying for one another (James 5:16). If someone’s accountability group does these things, not being “sin focused” but gospel-centered, I believe this can have a profound effect on someone’s life.

      5. “There is nothing sinful in looking and lusting for other women; we have made that up. If it was wrong, then God sinned when He told David through Nathan that He had given David his 8 wives and 10 concubines (sex slaves) and if he wanted more, God would have doubled them.” Concubinage, as it was governed by Old Testament law, speaks nothing to the issue of lust. Certainly, if the Bible doesn’t condemn polygamy outright, then neither should we. But then we would be getting into a debate about the use of Old Testament law today, and that might he a can of worms for another discussion thread.

  2. Mack Harrell

    You write, “I confessed my sins — all of them –”

    Could you be (in a general sort of way) more specific? How detailed was your confession? Date, time, etc.?

    Tx

    • I meet once a week with six other guys for Bible Study and prayer, and our emphasis is purity. One thing we always do is go around and talk about how our purity has been during the week; and if we haven’t been pure we confess it openly. In our group we have three areas of purity: purity of the eyes, purity of our thoughts, and purity in our actions. So when it comes to my turn to share I would tell the group whether I have looked at any pornography (magazines, internet, or wherever it was), whether I have had any sexual fantasies, or whether I have acted out sexually (masturbation, or anything else). I also have a purity partner and we try to call each other every day. We confess to each other in those same three areas and we also pray together.

      So I guess you could say we are very specific. It does no good at all to be general in our confessions, because if we confess in a general sort of way it’s too easy to hide our sin. If one of us would say when he is sharing, “I have been pretty good this week,” we would usually say to him, “What does that mean? Have you looked at porn this week? Have you had any sexual fantasies? Have you masturbated?”

      This probably sounds very difficult, but I want to tell you that it works. You may not believe this but half of the guys in our group have been pure for at least a whole year (and some a lot longer). Purity for us means no porn, no sexual fantasies, and no masturbation. Of course we give all the glory to God and also much thanks to a great group of guys who care enough about each other to ask the hard questions and to pray for each other.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

Editor's Picks

A teenage girl alone at night on her phone.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Clicked on a Link

Living with integrity in this world is quite difficult because our culture…

3 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A solitary man on a scenic hike.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Journey and Liberation from Pornography

Many men and women struggle nowadays with addiction to pornography. Almost all…

3 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man with his friends.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Transparency: Tough But Always Worth It

Whether I care to admit it or not, porn is a big…

4 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Young man wearing a hoodie praying.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

From Hopeless Addict to Follower of Christ

The journey I have embarked on to quit porn has been long…

2 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

A young man looking into the distance.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

All You Need for Quitting Porn (And for Everything Else)

What do you need to quit porn? 2 Peter 1:3 says “[God’s]…

6 minute read

Read Post

Editor's Picks

Silhouette of a young engaged couple.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

How I Found Freedom From the Binge and Purge Cycle of Porn

Since the age of 11 years old, I have struggled with pornography…

4 minute read

Read Post

Related in Defeat Lust & Pornography

A teenage girl alone at night on her phone.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

I Clicked on a Link

Living with integrity in this world is quite difficult because our culture…

Living with integrity in this world is quite difficult because our culture is so against it, but as a Christian God has called me to be different, and striving for integrity plays a key role…

3 minute read

0 comments

A solitary man on a scenic hike.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

My Journey and Liberation from Pornography

Many men and women struggle nowadays with addiction to pornography. Almost all…

Many men and women struggle nowadays with addiction to pornography. Almost all were exposed at a young age through no fault of their own and now seek liberation from pornography addiction. I was one of…

3 minute read

0 comments

A young man with his friends.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

Transparency: Tough But Always Worth It

Whether I care to admit it or not, porn is a big…

Whether I care to admit it or not, porn is a big part of my life. It seems shameful, but that’s the reality I live in, for better or worse. I have learned many lessons…

4 minute read

0 comments

Young man wearing a hoodie praying.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

From Hopeless Addict to Follower of Christ

The journey I have embarked on to quit porn has been long…

The journey I have embarked on to quit porn has been long and arduous. In fact, I don’t think it’s over. Covenant Eyes has been a significant part in helping me overcome my addictions and…

2 minute read

0 comments

A young man looking into the distance.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

All You Need for Quitting Porn (And for Everything Else)

What do you need to quit porn? 2 Peter 1:3 says “[God’s]…

What do you need to quit porn? 2 Peter 1:3 says “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” That’s a verse that makes me pause for a minute, especially…

6 minute read

0 comments

Silhouette of a young engaged couple.

Defeat Lust & Pornography

How I Found Freedom From the Binge and Purge Cycle of Porn

Since the age of 11 years old, I have struggled with pornography…

Since the age of 11 years old, I have struggled with pornography and purity. I Was Trapped in a “Binge and Purge” Cycle I can still vividly remember the day that my innocence was stripped…

4 minute read

0 comments