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3 Keys to Using Prayer to Overcome Pornography
Episode 13824th April 2022 • Thrive Beyond Pornography (Formerly The Self Mastery Podcast) • Zach Spafford
00:00:00 00:17:47

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I’d like to take you back to general conference a few weeks back. I loved listening to President Nelson as he spoke about how to keep spiritual momentum. 

If you don’t recall the talk, he offered 5 ways to Maintain positive spiritual momentum. 

The five were

  1. Get on the covenant path and stay there.
  2. Discover the joy of daily repentance.
  3. Learn about God and how He works.
  4. Seek and expect miracles.
  5. End conflict in your personal life.

I’d like to talk about number 3 tonight and discuss an issue that I find keeps my clients from being able to successfully employ prayer in their quest to overcome pornography.  

I’ve made a study of prayer over the course of my life and find, sometimes, our prayers are ineffectual because we approach the act of prayer and the requests in our prayer in ways that do not conform to the purpose of prayer.  

As I struggled with pornography I often found myself praying earnestly to Heavenly Father.  When I drove was the time I often felt most able to pray out loud and listen for the answers. 

As I drove I would pour out my heart and plead for things that I was certain Heavenly Father would want to give me.  

It was a time of deep frustration because, no matter how hard I prayed, I never received the answers or blessings that I felt like I was asking for.  

It took many years of work to get to the point where I am now.  And I see prayer very differently than I did when I was a 19 year old working to get on my mission.  

In thinking back to that time, I want to share 3 ways that you can change your prayers to become more effective at engaging with our Heavenly Father in ways that, I believe He will be more able to answer you, bless you, and help you become the person you are trying to be.  

The three ways to improve your prayers to overcome pornography are:

  1. Seek Understanding
  2. Maintain Agency 
  3. Be Willing to Try

Whether you are talking about a pornography addiction or just in general, these lessons will hopefully give you meaningful ways that you can utilize prayer more effectively to overcome pornography.  

  1. Seek understanding

The first thing that I think we need to do differently is to seek understanding from our Heavenly Father.  

That might seem obvious.  But I promise, it wasn’t obvious to me and when you hear what I mean, it might not have been the obvious answer to you either. 

One of the things that I often did in my prayers was to ask my Father in Heaven to give me the strength or make my burden light, both phrases that we hear in the scriptures as important figures seek the blessings they want and need. 

In asking for these things, it felt like there should have been some inexplicable moment and then poof, my issues were gone.  

What has changed for me is that I believe that growth is our most important activity here and growth is hard to come by when poof your issues are resolved by heavenly intervention. 

While I’m not discounting the times that divine shifts are made on our behalf, I also don’t believe that the Lord is going to move mountains that we are meant to climb. 

In that spirit, I believe most of our prayers must center around learning, growing, and understanding. I also believe that words matter, what we ask for is what we ask for and we won’t be offered something else.  The Bible dictionary touches this point by saying, prayer is part of the process of getting the blessings that our HF is willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.  

So, asking for God to lighten our burden when that burden is the one that will grant us the empathy we need to become something more, He’s not going to say, “Well, you asked for your burden to be lightened, so I’ll give you something else instead.”  I think the Lord wants us to ask for what we need, but knowing what that is requires us to be willing to dig a little deeper than just, Lighten this burden or give me strength.  

Understanding what the Lord is willing to grant us is part of that bible dictionary section on prayer as well.  In there, it talks about prayer being part of bringing the will of the child into alignment with the will of the Father.  

I also don’t thing HF is going to give us a things that we don’t want.  Meaning, His blessings aren’t things that he give people unwilling to have them, like pearls before swine.  

In asking for the things we need, He won’t give us stuff that we won’t accept.  So, understanding Him, His will, and what He is willing to grant is crucial to actually getting what we want, what we need, and what we are willing to receive.  

Late one night as a was driving home from a single adult activity in the Buffalo Grove stake center in Illinois, I prayed for the strength to overcome pornography. I begged God to strengthen me the way he had Nephi.  

If I could sit in the passenger seat of that car and talk to the young man I was then, I would tell him to ask for understanding.  

I would say, “ask Heavenly Father to show you why you choose pornography even when it isn’t helping you accomplish your goal of serving a mission.” I would tell me to, “Ask for help recognizing patterns that lead me to pornography.”  I would urge me to, “Ask to be guided in understanding how I can use this knowledge to choose to leave pornography behind.”

Understanding the way the Lord works means asking questions that are bound to enlighten you in ways that increase your ability to do it for your self in most cases.  

Letting the Lord make up the difference when needed.  

  1. Maintain your agency

Speaking of doing it yourself, Maintaining your agency throughout your prayerful requests, I believe, is essential. 

When I was asking Heavenly Father to take away from me the burden of what I thought at the time was a pornography addiction, I was often asking him to take away my agency. 

I would ask him to take away the desire for pornography and make it so I never wanted it.  

To have agency, you must have 3 things, we dive deep into this in the membership, but for right now, agency is, the capacity to choose, the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, and having consequences.  Without each of those we don’t have agency.  

Well, if Heavenly Father had taken away my desire, making it so I never wanted pornography he would be violating at least two of those 3 values.  In taking away my desire, He would be removing from me consequences of seeing pornography.  In making it so I never wanted it, he would be taking from me the ability to choose for myself what I want.  

I believe that part of our purpose is to learn to bridle our passions and learn from the consequences when we don’t.  

In our conversations with God, asking him to violate our agency so we can be good disciples runs contrary to the way He works. So, of course he isn’t going to do it.  

As we pray and seek the help of our Father, we must also maintain our agency.  Agency is foundational to you actually being able to leave pornography behind for ever that without it, we would be participating in the plan of the adversary.  

I found out that the Lord wanted me to be able to choose so I could own the decision and make it my own, not simply be obedient, but to choose obedience.  Without that, resentment would grow instead of confidence.  

  1. Be willing to try

The last thing that I think is an essential part of understanding the way that the Lord works, as president Nelson urged us, is being willing to try. 

I’m a natural experimenter.  I have always loved trying new ways of doing things and seeing if I can’t find a way to do it better. 

When we work with the Lord, I believe the things he urges us to do is to try new ways of thinking, being, and doing.  

More often than not, when the Lord offers us a prompting, I see it as an invitation to work in a way that isn’t natural to us, but that brings us to the way He works. 

As I sought relief from my struggle with pornography, trying new things was essential.  

Here and there I would find inspiration, insight into how I could do things differently.  Many times that nudge lead me to do things that didn’t fit with more traditional aspects of the way things were supposed to be done. 

For instance, the idea that embracing agency and acknowledging that “I can view pornography” still seems pretty foriegn to many within the Church. I talk about that in my very first episode, which I encourage you to go back to.  

Owning my agency was an experiment that I think we all need to try.  In my coaching I’ve guided thousands of men and women throught the process of doing just that to spectacular results for each of them. 

Trying is key to growth.  Growth is why we are here.  That is how the Lord works and is his way.   Learning about Him and working in the bounds of His process is a beautiful and enlightening experience. 

I hope these three Keys: 

  1. Seek Understanding
  2. Maintain Agency 
  3. Be Willing to Try

Will give you a leg up on your journey to overcome pornography. They were instrumental for me.