Training for Godliness (2): Pray Specifically

Training for Godliness (2): Pray Specifically

In the last blog post (which you can read here), we unpacked what it meant to train for godliness. Paul instructed Timothy not to assume that he would grow in his godly character but to work at it regularly and with intention. That meant that growing in godliness requires a plan and not just waiting for God to change us.

I do understand that all this talk of having a plan and training in godliness might give us the wrong idea. It is not like we do all the work and God is not involved. Growing in godliness is not just some kind of self-improvement project. No, God is the one who changes us (1 Thess 5:23, Heb 13:20-21), but we are not passive in the process. As we work towards godliness, God is pleased to work in us by his Spirit to make us more like Jesus (Phil 2:12-13).

In today’s blog post, I want us to think about one part of what that might look like. Prayer should be a significant part of training in godliness. This also reminds us that we need God’s help with this, rather than simply being a self-improvement project.

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If we want to grow in godliness, we should pray to God and ask him for this. We pray for what it important to us. If all our prayers are about passing an upcoming test or being healthy or successful, that shows that our priorities are not that different from those who don’t trust in Jesus. If we care about becoming more like Jesus, we need to pray about it.

2. Pray specifically

It is easy to confess that you are a sinner in a general sense. After all, as we are all sinners, you are not actually confessing anything personal or unusual. I think growth in godliness requires more than this. If we want to get better at resisting temptation or dealing with the sins we commonly fall into, then we need to be more specific. Instead of praying, “Lord, I am a sinner, forgive me”, try praying “Lord, I have a big problem with greed, and I find myself worrying about money and dreaming of riches all the time instead of being passionate about your Word and service. Please take away the love of money and give me the love of your Word.” Both prayers are true, but the first one doesn’t require any serious self-assessment, nor is it making us think about specific ways we are ungodly.

3. Pray when tempted

All of us have specific sins that we tend to repeat. We find ourselves alone late at night, perhaps, and are tempted to click to parts of the internet we should not visit. Or we know that we have a tendency to be irritable or rude after a busy day at work. When you feel the urge to fall into sin, remember that God won’t put you into a situation you cannot resist (1 Cor 10:13). You have the Spirit living in you. So pray for help, right then, before you click or shout at someone. Ask for help when you need it most. Once you have resisted temptation successfully a few times, you will grow in confidence that you can do it again.

4. Pray with others, and have others pray for you

Sin is difficult, and growth in godliness can be difficult and painful at times. We need help. And the good news is that we are not alone. If you are struggling to deal with a specific sin, or you cannot seem to grow in a specific fruit of the Spirit you want to, talk to a trusted Christian friend. Ask them to pray with you and for you when you are apart. Make a time to meet them in a week or two to talk about how you are going. Don’t just give up; help is there if you need it.

Growth in godliness is a worthwhile endeavour, and it will take time, perseverance, and prayer. Don’t leave prayer out of this equation.