Prayer to Remove Sinful and Tempting Thoughts Did Not Work...


Awakened
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Hello again... I'm really in a bit of a jam here and I really need an answer... Basically, last night, I was feeling strong temptation in my mind to sin, but I resisted it. But as I went to bed, I still felt it strongly. So I prayed earnestly to please have it removed. I prayed for 5-10 minutes for this thing, and I had faith that the Lord could and would help me. But... I received no help... And I do not know why.

It's been said numerous times that sometimes we have a delayed response to our prayers. It is also said that if our desires do not align with God's, we will not receive what we ask for. (Most of the time. The other times being when Heavenly Father wishes to teach us something.) I understand all that... But my desires were clearly righteous... I do not understand why Heavenly Father would leave me to my temptations when it is also clearly stated over and over to pray so you may receive strength to resist temptation. I feel kind of abandoned here... :( Did Heavenly Father wish me to pray more? Was I doing something wrong? I just don't know...

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Guest LiterateParakeet

Awakened, I'm sure your prayer was righteous.  I think you need to be more patient.  I say this in the kindest way...5-10 minutes is really not very long.  Perhaps the Lord was helping you by allowing you some time to develop strength and mastery over this thing. If He did erase those feelings immediately every time you asked, how would you grow?

I'm going to share one of my favorite quotes with you.  It's about adversity, but I think it can easily apply to your situation as well....the struggle to resist temptation could be considered a form of adversity after all . . . 

"Into each of our lives come golden moments of adversity. This painful friend breaks our hearts, drops us to our knees, and makes us realize we are nothing without our Lord and Savior. This friend makes us plead all the night long for reassurance and into the next day and sometimes for weeks  and months. But, ultimately, just as surely as the day follows the night, as we remain true and faithful, this strange friend, adversity, leads us straight into the outstretched arms of the Savior." Glen L. Pace, Spiritual Revival, Ensign Nov. 1992, emphasis added.

There are some temptations like same sex attraction that are life long, but if one continues faithful glorious rewards await. 

 

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5 hours ago, Awakened said:

Hello again... I'm really in a bit of a jam here and I really need an answer... Basically, last night, I was feeling strong temptation in my mind to sin, but I resisted it. But as I went to bed, I still felt it strongly. So I prayed earnestly to please have it removed. I prayed for 5-10 minutes for this thing, and I had faith that the Lord could and would help me. But... I received no help... And I do not know why.

It's been said numerous times that sometimes we have a delayed response to our prayers. It is also said that if our desires do not align with God's, we will not receive what we ask for. (Most of the time. The other times being when Heavenly Father wishes to teach us something.) I understand all that... But my desires were clearly righteous... I do not understand why Heavenly Father would leave me to my temptations when it is also clearly stated over and over to pray so you may receive strength to resist temptation. I feel kind of abandoned here... :( Did Heavenly Father wish me to pray more? Was I doing something wrong? I just don't know...

Similar to what LP wrote, perhaps enough of the temptation was removed (or more likely, you were strengthened just enough) that the temptation could be resisted - thus helping you develop strength.

For what it's worth, at one point, about 5 years ago, I began praying for help changing in a particular way (for my heart to change, basically, which is pretty much what you were praying for).  I prayed for this every night and morning (often, I still do).  After about 3 years, I realized, my prayer had been granted, but so imperceptibly that it took years and I didn't notice it until I thought back on when I started that prayer and was far enough from it for the change to be noticed by my flawed, human perception.  Be persistent.  Do what you can (if there's nothing direct you can think of, just do the best you can in every way), and eventually, the Lord will change your heart.

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8 hours ago, Awakened said:

Basically, last night, I was feeling strong temptation in my mind to sin, but I resisted it.

I do not understand why Heavenly Father would leave me to my temptations when it is also clearly stated over and over to pray so you may receive strength to resist temptation.

There's something at odds in these two ideas here. You resisted it, but feel like you weren't given strength to resist it?

Regardless, that's not how it works. God will give us strength, yes, but He will never remove opposition because that would be contrary to his plan and contrary to His will, which you pointed out yourself, He won't do.

There must needs be opposition in all things. There must needs be temptation or we have nothing to choose between. This is God's plan. He allows us to be tempted to see if we will choose, being enticed by both sides. If the enticement is removed, there is no choice left to make.

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8 hours ago, Awakened said:

So I prayed earnestly to please have it removed.

I received no help

...if our desires do not align with God's, we will not receive what we ask for.

leave me to my temptations

pray so you may receive strength to resist temptation.

See the bold above.  One does not pray to have the temptation removed.  Temptations will always be present.  But we receive strength to resist temptation.

To fully understand this, we need to also learn the lesson that Oliver Cowdery learned.  We can't simply pray and expect that change will come that easily.  It's something we work at.

But remember:

Quote

Change is such hard work.

---Billy Crystal

As you study it out in your mind, I'd encourage you to explore the causes.  The temptation you speak of is likely a symptom.  What is the motivation or cause?  It probably isn't as simple as you think.  Develop a plan with the cause in mind and ask for help in implementing that plan.

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8 hours ago, Awakened said:

Hello again... I'm really in a bit of a jam here and I really need an answer... Basically, last night, I was feeling strong temptation in my mind to sin, but I resisted it. But as I went to bed, I still felt it strongly. So I prayed earnestly to please have it removed. I prayed for 5-10 minutes for this thing, and I had faith that the Lord could and would help me. But... I received no help... And I do not know why.

It's been said numerous times that sometimes we have a delayed response to our prayers. It is also said that if our desires do not align with God's, we will not receive what we ask for. (Most of the time. The other times being when Heavenly Father wishes to teach us something.) I understand all that... But my desires were clearly righteous... I do not understand why Heavenly Father would leave me to my temptations when it is also clearly stated over and over to pray so you may receive strength to resist temptation. I feel kind of abandoned here... :( Did Heavenly Father wish me to pray more? Was I doing something wrong? I just don't know...

Not only do I believe in the Gospel of Christ - I am also a scientist and engineer.  Certain "learned" behaviors are very powerful and are not solved by prayer.  I am not discounting prayer or the power of prayer - just making an observation.  It is my understanding and experience that prayers will not change the universe or it current course - nor will it necessarily make a particular task easier - example being the atonement of Christ and his prayer to have that cup removed.  But prayers can draw us closer to G-d.  Never-the-less certain temptations that involve stimulation through specific behaviors - such as drugs and sexual pleasures are a particular behavior problem in mortals and are likely to require more than prayer on a given night to overcome.  You may need to seek assistance from your bishop and perhaps a professional with experience directly suited to your specific temptation.

 

The Traveler

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Thank you everyone! Well... I'm not gonna lie, I'm quite discouraged. I thought as long as we were trying our best and we make an active choice to resist, as long as we pray, we can remove such sinful desires even if just temporarily. I know that I could never have temptation removed permanently but even not temporarily?

Crap... This changes a lot. I now have to rethink how I'm going to do this... I really thought faith in Christ would help me. After all, with great faith were many miracles and works done according to the will of God. I never thought this would be different.

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10 minutes ago, Traveler said:

Certain "learned" behaviors are very powerful and are not solved by prayer. 

This is false. It is "how" they are solved by prayer that is fundamentally misunderstood.

10 minutes ago, Traveler said:

nor will it necessarily make a particular task easier

I find from personal experience that his is also false. It may not always be the case, but I believe that generally, sincere prayer does, indeed, make things easier. Once more, it is the "how" that is often misunderstood.

12 minutes ago, Traveler said:

are likely to require more than prayer on a given night to overcome

This is true.

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4 minutes ago, Awakened said:

I really thought faith in Christ would help me. 

It will.

5 minutes ago, Awakened said:

After all, with great faith were many miracles and works done according to the will of God. I never thought this would be different.

It's not different. Exercise faith. Continue in humble prayer. The miracles will come. Just because they don't come according to your understanding and will does not mean faith and prayer do not bring miracles.

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23 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

This is false. It is "how" they are solved by prayer that is fundamentally misunderstood.

Hmmmmmm - it may seem that way because you wish it to be so.  Just because prayer may guide someone to a door that when opened and entered will bring a solution does not mean that prayer of itself is the answer.  Sometimes prayer is just a meas to open our hearts and minds.

But I would also draw caution to a misconception of the temptations some have concerning sex and drugs.  Jesus told his apostles that some things require more than prayer in order to overcome - if you are unaware of such advice - I would gladly provide references.

 

The Traveler

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6 minutes ago, Traveler said:

Hmmmmmm - it may seem that way because you wish it to be so.  Just because prayer may guide someone to a door that when opened and entered will bring a solution does not mean that prayer of itself is the answer.  Sometimes prayer is just a meas to open our hearts and minds.

Word play. Whatever.

6 minutes ago, Traveler said:

But I would also draw caution to a misconception of the temptations some have concerning sex and drugs.  Jesus told his apostles that some things require more than prayer in order to overcome - if you are unaware of such advice - I would gladly provide references.

I'm not interested in dealing with your lack of ability to comprehend what I actually said today.

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19 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

Word play. Whatever.

I'm not interested in dealing with your lack of ability to comprehend what I actually said today.

I have no idea what you are trying to say.  This thread was started by someone that thought prayer failed.  They prayed to overcome temptation and temptation continued - to be honest my friend - I find your response to their cry for help confusing word pay that will not help their confusion at all.  But at best bring feelings of rejection and unworthiness - that they are beyond help because their prayer failed.  Perhaps I am wrong - but it appears to me that you are implying there is something wrong with them or their prayer if their prayer in the night failed them. 

If it was not the tender heart of another (and that drugs or sexual pleasure may be involved) in the balance of our conversation - I would not pursue this matter with you.  I have no desire to offend you.

 

The Traveler

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11 minutes ago, Traveler said:

But at best bring feelings of rejection and unworthiness - that they are beyond help because their prayer failed.  Perhaps I am wrong - but it appears to me that you are implying there is something wrong with them or their prayer if their prayer in the night failed them. 

TFP did not say or imply these things - at least, that's not what I got from his posts.  That you got these things and I did not, should be an interesting thing to ponder, for both of us.

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33 minutes ago, Traveler said:

I have no idea what you are trying to say. 

That is obvious.

34 minutes ago, Traveler said:

Perhaps I am wrong - but it appears to me that you are implying there is something wrong with them or their prayer if their prayer in the night failed them. 

You are wrong. Ridiculously and amazingly wrong. How you can even have begun to come to such a thing is baffling.

1 hour ago, Awakened said:

Well, I meant help to remove the temptation from my mind but yes.

And I still maintain that it will. It just won't immediately...these things are sometimes lifelong pursuits, and it won't necessarily completely. Your misunderstanding is, as I've said, in the how of it all. Prayer does work. Through faith all things are accomplished, and that includes the turning of our hearts and the state of no more desire to do evil. But it is more complicated than a light switch.

It is necessary that we are tempted by evil (if you haven't, read through 2 Nephi 2). But God does help us if we ask Him to turn our hearts toward Him and away from evil. Absolutely, without question! But He won't take away all temptation just for the asking. He will give us strength to deal with temptations.

Temptations are based on things that are strong, natural drives. It's like taste in food. If someone had a problem eating too much because they loved chocolate, would it be reasonable for them to ask God to make them magically not like chocolate any more? Moreover, the key to controlling such things, is relative motivation. What do we want more...chocolate, or fitness (this isn't always the decision, but in my life it is). I will always like chocolate. But I want to be fit more. So I choose one over the other, and the motivations to do so are complex -- but as I struggle with it, develop practice and patience, I learn to put off chocolate and the like in favor of the things I want more.

The gospel is very similar. As a man I will always be driven by sexual things, for example. That isn't going to go away for the prayer. But as I turn to the Lord in prayer and faith and develop practice and patience in the matter, I develop the strength and motivation to be more driven by a higher plain, a spiritual one. I still choose -- every time. And I must always choose...one over the other. But my heart, through the grace of God given me because of may faithful efforts (prayer, fasting, scripture study, etc), fills me with light and gives me strong motivation to choose one over the other with greater and greater ease as I develop these traits more and more in my life.

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It is not a sin to be tempted. Everyone, from Adam to Christ to Joseph Smith to LeSellers (and not especially him) is tempted: it's part of the Great Plan of Happiness.

I have found that one way to avoid sin is to avoid the temptation that leads to it. I don't go to bars. I don't buy alcohol. That's one way.

There are sins that are like over eating: you must eat, and avoiding over eating is more than a trifle difficult. But, when it's possible, don't go to the bar (whatever it is) that might lead you to the sin (whatever it is): A temptation avoided is a temptation overcome.

Lehi

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Guest MormonGator
1 hour ago, zil said:

TFP did not say or imply these things - at least, that's not what I got from his posts.  That you got these things and I did not, should be an interesting thing to ponder, for both of us.

 Zil you raise a great point, I think. I didn't get it either from TFPs posts. However if you (not you meaning anyone here, universal usage) are always talking about how you are misinterpreted, maybe it's your fault for not being more clear?

 

Again, the word "you" is in the universal form, not meaning anyone specifically. Goodness knows I'd like to think I'm always clear and concise and anyone who misunderstands me? Well it's all on them.   

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18 hours ago, Awakened said:

Hello again... I'm really in a bit of a jam here and I really need an answer... Basically, last night, I was feeling strong temptation in my mind to sin, but I resisted it. But as I went to bed, I still felt it strongly. So I prayed earnestly to please have it removed. I prayed for 5-10 minutes for this thing, and I had faith that the Lord could and would help me. But... I received no help... And I do not know why.

It's been said numerous times that sometimes we have a delayed response to our prayers. It is also said that if our desires do not align with God's, we will not receive what we ask for. (Most of the time. The other times being when Heavenly Father wishes to teach us something.) I understand all that... But my desires were clearly righteous... I do not understand why Heavenly Father would leave me to my temptations when it is also clearly stated over and over to pray so you may receive strength to resist temptation. I feel kind of abandoned here... :( Did Heavenly Father wish me to pray more? Was I doing something wrong? I just don't know...

You're going about this the wrong way.  I don't know your entire situation, but from what you've written, I would say that you are having the same problem control your thoughts that I used to have.  Where do you think these thoughts come from?  They aren't just "you" generating these thoughts.  It seems the very last thing most Latter-day Saints consider are the role of evil spirits in their problems. I found that evil spirits project thoughts into your mind.  They can't read your mind, but they can project thoughts.  They know every thing you've ever looked at, ever uttered, every read, and because they know this, they can and do use those things to instill evil thoughts.  Did you know that while Joseph Smith was on his knees in the Sacred Grove that Satan projected dirty pictures into Joseph's mind?  Let me give you a few quotes on this subject.

Quote

But while Satan can convey thoughts, he does not know whether these thoughts have taken root unless they are reflected either in words or in actions.

Elder Francis M. Gibbons, CR, Oct 1991, Pg.109

Quote

He has power to place thoughts in our minds and to whisper to us in unspoken impressions to entice us to satisfy our appetites or desires and in various other ways he plays upon our weaknesses and desires.

Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Pg. 81

Quote

Those evil spirits, … invisible to our eyes, yet palpable to our senses, are constantly seeking to instill into our minds evil thoughts and wrong desires, to prompt us to commit sin and thereby grieve the Spirit of God and to lead us, as Cain was led, to perpetrate crime which resulted in his becoming Perdition.

George Q. Cannon, Gospel Truth, Pg. 66

Quote

On one occasion, he went to a small grove of trees near his father’s home and knelt down before God in solemn prayer. The adversary then made several strenuous efforts to cool his ardent soul. He filled his mind with doubts and brought to mind all manner of inappropriate images to prevent him from obtaining the object of his endeavors; but the overflowing mercy of God came to buoy him up and gave new impetus to his failing strength. However, the dark cloud soon parted and light and peace filled his frightened heart. Once again he called upon the Lord with faith and fervency of spirit.

Orson Hyde, Ein Ruf aus der Wüste (A Cry out of the Wilderness), 1842, extract, English translation, Page 1

Josephsmithpapers.org

I was into pornography for 48 years and when I finally overcame it, I was continually plagued with the remaining images that would constantly pop into my mind unbidden.  I learned about how evil spirits can project thoughts and images into my mind and then I also learned how to control that.  First off, since you are a baptized member of the Church, you have the right to cast away the evil spirit from you no matter your age or if you hold the priesthood or not.  This was taught by Joseph Smith.  When the thoughts come unbidden, immediately cast away the evil spirits.  Next, DON"T DWELL on the thoughts and images they project.  If you dwell on them for even a second, they will take root in your mind.

Next, you've got to control what you put into your mind.  Every single thing you do forms the basis for your thoughts.  If you are putting garbage into your mind, your thoughts will be garbage.  If you put in godlike images, godlike input, your thoughts will turn godlike.  If you want to have clean thoughts, you must do those things that produce clean thoughts.  I do not own a TV because it is the single biggest source of evil and immodest characters that exists.  I find that I am diminished on the rare occasion I do see a few minutes of TV. 

You can pray all you want, but it won't do you one ounce of good if you put garbage into your mind.  The best way to resist temptation is to avoid it in the first place.

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8 hours ago, MormonGator said:

 Zil you raise a great point, I think. I didn't get it either from TFPs posts. However if you (not you meaning anyone here, universal usage) are always talking about how you are misinterpreted, maybe it's your fault for not being more clear?

 

Again, the word "you" is in the universal form, not meaning anyone specifically. Goodness knows I'd like to think I'm always clear and concise and anyone who misunderstands me? Well it's all on them.   

What if it's only always talking about how one other individually consistently misinterprets you?

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18 minutes ago, The Folk Prophet said:

What if it's only always talking about how one other individually consistently misinterprets you?

That could be an issue with the relationship. If you don't like someone you are more likely to accuse them of "misunderstanding" you. 

You don't want to be that guy who blames everyone else for either misunderstanding them or not liking them and then does absolutely nothing to see if you can repair the issue yourself. Don't sit in the corner and say "Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I'll go eat worms." 

Why not ask him "Hey, have I wronged you in another life? What's up? Do we have a problem?" Or you can just give up and accept that you can't please everyone, but then why get into a conversation with them in the first place? 

 

(Again, universal usage of you, not you meaning FP). 

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Here is my thought:

*************************

Dear Father, I really want to do this sin. It's right here in front of me. Hard to resist, but I'm being strong. Please change my heart so that I no longer suffer this temptation.

Leave

Father in heaven, I'm trying to be brave, but I can't hold out forever. Please remove this temptation!

Leave

Please, God! I'm at my wit's end! I'm really, really trying to be righteous, but this sin is RIGHT HERE! PLEASE make me strong! REMOVE THE TEMPTATION!!

Leave

I don't get it. Why doesn't God answer my prayers?

*************************

Perhaps there are cases where you truly cannot leave. In such cases, distraction is a useful option. But in general, we ask to be sensitive to temptation, and then we flee temptation until and unless we are strong enough to resist.

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Look, I don't really know what's going on here between you two but I'll just say this one thing to both of you. That we should not have the spirit of contention. That we should be long-suffering to our fellow man, even if we can't understand them at all sometimes. And I'm sorry, that must sound high and mighty and stuff but I really really don't mean it in that way.

38 minutes ago, Vort said:

Perhaps there are cases where you truly cannot leave. In such cases, distraction is a useful option. But in general, we ask to be sensitive to temptation, and then we flee temptation until and unless we are strong enough to resist.

Yeah, it was one of those cases. The urge to sin was coming directly from within my mind instead of from without. But yes, normally you'd be right.

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I always think of what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

I've read some theories about this that make it sound like something very noble. For example: "Paul felt guilty about people he couldn't reach with his message." But I think it more likely that Paul had some very ignoble sin in his life that he was constantly tempted towards, and sometimes (perhaps) he indulged in and had to go through lengthy repentance. This would have flown in the face of his message and made him feel a fraud a lot of the time, but it would also certainly have kept his feet on the ground.

I like it that Paul shies away from specifics: it allows us to apply his experience to our own disgusting and embarrassing secrets. Whatever the thorn in our own flesh might be, we can see ourselves in Paul and take hope from what he says.

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Guest LiterateParakeet
19 hours ago, Awakened said:

Thank you everyone! Well... I'm not gonna lie, I'm quite discouraged. I thought as long as we were trying our best and we make an active choice to resist, as long as we pray, we can remove such sinful desires even if just temporarily. I know that I could never have temptation removed permanently but even not temporarily?

Crap... This changes a lot. I now have to rethink how I'm going to do this... I really thought faith in Christ would help me. After all, with great faith were many miracles and works done according to the will of God. I never thought this would be different.

Stop and think about this for a moment.  Just because you did not get the answer you wanted in the way you wanted does not mean that Christ is not helping you.  As Isaiah said His ways are not our ways. Consider also when the Savior told his apostles, 'this kind cometh not out but by fasting and prayer."

A few years ago, I struggled with urges to self-harm.  There was a lot of mental health and psychological issues behind this, but I think we can agree that Heavenly Father would not want us to self-harm.  As I recall, it was over a year, and a lot of praying and therapy before I was able to overcome that.  My answer did not come instantly, but looking back I can see that Christ was helping.  

Even this frustration you are feeling can be beneficial to you if you don't give up.  It's just part of maturing in the gospel, yes, it's painful, but it's so worth it.  I promise.  Hang in there. 

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