Won't God protect me from temptation if I pray? Here's my reason for asking. Though I'm unaware of any immediate threat to the health and well-being of my marriage, I'm still afraid that, somehow, someday, I may trip up and fall into an adulterous affair. I recently heard a man confess that this very thing had happened to him in spite of his commitment to marital fidelity and in spite of the fact that he had prayed many times to avoid sexual sin. This scares me. Why would God refuse to answer such a prayer? It's not as if the guy was asking for a new car or a suitcase full of money. He wanted to be kept pure! Can I trust the Lord to answer my prayers and protect me from temptation or not?
It seems to us that Jesus provides an insightful answer to your question in Mark 14:38: "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
It's always a good idea to pray that the Lord will protect us from temptation (Matthew 6:13). But prayer by itself is not enough. At least not where marital fidelity is concerned. Once we've made this particular request known to our Father in heaven, we also have to make up our minds to watch. We need to stay vigilant and keep up our guard. If we don't, we can easily be thrown off balance and taken by surprise. We can be led astray by the schemes of the devil or seduced by our own subconscious lusts and desires (James 1:14). Why? Because "the flesh is weak."
If you really want to avoid flirtation and illicit affairs, you have to embrace every aspect of the defense system the Lord has placed at your disposal. Ask for His protection. Make up your mind to stand firm. And keep your eye peeled for unexpected traps and snares.
How do you do this? You might begin by asking yourself exactly why these fears are tormenting you. Are you unusually prone to sexual temptations? Were you promiscuous as a teen or young adult? Is there something in your family background that might account for your anxiety-a divorce, for example, or an affair, or abuse or neglect of some kind? Do you struggle with feelings of insecurity or low self-esteem? Do you and your spouse find it hard to talk about your deepest thoughts and emotions? From our perspective, the bottom line is communication. Couples who can learn to be open, honest, and caring in the way they express their wants, needs, desires, and concerns to one another are the ones who have the best chance of safeguarding their relationship. These are the couples who usually end up going the distance in marriage.
It can also be helpful to seek the guidance and support of a larger community. Find a way to make yourself accountable to others who can hold you to a high standard of morality and marital commitment. Many churches offer support groups or adult Sunday school classes designed to help couples build stronger marriages. It would be a good idea to get connected with a class or group of this kind and make it a regular part of your lives.
One of the tools we have developed to help strengthen marriages is an online Couple Checkup. Whether you're dating, engaged, newly married, or celebrating decades of life together, this assessment tool will bring out the areas where you shine as a couple. It will also help you target spots that could use a little improvement. It consists of between 110-130 questions, based on your particular life stage. It takes about 30 minutes to complete (both husband and wife need to participate). When you're finished you'll receive a feedback report that identifies your strengths and growth areas as a couple, provides discussion starters and guidelines, and suggests recommended resources for further investment in your relationship.
A trained counselor can also help you perform an assessment of your marriage and point out both the strengths and weaknesses of your relationship. If you have children, it might be worth your while to involve the whole family in a series of positive, pro-active group therapy sessions. For referrals to qualified Christian marriage and family therapists in your area, feel free to contact Focus on the Family's Counseling Department. They may be reached for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they're able.
In this iQuestions video from Focus on the Family, Gary Thomas discusses why as Christians we may wrestle with certain temptations for our entire lives.
When Good Men Are Tempted (book)
Marriage: Managing Temptation