Most spiritual programs of recovery admonish us to pray. Some pray to “higher powers”, some to God, as they know Him, and others to Christ who is the one true God. It seems that non-Christian recovery programs implicitly agree with the Christian perspective that prayer changes things. So they pray to their higher power and the real God hears and answers their prayers in accordance with His will and purposes.
God almost begs us to pray when He tells us this in His word:
Jas 5:16(b) – The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
While James 5:16 is a great recovery verse, it actually is not the best verse on prayer and recovery in scripture. This is:
Mt 26:41 – Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Also recorded in Mk 14:38)
This is Jesus instructing His disciples on prayer as He Himself is going through the agony of knowing He is about to be crucified. This instruction was not just for Peter, James and John; it was also for us and is every bit as important today as it was in the moment back then. As Jesus speaks this He is quoting from the prayer Psalm that He gave David close to 900 years beforehand:
Ps 51:12 – Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
If you recall, Psalm 51 was penned after David was confronted by Nathan over his sexual indiscretion with Bathsheba, another man’s wife, and his subsequent murder to try to cover up the sin. David was tempted, and his flesh was weak.
In Christian recovery we often talk about putting on the armor of God, as listed in Ephesians 6. What we sometimes forget is what Paul said right before and right after. Before he says our enemies are not flesh and blood, immediately after listing the armor he says to pray.
So when Jesus is instructing us to watch out and pray because our flesh is weak, He is speaking of personal spiritual warfare; our inner unsanctified person and our temptation versus the Spirit of God inside us.
All of this suggests that one of our greatest tools in recovery is that of earnest prayer, the kind of prayer mention in James 5:16. It also implies that those who don’t pray might struggle more than those who do. Interestingly there is research that suggests that this is true (Carter 1998, The Effects of Spiritual Practices on Recovery From Substance Abuse)
What is your experience of prayer in your recovery? Have you decided to be like David, called by God, “A man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22)”, and pray over your own weaknesses?