"Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available...."1
A Daily Encounter reader asks, "Can you explain why I feel so miserable, guilty, and unhappy for not keeping my promise to God to quit smoking? I feel he is punishing me for failing and for breaking my promise."
No, no, no, no, no!
God is not like that. He is not a "punishing" father like some earthly fathers—perhaps even like your father was when you were little. God is much bigger than that. It's we ourselves who punish ourselves.
Quitting smoking, or any addiction—small or large—is not likely to happen by giving a promise to anyone, God included. The root cause of the addiction is the symptom of a deeper problem—also used as a means of avoiding the real issue. As the saying goes, symptoms are the fruit of a deeper root. Also, as another has said, "God is merciful, when we have unresolved problems, he gives us (or allows us to have) symptoms!"
Sure, it's important not to neglect dealing with the symptom but God wants to heal us at the deeper lever, at the root cause of our problem. Symptoms need to be a wakeup call for us to get the help we need.
So, first of all, pray the right prayer. If you are struggling with an addiction or a bad habit, ask God to give you the insight and courage to see the cause/s behind the habit ... why you started it in the first place. Also, is it an escape from facing some unresolved issue in your life? Ask God to confront you with the truth behind your problem—the root cause—no matter how painful this may be.
Second, ask God to lead you to the help you need to overcome, which may be both medical and psychological-counseling help, and to help you find a support, twelve-step, or an overcomers anonymous group—whatever it takes to help you overcome your problem so it will no longer overcome you.
And remember, if you confess your failure to God and ask for his forgiveness, he will always forgive, forgive, and forgive. Remember that Jesus said we were to forgive seventy-times-seven which mean forgiving without end. That's the way God forgives us. This is not an excuse to behave as we like but an expression of God's love when we genuinely want his help and deliverance.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, thank you that symptoms are often a sign of unresolved personal problems. About my bad habit of ________ (name it), if this is the fruit of a deeper root, please give me the insight to see the cause/s, the courage to confront it and admit it to you and at least one other trusting person, and the good sense to get the help I need to overcome it. And please lead me to the help I need so to do. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. James 5:16 (AMP).
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