How to Overcome Habitual Sin Using the Lord’s Prayer


Lord’s Library contributor Troy Stoneking offers advice on how to overcome habitual sin using the Lord’s Prayer. Check out his ministry Ever Nearer for additional Bible studies and resources. Lord’s Library’s Ministry Leaders Series is a collection of contributed articles written by ministry leaders on key Christian topics.

Ministry Leaders Series BadgeOne of the greatest challenges for many Jesus followers is habitual sin. All of us have the propensity to sin, but for each of us, there are often one or two sins that are especially challenging. Those are the sins we struggle with, in many cases for years, decades, or sadly, for a lifetime.

The Guilt Issue

Have you ever read a Bible passage about eliminating sin and thought, “I can’t even imagine that. I’ve prayed and confessed and tried and tried for as long as I can remember, but I just can’t beat this thing.” Look at some of these verses:

  • Psalms 119:11: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

Sounds like a simple formula, right? Memorize God’s word and sin is no longer a problem. Except no matter how many verses you memorize, you’re still enslaved to the sin. And so, you pray and ask the Lord how to stop, and He brings to mind 1 Corinthians 10:13.

  • 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Well, you already know everyone has temptations, and you know God is faithful, so you pray that passage and look for a way to escape. And sometimes when the temptation shows up there is a clear way to escape. But other times it seems to succumb to it is almost inevitable. Then perhaps you wonder if your sin is special, or maybe you just don’t have enough faith. So, you read the words of Paul in Romans 7 and completely relate to where he’s coming from.

  • Romans 7:14-20: “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”

Yes! That’s me! I am “sold under sin” and I’m a slave to it. “But what I hate, that do I.” You don’t want to sin, and yet it just keeps happening. And you cry aloud with Paul:

  • Romans 7:24: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

All of this leads us to the question. Is there a way to conquer habitual sin?

And the answer is yes, and you’ve read it many times, but perhaps never seen the solution.

The Gospel

How to Overcome Habitual Sin

Enter The Lord’s Prayer

The path out of habitual sin is embedded in two areas of the Lord’s Prayer. But first, let me say this, many Scriptural passages can support us in defeating habitual sin, however, it completely depends on our staying connected to the Holy Spirit. Remember the words of Jesus in John 15.

  • John 15:5: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”

If we are not making being in communion with God our highest priority, then sin will always have a way into our minds and hearts. We must make a decision to spend time in prayer, listening for the Holy Spirit, reading the Word, and growing together with other Jesus followers. These are all part of abiding in Him. And by so doing we can do anything He calls us to do, including the defeat of habitual sin. But without Him, the battle is already lost.

Now, let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer and how it is a powerful aid in defeating habitual sin beginning in Matthew 6:9-13.

  • Matthew 6:9-13: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

We must begin by pointing out that this is not a prayer that is meant to be recited verbatim as some sort of mantra. I know that many churches have done so for hundreds if not thousands (or at least 2,000) years. There is nothing wrong with reciting the Lord’s Prayer in that way, but Jesus is giving us a template or an example for prayer, rather than just a group of words to be recited like some magic formula. In fact, if we go back just a bit to verse 7, we see this borne out by Jesus warning us about how not to pray.

  • Matthew 6:7: “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

So, the Lord’s prayer is a template or a framework for prayer. This is a critical point in our joint work with the Holy Spirit to remove habitual sin from our lives. Since there really isn’t space enough in this post to cover the template method as a whole, we will just focus on two verses. If you’d like a really well-done breakdown of using the Lord’s prayer as a template, I highly suggest the book Pray First by Chris Hodges.

Verse 10

In verse 9 we recognize and declare God’s sovereignty over us and His holiness. In verse 10 we see the first opportunity to defeat habitual sin.

  • Matthew 6:10: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”

Here we go through a process called to submit and surrender. And just so you know, I do this every single morning. The purpose is to give everything about us over to the Lord and to keep Him top of mind throughout the day. I am convinced that a major reason that habitual sin keeps a hold on us is that we don’t regularly submit, surrender, and keep our minds on the Lord and our commitment to Him.

Editor’s note: Amen!

In verse 10 we are calling for God’s kingdom to come, and His will to be done on earth, as it is in Heaven. You and I, are on earth. We want His will to be done here and now, just as His will is done in Heaven at all times. Do you know what His will prevents in Heaven? All sin. There is no sin in Heaven. And if His will is done on earth, and specifically in us, then there will also be no sin allowed to remain in us. But, you ask, how does that work from a practical point of view?

Here is the method. We take every aspect of ourselves and we submit and surrender every morning. Let me explain the process and remind you that these are not just words to be said, but must be sincere and engaged prayers from the heart.

“God, my mind is yours, my thoughts are yours, do with them what You will. Direct my thoughts today to things that are pleasing to you. Draw my mind to You and what you value today. Bring my thoughts to the way they will be in Heaven.

God, my dreams, goals, and ambitions are yours, do with them what You will. Change them to dreams, goals, and ambitions that lead toward a closer relationship to you and to growing your Kingdom here on earth.

Lord my mouth is yours. The words that I say are yours. Take my words today and use them for Your glory, to show love, compassion, and encouragement. Help me to speak and to listen as you would do.

Lord, my hands are yours. Do with them what you will. Lord, make what I desire to do with them align with Your will. Make what I desire to touch in perfect harmony with what is best for building your Kingdom on earth and in my heart. Make what I write and type loving to you and to the people who will read it.

Lord, my legs and feet are yours. Give me the desire to use them to go where you would have me to go. May my travels this day be honoring to You and serve others as Jesus would do.”

Now, you can add any other areas of yourself or your life to this list. Maybe you want to offer up your phone, your computer, or anything else that needs to be daily submitted and surrendered to Him. Again, it’s not the words I have shared here that matter. Please don’t turn this into some type of mantra. But simply submit and surrender everything you need to each morning.

This will establish your posture of a will subjected to the Lord and call out those areas through which habitual sin may attempt to sneak in.

Verse 13

Let’s look at the last verse in the Lord’s Prayer and how it beautifully pulls us toward the Lord and away from that which would cause us to stumble.

  • Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

In this verse, our primary focus is the first section. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Now, we know from James 1:13 that God does not tempt us to do evil:

  • James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:”

“Lead us not into temptation” does not mean we are asking God not to tempt us; He does not do so. It is a plea for God to not allow us to be tempted. It is asking the Lord to keep us from being in situations where temptation may show up. Then we see, “but deliver us from evil.” This is the complement to the first request. Here is another way to say it, “Lord, please keep me from situations where temptation might appear, and draw me away from anything that is opposed to You.”

Here is how this plays into defeating habitual sin. After you have already submitted and surrendered everything to God you make another request, one He loves to answer!

“Father, today keep me from any situation where temptation would work to draw me away from You. Do not let me encounter anything that would move my heart in a direction that takes me out of Your presence. And if I somehow do find myself encountering evil, deliver me from it. Remove me from the danger quickly! Remind me of Your love. Speak to me Holy Spirit, bring back to my mind the submission and surrender I have already given You this day, and show me the way of escape!”

A Last Thought

The Lord has provided His word, His Holy Spirit, and His people to encourage our continued growth in Him. Even so, it’s not impossible that we will still occasionally step out of His will and sin. If that happens, come quickly back to Him! Ask forgiveness, repent, and go back through the processes of submission, surrender, and asking Him to keep you from evil. Then get back on the path.

Don’t wallow in the self-inflicted suffering of guilt from forgiven sin. Move forward in Him and continue to build His kingdom!

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Troy Stoneking
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Troy Stoneking

Troy Stoneking

Troy has been a Jesus follower for over 35 years. He and his amazing wife of more than 3 decades have two wonderful sons, two incredible daughters-in-law, and two fantastic grandchildren. Troy writes encouraging, scripture-inspired content daily on social media and also publishes a weekly blog answering difficult questions about following Jesus.

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