Like far too many young people today, my adolescent eyes found pornography too early and too often. Soon the allure of cheap and easy pleasure constantly haunted me.
My struggle intensified in middle and high school when my mom’s health faltered. I turned to the empty promises of pornography to try to fill me up and help me cope.
Even after I became a true follower of Christ in college, I continued to struggle with sexual sin. My porn and masturbation patterns fueled impure relationships with girls. I tried to make headway fighting these sins, but I seemed stuck.
I felt trapped. I felt helpless.
Slave to Sexual Sin
Romans 6:6–7 declares that believers have been set free from sin and are no longer slaves to its power. But even as a believer, I felt enslaved to the master of sexual sin. Even if I could fight those sins off temporarily, it seemed like only a matter of time before I would give in again. My inevitable failure was constantly looming over me.
Fighting began to seem futile because any so-called victory was short-lived and soon would be overcome by my own sinfulness.
I shared my struggle with close friends who also were struggling, and we tried to hold each other accountable. But this just didn’t help me overcome my sins. Nothing seemed to work.
I needed a miracle.
A Breakthrough I Didn’t Expect
Then, ten years ago now, God worked a miracle in my life. He purged me of those sins in one day and has changed my life significantly since then.
I was back in my hometown for the summer after my first full year living in China. Although I was growing in my faith and serving as a missionary, I still struggled with the same sexual sins. And I still felt a heavy weight on my soul from those sins.
I had a good high-school friend who had become a believer at the end of college through an older fraternity brother named Jay. That high school friend came over to my house and brought Jay. A few nights later, Jay invited me to a nearby guys’ prayer night.
I attended the prayer meeting with Jay and a few other guys. We were praying in the hallway together, and I was confessing vague struggles. Jay stood up and interrupted me mid-prayer. He asked me to share more specifically about my sins. He said I should pray them aloud to God and to the other guys. Then Jay quoted James 5:16: “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”
And that’s what I did.
In that moment — with a knot in my throat, feeling exposed — I knelt on the ground and confessed aloud in great detail my past and present sexual sins both to God and the other guys there. And they prayed for God to completely cleanse me of those sins.
I had made similar confessions before without having any transformation. But for whatever reason, God chose to do his miracle for me on that day. At that very moment, God took away my struggle with those sexual sins. For a while, I was haunted that I eventually would stumble back into sexual sin, but it didn’t happen. God gave me victory and has kept me from pornography and masturbation for over ten years.
One Prayer Broke Through
As John Piper has said, “I cannot tell you why a prayer that has been prayed for ten years is answered on the one-thousandth request when God has met it for the first 999 with silence.”
God met my thousandth prayer (so to speak) and unleashed a power that broke a deeply ingrained pattern of sin in my life. As a result, I was no longer weighed down by a constant feeling of slavery to sexual sin. God freed me, and I was able to focus more of my energy on pursuing and loving him. It was a huge turning point in my life. God also used that event to prepare me for marriage three years later. I was free, and so was my wife — I did not carry the baggage of those sexual sins into my marriage.
As I think about that day ten years later, I am incredibly thankful to God for his mercy. I wonder why it was that day in particular that God cleansed me, and I wonder why he chose to cleanse me at all. Since then, I’ve prayed for brothers for the same cleansing, but it hasn’t happened to the same extent that it happened with me.
God’s sovereign timing, of course, is key, and James 5:16 give us another factor to ponder. The verse not only speaks about praying for one another so that we can be healed, but the second part says, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” I am not saying that Jay was perfect, but the person praying is a factor to consider. I can say that when Jay prayed for my cleansing, he legitimately believed that God would answer his prayers. He wasn’t just saying the words for show. He genuinely believed that God was listening to his prayers and would answer them. Such faithful intercession for others is a great example for all of us.
What About Today?
Whatever the explanation is, God freed me from a heavy burden on that day. When I think about obvious experiences in my life that clearly prove to me God’s existence and the power of his Spirit, I think about my liberation. I fought for so long to try to cleanse myself. And my efforts were mostly futile. For years, my prayers seemed to be met with silence. But in one moment — after countless pleas — God chose to do the miracle.
My experience often reminds me of how I should honestly and humbly confess my sins before God and others. I also should believe that God may want to cleanse me in a moment of certain sins with which I struggle even now. And I must not be afraid to boldly and faithfully pray that he would heal others around me.
Perhaps today is the day to pray that one-thousandth prayer for yourself or someone you love.