When Angry or Tempted — Stop, Think, Pray
Don’t let your emotions control you
Doug Britton, MFT
Introduction to “Stop, Think, Pray”
No matter how close you are to God, you will be tempted, angry, or afraid at times. Or you will find yourself dealing with bitterness, jealousy, or other negative emotions.
Don’t think something is wrong with you when this happens. Everyone has to deal with what the Bible calls “the flesh.” That was true for the early Christians too. For example, read about the time Peter and Barnabas — two key leaders in the early church — gave in to peer pressure:
When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Galatians 2:11-13)
Learn how to deal with negative emotions
The practical steps in this study will help you deal with temptation and “dangerous” emotions such as anger, jealousy, or resentment. (These emotions are “dangerous” because they prompt us to sin or make bad decisions.)
In this study you will read about a three-step process that can help you overcome the dangerous emotions in your life. The steps are “stop, think, pray.”
Step 1: Stop
Stop yourself the moment you begin to fantasize about, plan, say, or do something you know would be wrong. Say something to yourself such as:
- I choose, with God’s help, not to sin.
- I don’t have to do this, and I won’t do it.
- I choose to obey God, not the devil.
- I won’t sin. I choose righteousness.
Practice staying alert. Ask God to help you hear what the Holy Spirit and your conscience are saying as you go through the day.
Learn to recognize decision points. Temptation rarely arrives in full force without a warning. You usually can identify decision points that lead to sin. The earlier you catch yourself starting to slip into sin, the easier it is to stop.
Identify sin as sin. Do not sugarcoat it or ignore warning signs. Train yourself to “distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14) and to be self-controlled.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. (1 Thessalonians 5:6-8)
Step 2: Think
After you stop, think things through. Here are some ideas that can help. Look for ones that will work for you.
An upright man gives thought to his ways. (Proverbs 21:29)
Key suggestions —
- When tempted, remember this is an opportunity to grow (James 1:2-4).
- Remember that God is with you.
- Remind yourself that sin is your enemy, not your friend.
- Ask yourself how a mature person would deal with the temptation.
Think about the consequences of sin or bad choices (Galatians 6:7-8). Remember that:
- Sin grieves God (Ephesians 4:30-31).
- Sin harms your walk with God (1 Timothy 1:5-6).
- Sin gives Satan an opening (Ephesians 4:26-27).
- God punishes sin (Romans 6:23).
- Sin harms others.
- God punishes those who lead others into sin (Matthew 18:6).
- Sin harms your witness for Christ.
- Sin harms your potential.
- Sin results in natural consequences.
- Sin results in guilt and misery.
Think about the consequences of good choices or obeying God. Remember that:
- You please God.
- You grow spiritually.
- You build resistance to future sin (Galatians 5:16).
- You are a good example to others (1 Timothy 4:12).
- You avoid the negative consequences of sin.
- You have a clean conscience.
- You experience joy (Proverbs 10:28).
Make an action plan. Decide what steps you will take to avoid giving in to sin or making a bad decision.
Step 3: Pray
Prayer is the key to success. We need God’s help.
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Here are some prayers you could pray when you are tempted:
- Help me, God, to be faithful to you and to your commandments.
- Lord, help me be clear-headed about what is going on.
- Thank you God that I don’t need to sin.
- God, help me look at others as people who need Christ—or as my brothers and sisters—not as sex objects.
- Lord, help me remember the blessings of obedience.
- Thank you God for this opportunity to grow closer to you.
- Lord, help me be content.
- Please help me walk with integrity and not “cut corners.”
- God, please help me not to give in to self-pity.
In addition to these prayers, you could resist the devil by saying something such as “I resist (or reject or rebuke) that thought, in Jesus” name. Or, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan.”
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Related: Bible studies on overcoming anger
Small group discussion questions
- If someone is trying to please God, is it possible he or she will experience negative emotions or be tempted to do something wrong? Explain your answer.
- What are some negative emotions you have given in to? How did you act when you gave in to them?
- How serious are you about wanting to overcome emotions that could prompt you to sin? Explain your answer.
- How can you discipline yourself to stop when a strong emotion comes over you?
- Which of the ideas in this study will help you stop? Explain your answer.
- Which of these points will help you think things through? Describe a situation you might face and how you will put these points into practice.
- What is one situation in which you might have trouble following these steps? How can you overcome your emotional responses?
- Which of the previous prayers will help you when you are tempted? Why will they be helpful?
As you stop, think, and pray, with God’s help you will experience the joy that comes from overcoming the dangerous emotions in your life. May God direct and bless you in your journey.
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)
Next: Guard your thought life
About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.