Can you Pray away Addiction?
I’m quite torn up over this one.
The clinical me says, “No! Absolutely not!” While the me that was a child in the embrace of a conservative Christian tradition says, “Yes! Absolutely definitely!”
This is the playing out of an important debate, the tension between faith and science.
Of Addiction, science says, Neurobiology! Trauma! Environmental factors! Socio-economic factors! Parenting styles! Genetics!
Faith says of Addiction, Idolatry and Lordship! Repentance! Deliverance! Gospel of Grace!
In most clinical settings, it would be ludicrous to approach a person addicted to alcohol, methamphetamines, cannabis or any other drug and say they could end their struggle if they pray about it. Similarly, the person endeavoring to escape addiction to pornography, sex or bad relationships usually has to do quite a bit of hard inner-work in order to make any progress towards recovery.
And yet, there are those stories of individuals who have an encounter with Christ, or God speaks to them or they pray a prayer form a very honest faith and…they are delivered. I won’t even categorize them the same way as those who fight with blood, sweat and tears for every clean and sober day. The experiences are too different.
The conundrum for me lately is when I talk with a person who takes very seriously the power of prayer and the optimism with which they believe God will deliver them of their addiction. Technically, I align with their belief; technically God can do anything.
Normally, He doesn’t, and I don’t know why not.
So I tend to regard those who want to approach addiction primarily through prayer with…skepticism. Scorn. A condescending clinical smile and nod. I tend to think they’re misguided or in some kind of denial.
Except that I don’t, at least not completely. And then once in a while, they’re prayers come true and they do experience deliverance.
So I’m left in this place of being skeptical of the values of my own faith tradition, prayer and reliance on God, because I find the predictability science so much more comforting. Or perhaps there’s a part of me that believes recovery ought to be difficult, and if it’s not difficult, it wasn’t done right.
It’s been difficult for me, and as long as I am King of Siam, you shall not have your recovery experience be easier than mine! etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…
Technically, my approach to counseling and recovery is Integration, taking all the best from faith and science. Functionally, that means a whole lot of science and good sense and I’ll talk about the Bible if I need to, usually when I’m talking to a conservative Christian.
And I sort of think that works, but now I’m questioning. The people who pray and are unabashed about trusting God sometimes seem happier. They seem more sure of themselves. I like to fill the air with my ideas and values, but deep inside, I’m still wondering about a whole lot of things.
This year is about seeking Christ. Who is He? Where is He? How can I find Him? How can I be more like Him?
In this case, how can I build a counseling practice and recovery model more intricately upon Him?
I’m supposing a first step would be to pray more myself. A second step would be to challenge in my head the thoughts of scorn toward other praying people. Beyond that, I’m not entirely how to cultivate a more sincere faith.
If you the reader, have any ideas, I would certainly love to hear them!!
Can you Pray away Addiction?