Please tell me I am not alone in struggling to keep from being obsessed with my body—it’s size and shape and the style in which it is dressed. The first time I remember being incredibly self-conscious about it was in 5th grade when I came in last place when the girls raced toward the finish line on field day. I didn’t then and have never had a runner’s body. Then in sixth grade my beloved male teacher suggested I should go on a diet. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
Today, the battle is still real—in my body, but even more in my soul. I have an enemy of my soul who hurls condemnation at me and tempts me to jealousy and idolatry in this area. He wants to keep me focused on my body in the worst of ways—ways that condemn me and enslave me.
But the gospel invites me away from all of that. It’s not that the gospel tells me I shouldn’t think about my body at all. Instead, it invites me to invest my body for the glory of God, not in impressing other people. Paul writes to the believers in Rome, and to this believer in Nashville, “Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God” (Romans 6:13 NLT). And a little bit later in his letter he calls upon us as believers to worship God in the way that makes sense, which is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
For this to become a reality in our lives, it can’t just be a one-time determination. It will have to become a matter of on-going prayer, especially in the heat of the battle of temptation to obsess. In fact, I wonder what might happen if we began to invest as much time praying toward glorifying God with our bodies as we spend looking in the mirror at our bodies? How might our obsessions give way to worship if, when we find ourselves self-congratulating or self-loathing, we began to pray that every part of our bodies will be given over to please God? Perhaps our prayers might go something like this:
Lord, from head to toe, inside and out, from beginning to end, may no part of my body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, may my whole body be an instrument to do what is right for your glory!
Don’t let my feet take me to places where darkness will envelop me and seduce me. Instead, let my feet take me to places where I can push back the darkness and radiate your light.
Don’t let my appetites for sex or food or drink make me a slave to them. Instead, sanctify my appetites for sex and food and drink so that all of them cause me to look to you for the satisfaction I crave.
Don’t let my heart go after passions that will take the place in my heart that should be reserved for you alone. Instead, break my heart with the things that break your heart. Capture my heart with a passion for your gospel and your glory.
Don’t let my mouth be used to speak what is false or filthy or futile. Instead, fill my mouth with words of truth, words of purity, words of meaning and purpose. May my mouth be full of blessing, encouragement, and peace.
Don’t let my hands grasp the things of this world too tightly. Instead, give me hands that are willing to work and hands that touch the lives of others in great compassion.
Don’t let my eyes seek out what is corrupting or contaminating. Give me a love for what is beautiful and pure.
Don’t let my ears tune in to voices that doubt or mock the things of God. Instead, give me ears that are open to your Word and your ways.
Don’t let my intellect be captured by the thought patterns of this world. Instead, fill my mind with the depths of your knowledge and wisdom.
Nancy Guthrie has just written a new resource for parents who want the scriptures to shape their parenting and their prayers for their kids from which this article was adapted. In The One Year Book of Praying through the Bible for Your Kids, Nancy works through a one-year Bible reading plan drawing insights and encouragement for parents from each day’s text, and offering parents fresh words to pray for their child based on the passage.