“Pastor, you know I smoke. You gotta pray for me.”
This was said to me by someone heading out the door, with a cigarette in hand. (By the way, if you are around me after I have been in the diner, be reminded that the smell of cigarette smoke emanating from me is the price I pay [along with $4 for “the usual"—three eggs over easy with white toast, strawberry jam, coffee, and tip] to get these insights from the diner. It is not my habit.)
First, I think, why would that even be brought up? No one say, “Pastor you know I wear red shirts. You gotta pray for me,” or “Pastor you know I drink cold water when it’s hot outside. You gotta pray for me.”
But this is different. There is something that tells us that something is wrong that prayer is needed for.
Secondly, my thoughts are drawn to Ed Welch’s excellent book, Addictions: Banquet in a Grave. This is the most significant, clear, and theological treatment I am familiar with on the topic of addictions. It is a must have book.
Welch argues that addictions are worship disorders.
So how do we pray for addicts? And how do addicts pray for themselves?
Praying for freedom from addiction is too small a prayer.
We need to be praying for a new kind of worship, a worship that will have only one Master—Jesus; a worship that will bow to no other.
Yes, addictions are real. They are sometimes physiological (in the body) and sometimes psychological (in the mind), or sometimes both. And sometimes we cannot be sure which it is.
Yes, addictions are hard habits to break. That’s why people don’t break them.
The truth is that addictions can be broken a number of ways, all involving a transition of worship, but not all involving the Creator God and Savior of the universe.
Remember, we are all worshippers by nature. Romans 1:23 teaches us that people who don’t worship God haven’t stopped worshipping. They have actually exchanged the worship of God for the worship of something else—they have exchanged the Creator for a created thing.
When a person worships their family more than their use of alcohol which is destroying their family, they will find a way to stop drinking … until the time that they being to worship alcohol more than their family.
When a person worships sobriety more than drunkenness, they will find a way to stay sober.
When a person worships saving money more than spending it, they will find a way to quit spending $7.50 a pack for cigarettes.
They are not sick. They are doing what worshippers do.
And that’s why I think the sickness model of addictions is inherently hopeless. It wrongly diagnoses the problem and puts the hope for fixing it in the wrong place.
Only a worship model can bring true hope.