Developing self-discipline is essential to everything we want to accomplish. Use this self-discipline prayer and strategy to receive God’s power so you can enjoy more success in reaching your personal goals.
A Bible verse I found when writing my “Weight Loss Prayer” is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12: 11 NIV. This really resonated with me so I decided to explore self discipline as a key to finding God’s help. Here are some truths I discovered and a prayer I wrote to help me succeed.
1. Define self-discipline.
What is self-discipline? Oxford Dictionary defines it as: “the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.” You can almost use the words self-discipline and self-control interchangeably. Self-discipline takes a lot of self-control strung together. Self-control is “the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires, especially in difficult situations.”
Experts say that it’s impossible to have any success or achieve anything without self-discipline.
Is self-discipline really the one most important thing we need to be successful? I would argue that the most important thing we need is God. We need his love, forgiveness, strength, encouragement, grace, mercy, example of sacrifice, and His disciplining us so that we can learn to discipline ourselves. God is the fountain we should be drawing from to help us so that we can obtain self-discipline so that we may then succeed with our goals and aspirations, find God’s best for us, reach our full potential, and thrive.
I have been reading “Your Great Name: Discovering Power for Your Life in the Awesome Names of God” by Michael Neale as part of my morning devotional. One of the names listed for God is Jehovah Ez-Lami which means The Lord is My Strength. The scripture that accompanies this chapter is Psalm 28: 7,9: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him… Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever.” (NIV)
Neale also quotes Mother Teresa, “I don’t think there is anyone who needs God’s help and grace as much as I do. Sometimes I feel so helpless and weak. I think that is why God uses me. Because I cannot depend on my own strength, I rely on Him twenty-four hours a day.”
What an example she was for the world! Isn’t that how we all should be??? But, if you are like me, I often rely on my own devices and strength rather than seeking assistance from God who can help me do what I cannot do on my own. Because I do not ask Him for help, when left to myself, I often fail when attempting to exercise self-control and use self-discipline.
3. View self-discipline as a way to accomplish your goals.
Self-discipline is not just about changing bad habits. It is also necessary to accomplish the goals we set for ourselves such as finishing a degree or getting a certain job, saving for a car, paying off debt, or any number of things which make our life better or are dreams we have which may have seemed unlikely in the past. With hard work, determination, and self-discipline, we can do most things we set our minds to if they are part of God’s plan for us.
4. Don’t give up if it doesn’t feel good. Welcome it as a healthy part of the process.
One of my favorite Bible verses is, “By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:2-4 NIV
Perseverance requires self-discipline and it can often feel like suffering. It seems ironic to actually rejoice in suffering, but we can rejoice that it is only for a short time and that one day we will see the benefits which include building our character and giving us hope (not only for our remaining time here on earth but for the promise that all Christians have of paradise and an eternal life through Jesus’ love and sacrifice).
Since first writing this, I found another translation of Romans 5:3-5: “Let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance. And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation. Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.” (The Amplified Bible) I think it is interesting how different translations and reading just before and after a verse to get the context bring new meaning to scripture.
5. Start with something short term where you can practice self-discipline and draw on God’s power then enjoy success.
One area of my life that I have been (for the most part) faithful and successful in is giving up something for lent. (But, not so much adding something.) When you put it in terms of Jesus denying himself things for 40 days in the desert despite being tempted by Satan to my small temptations, it’s easy to deprive myself for a little while usually of some type of food or beverage such as Coca-Cola, or chocolate, or this year jelly beans and French fries, or one year pizza. Sometimes I continue well beyond lent, but sometimes the last days before Easter I’m chomping at the bit to taste whatever I have given up. I wish that I could harness that strength, self-discipline, and will power every day and always think of things (not just self-discipline) in terms of Jesus. But in reality, that is much easier said than done. It is something we have to practice.
6. Create a good habit by saying this is something I’m doing for right now.
I guess if you look at it as something you’re doing now, then create a habit and get momentum and build on your successes, then maybe your chances of success are greater. I quit smoking numerous times, even for one year and nine months once, but would always pick it back up. Until, finally, when I was 29, I thought to myself, “I’m about to really be an adult. I need to quit this childish stuff.” I smoked the last 5 cigarettes in the pack in a row and got a nice little buzz. Then I thought I’ll just see how long I can go without one. Soon it will be 12 years that I have “stayed quit” as I call it. Do I still think about it? Yes, occasionally when I’m stressed out or have had a big meal and want something to top it off, but it’s not something I seriously want to act on or go back to.
7. Ask God to help you find a healthier substitute when you need self-discipline to change an unwanted behavior.
I’m not an alcoholic, but have definitely abused alcohol in the past and finally realized drinking was something I shouldn’t do. Sometimes I do want a drink, but luckily, God has provided things such as smoothies, fruit drinks, and non-alcoholic beer which let me have the taste I like and would miss, without having the unwanted alcohol too. That makes me happy. I’ve learned that a lot of times when we sacrifice something, God provides us with something just as good or even better to replace it.
8. Use lists to help you keep on track and feel a sense of accomplishment.
I often make lists of what I need to do and then find satisfaction in checking things off as I complete them. It may take a long time to get to some of the things. Sometimes I have to create a second list for more long term items or I keep making new lists and some of the same things wind up on the new ones. Making lists helps me prioritize what needs to be done first and is most important from things that can wait. It also helps me group like tasks together so that I can maximize my time and am not running back and forth especially when doing errands. It helps me develop a strategy and plan to get things done.
9. Just get started!
Often times, for me, just getting started (like doing work at home, or studying, or chores, or especially mowing the lawn) is the hardest part. Most of the time once I’m doing it, I end up enjoying what I thought would be unpleasant or seemed to be too large of a job. Once I actually get started I can spend hours happily doing the task and it is not as bad as I envisioned. Procrastination and inactivity only make the dread worse, build up the anxiety, and make it seem more daunting than it really is.
10. Make a schedule and push yourself.
In the past coming up with a schedule for working out and sticking to it was what helped me be the most successful. I try to do that now, but all too often life seems to get in the way of my plans. Sometimes it is other obligations, but more often I think I’m too tired to exercise. However, when I push myself to do it anyway, although I’m still tired afterward, it’s different. I feel invigorated and energized and healthier. When I string several days together at the gym I feel better and begin to really see the difference.
11. Don’t wait until you feel like doing things.
I think that self-discipline is doing things we know we should do even when we don’t want to or feel like it. I realized there are some things I’m rarely going to “feel like” doing, but these are things that must be done too. That is when I have to quit putting it off and just bite the bullet and get to it whether I want to or not.
Self-deprivation is not fun but necessary. It doesn’t have to mean you can’t be nice to yourself by moderation or finding other rewards, but sometimes moderation is not possible because we can’t handle it and will backslide and sabotage ourselves because yes, we are just that weak.
13. Change your focus from the immediate to the long term.
In our society, we often live for today without thinking of its impact on the future. We want it now and do what makes us feel good at the time then deal with the repercussions later. We focus on the “immediate” and not the “long-term”. A problem I see often at work is the mindset of self-entitlement. Yes, I am guilty of it at times, but it is something we need to break ourselves of.
Self Discipline Prayer:
Dear Lord, Please don’t let me continue putting off until later what I can do today. I do not know what tomorrow may bring or how many days I have on this earth. Please instill in me a sense of urgency and help spur me into motion rather than squandering my free time.
I know that I need to meditate and recharge to be able to have the right mindset about the things I don’t want to do. Please help me find a balance or help me do small things then rest, or think of small rewards which I can look forward to in order to make the things I don’t want to do more bearable.
Help me not just to make lists, but to also do the things on the lists whether it takes a day, a weekend, or a month or longer to complete.
When I’m trying to break a bad habit or cultivate a new better habit, help me to get a few successes under my belt so that I do not want to throw it all away for a momentary and usually dissatisfying experience.
Dear Lord, thank you for being strong when I am weak. Thank you for being a rock that I can cling to. Thank you for giving me courage in my storms. Please help me to call on you in my times of temptation and when I feel that I can’t go on or can’t do something.
Please help me put those negative thoughts away and know that I can do things and that you will help me and never leave me. Please help me know that I have great strength inside of myself and that if I can get my mind and attitude right that I can resist the things that are bad for me and stick to my plans and goals to help me achieve great successes in my life.
I know that times will be hard and I will want to give up, but please help me to keep fighting the evil forces and naysayers and those who try to thwart my attempts, and help me to block out Satan’s stumbling blocks and things that get me off track or divert my attention from the prize.
Please help me to think of my goals as not only selfish things to make my own life better, but also ways in which I can glorify your kingdom and be a better witness to others: both other Christians and non-believers.
Help me to set a good example for others and be an inspiration to those who need it. Please help me find motivation and energy to tackle the things I dread.
Please give me wisdom and send angels of mercy in whatever forms you deem necessary who will help give me encouragement when I am down and help me refocus when I have temporary setbacks.
Please help me not to think of my setbacks as failures but rather as learning experiences so that I know what not to do next time. Please give me the motivation and willpower to be the best that I can be for myself and for you.
Thank you Lord for all you do and are for me. I ask this in your Holy name. Amen.
Bible verses to use and claim
Here are ten Bible verses about self-discipline and self-control to meditate on:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV
But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 NIV
They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. Hebrews 12:10 NIV
For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 NIV
Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14 NIV
How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 NIV
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14 NIV
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 NIV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Revelation 2:10 NIV