Learn how to pray for self-control effectively with these nine powerful Bible verses to guide you towards greater self-control and spiritual resilience in life.
As believers, we are called to develop and exercise self-control—something that is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Self-control is vital for the enjoyment of the life God intends for each of us. Without it, we are open to attacks by the enemy and making something outside of God an idol in our lives.
Where do you need self-control? Maybe your temptation is to overeat, spend hours mindlessly scrolling on your phone, or overschedule yourself so you can’t follow through on your commitments.
If you have, I have good news: you are not alone.
I have struggled with all kinds of things, like laziness, overeating, and overprioritizing material possessions.
My lack of self-control led me to weigh 349 pounds and have so much stuff that my basement and attic are overpacked with material goods that I do not need.
But this is not the end of my story, and it does not need to be the end of your story either.
A lack of self-control can come in many forms—lust, fury, gluttony, and laziness are a few that come to mind.
There is a way to gain self-control.
Prayer is a powerful tool. Prayer of the Scriptures can cultivate self-control and release you from the chains of ungodly passions.
Keep reading for ways to overcome a lack of self-control and to hear where my story is now.
The Biblical Perspective on Self-Control
When we think of self-control, we often think of the ability to have our personal selves under control. But this is not the Biblical view of self-control.
Self-control is not about bringing ourselves under our own control. It is about bringing ourselves under the power of Christ.
The idea that we need self-control presumes two things:
- There is something within us that needs to be bridled. There can be ungodly passions that pull at us or even good passions that we want to keep in check and not overindulge in.
- There is a power we can use to restrain our ungodly passions and help us partake of good passions in appropriate ways.
Self-control is not just our outward actions; it is our inward emotions and thoughts as well.
Biblically, self-control, or lack of self-control, goes to the deepest part of us: the heart.
Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, which means we can’t create it ourselves; it comes from God.
Self-control is the active effort we put forth to resist the temptations of the world around us once we have turned to God’s way of life. It is the demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit instead of committing the works of the flesh.
It is following the will of God.
It is an active effort; it is not easy. It can be accomplished through turning to Christ and through the strength of prayer.
9 Key Bible Verses for Self-Control
1. 1 Corinthians 9:25: We get a crown that will last forever.
“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.” – 1 Corinthians 9:25
Strict training. Active effort. These are not faint words. It takes consistent prayer to cultivate self-control, just as it takes consistent training for an athlete to compete successfully.
Working for that eternal prize is the very reason that our active effort is worth it.
2. 1 Corinthians 10:13: God provides out of temptation for you.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13
This is such an encouraging verse. You will be tempted, but God promises it will not be more than you can handle, and He will also provide you with a way out.
As I wrestled with my ungodly passions, temptation was something I dealt with daily.
- That brownie, chips, and such things kept calling my name.
- The next best cookbook or blouse kept telling me to buy it.
It didn’t seem like I was able to fight this incessant drag on my life. I couldn’t fight it in my own power, but once I began to pray this verse, Christ gave me the power I needed to help me fight it.
It was not one and done. I prayed every time I felt the urge to succumb and every time I would feel God’s power, and slowly but surely, I grew stronger and was able to stand firm in what I knew was right.
3. 2 Timothy 1:7: God gives us a Spirit of love, power, and self-discipline.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” -2 Timothy 1:7
I have this verse on my bathroom wall. Every time I use the facility, I pray this verse.
Think of the word timid; it sounds meek, mild, and unpowerful. This is not how God made us. Once we accepted God into our lives, He released the Holy Spirit in us.
He gives us power, love, and self-discipline.
There are times we may not want to accept God’s self-discipline.
I know that there were times I just wanted that brownie or blouse. I knew I could pray for God to help fight the temptation, but I really wanted it.
This is why I have this verse on my wall. I need this reminder many times a day. I encourage you to put this verse where you can see it often to remind yourself of who God intends you to be.
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and discipline” – 2 Timothy 1:7
4. Proverbs 25:28: God is the key.
“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” – Proverbs 25:28
This paints such a vivid image.
God wants to protect you and fortify your wall of self-control.
A person without self-control is like shutting a door to a thief but not locking it.
Temptation will get through and steal your resolve.
Praying to put your self-control in God’s power will lock your doors. Will hold firm those city walls.
God has the answer. He is the key.
5. Titus 2:11–12: God’s grace teaches us to say, “No.”
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” -Titus 2: 11-12
“By the grace of God,” I have heard this saying so many times, as I’m sure you have as well. There is so much truth in those words.
This verse does not just say that in Biblical times, God gave grace that helped His people live self-controlled lives. It says this in this present age. Today.
God gives us all His grace so that we can live self-controlled, upright, godly lives.
Through prayer and petition, God has given me His Grace, and I have been able to say, “No” to chocolate treats and fancy blouses.
This is not to say that I can never have a chocolate treat or a fancy blouse. I can have one of each when it is in my plan and budget.
They don’t call out to me as much any more, because God has opened my eyes, and I see that I can plan for them when I want to have one, not when they call to me.
They are not in control; God is in control.
You can find this freedom here. God will lead you there.
6. Galatians 5:22–23: Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.
“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
I pray to be like Jesus and to show others about Him through the fruits I display.
I desire to show love to all, to show that I have God-given joy and peace even in turbulent times, and to communicate kindness and gentleness to others. To display goodness and faithfulness.
Have you forgotten about self-control being a fruit of the Spirit? You are not alone. I often forget this as well.
Did I really forget, or did I just want what I wanted?
For me, I just want what I want. I knew that praying and having God lead me in self-control would mean losing some of my favorite things. It would feel like I was out of control.
I had to give up control so that God’s power could take over. I had to love Him more than what I wanted.
I prayed daily, throughout the day:
“I can do all this through Him who gives me strength” – Philippians 4:13
I needed strength—His strength to give up my control and accept His power of self-control.
“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. The Lord works out everything to its proper end.” – Proverbs 16: 3-4
7. Proverbs 16:32: Patience shows self-control.
“Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.” – Proverbs 16: 32
Many of us wish to tackle our problems head-on and not sit back and be patient.
For me, I joined every diet program out there to fight my obesity. I looked at it from the world’s point of view and wanted to kill the issue with a program. I thought my good work on the programs would solve this.
I never found the solution until I stepped back and waited on God. I didn’t sit and do nothing. I listened.
I was led to Faithful Finish Lines, a Christian-based weight loss program that not only focused on weight loss but also on having a deep relationship with Christ first.
I spun my wheels for so many years trying to solve my issue within my own power, and what I needed was God’s power and to be patient as I followed His lead.
While I didn’t join a program to stop spending, I found that putting myself in God’s power, having self-control, and following the guidelines in Faithful Finish Lines helped with this as well.
8. James 1:19–20: Listen to God
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” – James 1:19-20
Another verse to say: have patience and listen. Praying is part speaking to God, but it is also part listening to God.
How can we change or follow His lead if we don’t listen to what His lead is? I have been guilty of this. I pray and then quickly say, “God isn’t saying anything to me.”
Well, while I am speaking, He may be as well. I need to be quiet and listen.
Have you ever wondered, “but how do I know it is God? How do I hear from God?”
There are many ways to hear from God:
- Sometimes we’ll hear through our hearts.
- Sometimes we’ll take a first step, and there will be peace. That peace is God.
- Sometimes a person will say something that confirms what they thought God was saying.
- Sometimes you’ll be led to a scripture, which is God’s voice.
You’ll know it is God, because the message will align with scripture.
9. 1 Peter 5:8: Be alert and renew your mind daily.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” -1 Peter 5: 8
Oh, I wish I did not have an example of this one. I will venture off my main story for a minute, but not too far, and return to it later.
Last week, my work position was cut due to budget cuts. I find myself struggling to maintain my self-control.
I have not exhibited the fruits of the Spirit as I should, and I was not listening as well. I was succumbing to worry and anxiety and putting my self-control back in my own hands.
It took Scripture, prayer, and the voice of a wise friend to remind me to put my self-control back in God’s hands.
During this week, I gained 2 pounds and bought 2 more cookbooks that were not needed.
I needed to return to a sober mind—one not filled with anger and anxiety but a patient mind focused on God.
This takes work, but you can do this. I can do this. We can do hard things.
Return to a patient, sober mind each day and pray for God to give you self-control in His power.
Prayer and Self-Control
Praying scripture will release God’s power to help you cultivate self-control. This is a sample of how you can pray with scripture:
Thank You, God, that I am not alone in temptation. That no temptation has overtaken me that is not common to man.
I Praise, You, God for Your faithfulness in not letting me be tempted beyond my ability. Please give me an awareness of the way of escape that You always provide, and the courage to make use of it. (I Corinthians 10:13).
Thank You, God for Your grace, train me to say, “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live a self-controlled, upright, and godly life in the present age. (Titus 2:11-14).
God, give me an athlete’s mentality, as I exercise self-control in all things as I train for the race and then run to receive the Prize.
Help me run your race in such a way that I may obtain the eternal Prize.
Please give me the grace I need to discipline my body and keep it in Your control (I Corinthians 9:24-27).
Help me to walk by Your Spirit, not gratifying the desires of my flesh. (Galatians 5:16).
Please extend to me the Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline as promised in 2 Timothy 1:7, to guide my actions and decisions.
Build spiritual walls and lock doors to provide protection against temptations. (Proverbs 25: 28).
I ask for patience and calmness in every situation so that I can exhibit self-control. (Proverbs 16:32). As well, impart to me wisdom so that I may listen to You and be slow to speak and angry. (James 1: 19-20).
Dear Heavenly Father, I confess that too often, I allow myself to be controlled by my desires and my impulses rather than by Your Spirit. Please forgive me and help me draw closer to You.
This is all impossible for me without Your grace, so please grant it to me as You have promised. I ask all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
This prayer will see you on your journey to healthy self-control, where you release your power and use God’s power.
Practical Tips for Cultivating Self-Control
Praying is the most powerful aid in cultivating self-control. In addition to prayer you can also develop some daily habits to enhance your self-control.
- Look at your boundaries in this area like a scientist. Where is this thing (eating, cookbooks, rest, etc) helpful? Where does it become harmful?
- Know God’s word. Be in God’s word daily.
- Take time to listen while praying and meditating on God’s word.
- Surround yourself with positive, God-fearing individuals.
- Make a plan, including goals and steps to achieve the goals.
- Explore Joyce Meyer’s articles on self-control and keeping God close.
- Join Faithful Finish Lines where you learn about the 3 Ps. There is so much more to learn about the 3 Ps in the program, but this is a very brief overview:
- Pause – when temptation strikes, pause.
- Pray – pray for strength and guidance and listen.
- Plan – plan if and when you can work your desire into your life. Maybe you can’t/ or shouldn’t, but maybe you can.
Overcoming Challenges in Self-Control
Practicing self-control can be challenging. Here are some common obstacles you may have come across and ways you can address them:
- Impulsivity: Acting before you consider the consequences. This is where the 3 Ps come into play (Pause, Pray, Plan).
- Stress: This is where turning to God can give you peace. This is what came into play with my job loss and turning to God and a Christian friend helped me give the control back to God so that I could continue to practice self-control.
- Lack of Awareness: At times, we just do not realize that we are acting without self-control. Becoming aware of our impulses can be helpful. Each time I want to eat or want to buy something, pausing and praying can bring to my awareness if this is a time where I need to employ self-control.
- Social influences: This has trapped me in the past, just watching a commercial on how these people found success with this program or this item triggered my need to buy into another diet program or buy another unneeded item. Know your triggers and avoid them. Pray for God’s grace and strength for you to overcome those triggers.
- Procrastination: Developing effective time management skills and breaking tasks into smaller pieces can help with this.
- Lack of motivation: Find and remember your why. We have the biggest why ever in 1 Corinthians 9:25. We are working for that eternal Prize.
- Fatigue: Getting enough sleep each night will help us to renew our minds each morning and use self-control.
- Lack of support: This is one where you could join Faithful Finish Lines. They offer a valuable community of support focused on God.
Overcoming these challenges often involves a combination of self-awareness, skill development, and commitment to personal growth, but most of all it involves a commitment to a relationship with God and daily asking for His grace and strength.
Let Him take control so that you can cultivate self-control.
Embracing Self-Control Through Faith
You are not alone in your struggles with self-control. As you have been reading, I have had many struggles with the consequences of being 349 pounds and having an overfilled basement and attic.
I practice the practical tips written about in this article and also utilize all the advice in overcoming obstacles. I refresh my mind daily, recommit and pray daily.
I have lost 140 pounds and am researching ways to donate all my excess. While I have had a recent setback that only lasted one week, thanks to God and a person He put in my life, I am back on track.
God is in control.
Ask for His grace. Put the control under God and you will experience true self-control.
More Posts to Strengthen Self-Control Through Prayer:
Tammy Carnevale has been a member of Faithful Finish Lines 2.0 since January of 2020 and has lost 125 so far, bringing her starting weight of 349 pounds down to 224 pounds. She also manages her Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia with the tools she has learned in FFL program. Her passion is to use her writing and her own experience to help and support other women on their own weight loss journeys and managing chronic illness.