Pastor and author John Piper said in a recent podcast that a healthy sex life for a married couple can be a “weapon against Satan,” focusing his attention on 1 Corinthians 7:5, a verse that discusses themes pertaining to marriage, sex and prayer.
That verse reads, “Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer. But then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Piper’s comments on the matter came after a man named Matt recently asked him how one’s prayer life can interfere with his or her sex life, and if there are times when couples should stop having sex and, instead, pray, wondering if this concept is akin to fasting.
In responding to these curiosities, Piper said there’s “a paradox” and explained how couples must strike a balance:
Now what’s paradoxical about this is that, on the one hand, Paul sees the suspension of sexual relations as a means of intensified devotion to prayer, presumably because the couple wants a breakthrough and some answer to prayer because the devil is doing something they don’t want him to do.
They want to resist the devil — resist unrighteousness that he’s promoting. Abstaining from sexual relations for prayer is a way of making war on Satan.
But then, on the other hand, Paul says the married couple should come back together and continue to have sexual relations so that Satan may not tempt you. This means that regular relations in marriage is a weapon against satanic triumphs. So abstaining from sexual relations for prayer is a weapon against Satan, and carrying on regular sexual relations is a weapon against Satan. That’s the paradox.
Piper said that “God’s design” of humanity calls for normal and ordinary patterns when it comes to most human actions, including sleeping, working out, eating and sex. Keeping an equilibrium on these fronts helps protect people from being “knocked off balance by Satan,” he said.
Someone who has a healthy sex life in marriage, Piper argued, could be more free in his or her mind to fight temptations for sexual sin and adultery, though he said that God has other ways to help people who might not have such arrangements or who might be single.
“In the ordinary course of life, God’s design for the human body has spiritual implications as well as physical ones, which means that the first thing to say about our sex lives is not that it interferes with our prayer lives, but that it may provide protection from satanic attack against our prayer lives,” the pastor said.
As for whether a married couple abstaining from sex is akin to fasting, Piper said he believes that the question itself seems to be on the right track, noting that abstinence and prayer in place of sex might be something that is planned or unplanned. The pastor gave the example of receiving horrible news and not being emotionally able to be with one’s spouse afterward, while turning to prayer in the process.
“Either way, planned or unplanned, the point is not that sex is evil or that it is a hindrance to the ordinary life of prayer,” Piper concluded. “The point is that every legitimate pleasure we enjoy may be given up for a season to underline our intensity or desire for answered prayer or to show our emotional empathy for someone who is suffering.”
Read Piper’s response in its entirety here.