“Prayer without fervency and violence is no prayer; it is speaking, not praying. Lifeless prayer is no more prayer than the picture of a man is a man.” Thomas Watson
This idea of violence to one’s self might be offense to modern man, but it is not out of date for the believer. Watson was a Puritan who spoke passionately about the idea of dying to self; so passionately that much of what he said could be called too puritanical. But that said, the portion I have posted here is valuable and faithful in its approach. The language however is very old English and may be hard for the modern soul to fully ingest, so I have updated the language here without changing his message:
“Offering violence to one’s self, in a spiritual sense, is mortification of sin: Since self is the flesh, we must die to self. Our flesh is like the Trojan horse within the walls that does all the mischief. The flesh is a sly enemy; at first it is sweet venom, afterwards a stinging scorpion, it kills by embracing. The embraces of the flesh are like the ivy embracing the oak; which sucks out the strength of it for its own leaves and berries. So the flesh, by its soft embraces, sucks out of the heart all that is good. The flesh fights against the spirit (see Gal. 5:17). So it goes that the pampering of the flesh, is the quenching of God’s spirit. The flesh chokes and stifles holy motions: the flesh sides with Satan and is true to its interest. There is a part within that will not pray, that will not believe. In fact, the flesh inclines us more to believe a temptation than a promise. It is because the flesh is so near to us that its counsels are more attractive. But a man must offer violence to his fleshly desires if he will be saved, as we see in Col. 3:5, which says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you.” The mortifying and killing of sin at the root, is when we not only abstain from the acts of sin, but hate the existence of them.
Even in the best of saints there is something that needs mortifying, such as pride, envy, and passion. Therefore, mortification is called crucifixion in Gal. 5:24. This is not done suddenly but every day some limb of the ‘body of death’ must drop off. There is always something that needs mortifying. So it was Paul would ‘beat down his body,’ by prayer, watching, and fasting, (see 1 Cor. 9:27).
As flesh is taken to be physical, so it is to be cherished; but as flesh is taken theologically with all of its impure lusts, so a man must hate his own flesh. The apostle says, ‘passions of the flesh wage war against the soul’ (1 Peter 2:11). If the flesh wars against us, we have good reason to war against the flesh.” – Thomas Watson, The Christian Soldier