Greetings and good morning, brothers and sisters. This is Dr. James Perry continuing with our series, where we seek to explore the deeper meanings of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Over the years, the heavenly Father has shared many revelations of spiritual truth to me, and I want to share them with you. This morning we seek to understand the relationship between doubt and the answer to prayer.
And now, sit back and listen to today's message.
Doubt and the Answer to Prayer
"And he spake a parable unto them to this end: that men ought to always pray, and not faint." Luke, Chapter 18, Verse 1
Brothers and sisters, in today’’s broadcast, we share some insights into the problem of doubt and the answer to prayer. We think it goes without saying that there are many occasions where we fail to recognize the answer to our petitions. Jesus teaches us to pray without doubting, to pray with sincerity, and to pray in the spirit. He says that if we exercise the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains of material difficulty that may stand in the way of our spiritual growth. But our petitions to the heavenly Father should be spiritual rather than material. And they should be unselfish. No matter how much faith we have, we cannot receive any material answers to our prayers. Prayer is a spiritual function, and it must be consistent with the nature of the Father, whom we are addressing.
We know that the Father is unselfish and loves all of his children equally. Therefore, in prayer we should not seek to gain unfair advantage over our brothers and sisters. "No prayer can be ethical when the petitioner seeks for selfish advantage over his fellows. Selfish and materialistic praying is incompatible with the ethical religions which are predicated on unselfish and divine love. All such unethical praying reverts to the primitive levels of pseudo magic and is unworthy of advancing civilizations and enlightened religions. Selfish praying transgresses the spirit of all ethics founded on loving justice."
So the first major problem with unanswered prayer is that often our prayers are not ethical. True prayers must be ethical. All prayers should equip us to extend the Father’’s kingdom on earth. And this extension of the kingdom of heaven on earth is to be done with loving unselfish service. Therefore, the nature of our prayers must be consistent with this purpose. And we see right away that we must move from the materialistic and selfish concept of prayer to the spiritual and unselfish concept of prayer. Leaving the material level, we run right into the barrier of doubt. To the material mind, spiritual reality apparently is non-existent. We must move into the arena of faith, the mechanism by which we operate in the spiritual realm. And this creates a problem for us in that doubt inhibits the reception of the answer to our prayers. As we continue we shall see how doubt interferes with the reception of the answer to our prayers.
Faith requires the whole personality to be engaged in the spiritual outreach. The manifestation of doubt comes from refusal or unwillingness to wholeheartedly believe in spiritual values and meanings. To further gain insight into this apparent barrier, we must consider the nature of God. God is an absolute personality and functions as such in our spiritual relationships. An absolute embraces all of everything that could ever be. When the Father reaches down to us, the lowest he can reach is our supreme effort. And this maximum outreach is different for each soul, but such is the nature of an absolute.
To further grasp this truth, let’’s consider this analogy. Gravity is absolute; it pulls all objects toward the earth with the same force. Differences in mass do not matter. A feather falls at the same speed as a canon ball toward the earth.
When we fail to exert our maximum effort, we are unable to receive the answer to our prayers because our arms are "too short to box with God," as it were. We must extend the arms of our faith so that they reach the arms of God. But how do we extend the arms of our faith so that it reaches supreme levels to meet the Father and receive what He has to offer as the answer to our prayers? Doubt is a mighty barrier to overcome, just as our material natures are mighty barriers for our spiritual nature to overcome. By the technique of doing the Father’’s will, we begin to erode this doubt.
As we strive to do the Father’’s will with wholehearted desire, we become more and more spiritual. And as we become more and more spiritual our desire and faith rises to supreme levels, that level where there are no competing values for the divine will and all other values are below. The decision to do the Father’’s will is the wholehearted desire to become like the Father, as demonstrated by His Son, Jesus, which is the Spirit of Truth surrounding our souls.
As we continue to seek the Father’’s will, thus seeking to be perfect even as He is perfect, the nature of our prayers changes. And this occurs because as we become like Him, we begin to think like Him, begin to share His values. We move from the selfish and materialistic phases of praying to the spiritual and unselfish phases of praying. Our prayers become ethical and our spiritual understanding expands to that degree
where we realize that the Father is trying to serve His children through us.
The Father is spiritual and unselfish, and therefore His spiritual urges and impulses are spiritual and unselfish. As we yield to these spiritual urges and impulses, we become supremely concerned with other selves. We begin to love our neighbors as our selves. Our prayer requests equip us for loving, unselfish service, and as we engage in this loving unselfish service we realize the love of the Father, for the Father is love.
Since the Father is spiritual love, He reveals himself by His spiritual nature. We must recognize the answer to our prayers by recognizing His spiritual nature. "God answers man's prayer by giving him an increased revelation of truth, an enhanced appreciation of beauty, and an augmented concept of goodness." But how are these revelations of the divine nature answers to our prayer requests?
As we have noted, the true request for prayer and the only request that can be answered must be consistent with the Father’’s loving and unselfish nature. So if our prayers are consistent with His nature, then we are praying that His nature be revealed through us to our brothers and sisters. We are then praying in truth and in the spirit. We must remember that the Father is spiritual, and this spirit pervades all of our moral and spiritual activities.
The Father’’s divine nature is revealed in the way we carry out our moral interactions such that they become known by the quality of their spiritual flavor. We may not quite realize it, but when we lovingly serve our brothers and sisters, and when we pray for those qualities to successfully serve them--qualities of patience, understanding, or wisdom--that when we pray for the recognition of the true needs of our brothers and sisters; when we pray for spiritual strength and growth; and when we seek to draw upon our past experiences for the purpose of applying spiritual values and meanings to the present situation, we are indeed revealing the truth, beauty, and goodness of the Father’’s love.
Finally we see how doubt interferes with the reception of the answer to prayer. Now that we understand that prayers are answered in accordance with the divine nature, doubt is associated with the material nature and with selfishness. Doubt prevents our spiritual faith from functioning. It prevents us from appropriating the divine nature. Since doubt is focused upon the failure of the self to receive material and selfish blessings from the Father which are not forthcoming, the self remains skeptical. To overcome this doubt, we must assign it to the realm of Caesars, the province of the material and the selfish. By doing this, there now exists no barrier to our faith, and we can begin the transformation from the material character to the spiritual character.
In the comic book, Superman, we see scenes depicting him changing from the mild mannered Clark Kent into the mighty Superman. We see his outer clothing being gradually replaced by the underlying Superman costume as he flies off on some urgent mission. And like Superman in the comic book, as we seek to do the Father’’s will, we are transformed from the weak, unreliable selfish material character to the invincible, unselfish spiritual character as we rush off on our mission of loving and merciful service.
This concludes today's message on understanding the relationship between doubt and the answer to prayer. We hope you find something in this message to ponder and pray about as you go about your day.
Until next time, this is Dr. James Perry.