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 revealed many revelations of spiritual truth to me, and I want to share them with you. This morning we will ponder our lives as we seek to understand how prayer transform us.
And now, sit back and listen to today's message.
The Transformation of Prayer
“Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” First Titus, Chapter 5, Verses 17 and 18.
Brothers and sisters, when we were small children, one of our greatest delights was to play in mud puddles. We delighted in stomping our feet in the mud puddle and watching the water splash. Unfortunately for us, this practice also causes us to become wet and muddy, and the longer we played in this mud puddle, the more we became covered with the muddy water. And our parents were not very happy when they discovered what we had done.
In our walk with the heavenly Father and with our brothers and sisters, we often make petitions on the behalf of others and our own. Sometimes we ask the heavenly Father to bless them, to give them the things we think they need or things they desire. But more often than not our petitions on behalf of our brothers and sisters, especially those with whom we have a close relationship, are not likely to be positive initially. We’’re rather likely to complain about them.
Being imperfect, we all find fault with one another. And sometimes, we are so intertwined in our relationships that it is extremely difficult to put some distance between our rights and another’’s. So feeling trapped and in response to intolerable emotional strain, we begin to ask the heavenly Father to change the other person. We tell the heavenly Father how miserable we are because of another, and how a person robs us of our peace and joy. We tell the heavenly Father that our request of them to change goes unheeded, and we are left in a sorry state. We continue to pray and pray, seeking some relief from the intolerable situation.
But we often fail to realize that the Father has given others free will, just as he has given us free will. This means that the Father cannot change anyone against their will. The Father respects the free will choice of all his children. But he does want all of his children to be righteous, to acquire righteous characters, like his Son, Jesus. How does he bring this about in the face of free will? How does the Father influence his children to cause them to voluntarily submit their wills to his will?
Even though we have free will, we are created with the urge to be righteous, to be perfect even as the heavenly Father is perfect. This urge to be perfect in the face of imperfection causes us eventually to submit to the Father’’s will, to move towards perfection. And by doing this we eliminate objectionable character defects in ourselves and thereby positively influence the one who causes us so much emotional distress.
The Father’’s spirit indwells all of his children. And he works tirelessly in all of us seeking to create us in the image of Jesus. We must reconcile, then, our understanding of petitions made to the Father for others to change against others’’ free will
The Father works through love. This is the most powerful and desirable force in the universe, for the Father is love. This love is the one thing that all morally conscious beings desire. We were created to respond to love; only by consciously resisting it does it become ineffective.
What happens when we begin to pray to the Father to effect change in someone else? One of the essential factors in getting another person to understand why the person behaves the way he does is motive. Usually when we discern the motive behind the objectionable behavior, we come to realize that in most cases, others’’ motives and our motives are one and the same. We all want to be loved, appreciated, to be cared for, to be happy, and satisfied; and we want to have our fundamental needs met.
When we pray to the Father to intervene in a person’’s life, to change him into a more agreeable fellow, say, we begin to pay close attention to the person to make the effort to understand and obtain insight into the behavior. Once we gain insight into the behavior, we pretty soon begin to realize what he is trying to work out through such objectionable behavior. We begin to see that most are weak in character rather than wicked, for example. Most, despairing than depraved.
As insight and wisdom begin to accumulate, we begin to see the light The Father gives us the qualities that we need to interact righteously with the person. One of the first qualities he bestows is patience: we cease trying to change the individual; we develop tolerance and forbearance. These three qualities once acquired remove emotional pressure from our minds and souls and allows the peace of the spirit to flow like a river. The behavior, while still objectionable, ceases to have any negative effects upon our emotions, attitudes, and thus our decisions.
Having acquired these qualities of patience, tolerance and forbearance, we begin to interact positively with the person, now that we understand where he is coming from. We begin to direct our focus on those aspects that are positive about him, making sure that we acknowledge the good he does. We refrain from attempting to change him, while we focus our efforts on displaying those qualities we wish him to emulate. When we do this, we make a spiritual appeal to his soul.
At this point it becomes apparent that we have indeed entered into partnership with the Father in order to bring about change. Our prayers must be expanded to include ourselves as a factor in praying for the individual. We must recognize that we are the one that the Father is going to work through to bring about a change. We must pray to the Father to give us those qualities that we need to display to the individual. In this way, we move from selfish petitions, where we ask the Father to do something for us to unselfish petitions, where we ask the Father to empower us to do something for the individual, indicating that we have truly being born again. Moving from selfish petitions to unselfish petitions is the transformation of prayer. We start out praying for the Father to change an individual who is causing us so much distress, and we wind up being changed into a paragon of patience. Prayer changes the one who prays, primarily, and the one being prayed for, secondarily and by influence.
And now we are in a position to understand how the Father changes us and why it is necessary to be in contact with the person whom we are desirous of changing. And though praying for a person with whom we are not in contact keeps our hearts outstretched to the individual when he does come within our influence eventually, it has no immediate effect upon changing that person’’s character.
When we start praying to the Father--no matter how ill advised the petition may be--we consciously come under the influence of the Father. And since the influence of the Father is very great, we soon come to recognize the magnificent character traits of the Father. We recognize and experience his goodness, truth, and beauty. And since we are capable of recognizing that which is good, true, and beautiful, we begin to identify with it, even though we may continue with our selfish petitions to change someone else. This spiritual influence is very similar to the analogy given earlier, where the kids played in a mud puddle and soon were covered with muddy water. The longer they played in the mud puddle, the more they become covered with the muddy water. Likewise, the more that we stay in the Father’’s influence, the more we become like he is. Such is the nature of a superior influence.
Although this influence operates in a very subtle and gradual way, it is extremely effective over time. We gradually begin to take on the image of Jesus, which is indicated not only by the subtle changes in our prayers but also in the positive spiritual changes in our character. We really begin to take a positive interest in the other person. We recognize in him the same deficiency that was once in us, and we are moved to alleviate his suffering by showing him the better way. And since the Father’’s spirit is living within him, manifesting the same spiritual influences, he is also able to recognize the better way when he sees it, if he sees it long enough. Sometimes the exposure is insufficient for the muddy water of the Father’’s love (as manifested through us) to cover the individual completely. He has to play in the muddy waters of the Father’’s love for a longer period of time. Thus, this is the purpose of coming into contact with the person in whom we are desirous of influencing. We must display the better way to him in and through loving service to him, thus making a spiritual appeal to his soul.
This concludes today's message on understanding how pray transforms us. We hope you find something to ponder and pray about as you go about your day.
Until next time, this is Dr. James Perry.