Changing People Through Prayer
Have you ever wanted someone to change? Perhaps this person says or does things that hurt you. Or it could be that you love this person, and you want more than anything else to be of help. When you understand that the true solution for this individual comes only from the Lord who loves them with an everlasting, unconditional love, you know the one way you can be of real assistance is to pray.
Maybe this person knows he has a struggle in a certain area and has asked you to join him in prayer about it. A more typical situation, however, is one in which you are aware that your friend has a deep need without the benefit of him telling you directly. In either case, you still have the privilege as a believer to go before the Lord in prayer.
Prayer gives you the proper understanding of your position as one who belongs to God. When you bring Him real-life concerns and difficulties, you are telling Him this: "God, I need You. I don't have the answers, but I know You possess all knowledge and all power." This is an attitude of dependence and humble recognition of His intimate involvement in every detail.
A great many of your daily concerns involve other people, especially those with whom you live and work. God wants you to include these individuals in your communication with Him.
This kind of prayer is called "intercessory prayer," which may sound like a theological term, but it means you are asking God to work His good will in the life of someone you know.
A big concern that many have, when praying for someone, is that they will ask for the wrong thing. In some situations, the need or problem may not be clear, and you may be uncertain what to request for the person who is hurting.
Romans 8:26-27 offers a wonderful comfort.
"And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself, intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."
You do not have to worry about saying the right thing with exactly the right words because God takes care of that with the Holy Spirit. Before you begin praying, think for a moment about the ultimate goal of your prayers. For example, if the person has a problem with anger, temper or overeating or unwise use of time, he needs to deal with the specific difficulty.
If the individual is not a believer, then the prayer should be for his salvation; that is the redemptive work God does in a person's life.
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you..." (Matthew 5:44)
If the person has already accepted Jesus as Saviour, then he has begun the process of being conformed to the image of Christ, which is God's goal for all who belong to Him. (Ephesians 1:1-12)
Praying for someone to be nurtured and matured in his relationship to Christ is praying for his best.
The Bible is full of many powerful prayers of this kind that you can use as a guide.
When the apostle Paul wrote to the believers at Colossae, he opened the letter with this special prayer:
"We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light" (Colossians 1:9-12).
This is a powerful set of life-changing petitions. What comes through is Paul's desire to see the Lord continue to grow this church into a unified, strong, disciple-making body of believers.
More importantly, these are requests that impacted Paul's life. He was not merely praying a vague request for God to work only in their lives; his prayer was an extension of what he knew God was doing in his life as well.
That is the often unanticipated reward of praying for someone else.
God not only may choose to involve you in His answer for that person, but He most certainly works in your own life in the process. If you are sensitized to the overall issue of how God operates to mature us together, you can see evidence of this co-operative growth.
As your attention is drawn to your friend's trouble spot, God often uses that focus to put the spotlight on your particular weaknesses. God's work is never isolated; His riches inevitably spill over to many people as He moves in the heart of an individual. Paul's prayer in Colossians contains many "double-blessing" requests that cause this enrichment and spiritual overflow.
"That you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding" (v. 9) Paul asked for much more than overall direction for their lives. He wanted God to give them a solid sense of His purpose, one that would not be confused or diminished by worldly messages.
When you pray this for your friend, you are asking God to continue moving him in the direction God wants him to go. Whatever this person is facing, he needs God's discernment and righteous perception to eliminate possible distractions .
Most importantly, he needs the Lord's perspective on his circumstances. As you ask God to work in your friend's life, He will clarify the direction of your path as well.
Philippians 1:6 contains a related promise: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."
Remember, God is in the process of conforming us to the image of Christ. His aim is that we should be "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Ephesians 1:6), reflecting the holiness of the Son of God.
"For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)"(Ephesians 5:8-9).
God wants our speech and behaviour to be an accurate representation of the new creations that we are, so that others will be drawn to Him. That is much of the reason why maturing in Christ, letting Him make the necessary changes, is a blessing to those around us.
One of the greatest benefits of spiritual maturity is a personal one. Sinful habits and behaviour patterns are by nature self-destructive and harmful.
As we pray, we are drawn into closer fellowship with Christ. Through communion with Him, our lives are changed. He purifies our motives and cleanses us from sin.
"Strengthened with all power according to His glorious might" (v. 11) - What each of us needs in every situation is God's sustaining power, the kind that carries us through every Temptation, tragedy, and emotional state. When God weans us away from former things and builds our lives on His foundations, we often feel the shaking of the shifting ground.
The changes can be confusing or painful. That is why it is so important to cling to God for His sustenance. Never under-estimate your friend's need for the Lord's comfort and do not forget that you need God's strength as well, as you continue to minister through continual prayer.
Paul's prayer in Colossians is reminiscent of one God told Moses to give to the people of Israel after they fled Egypt. They were in sore need of stability and hope.
Here is the blessing Moses delivered: "The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).
You may have even heard this prayer used as a benediction by your pastor at the end of a church service.
If there is a person in your life whom you would love to see the Lord deal with in a special and life-altering way, you can be sure that God has brought this person to your attention for a reason.
You may be the only one willing to take the time to pray for him or her. If you let the opportunity pass by, God will certainly still do His work in that person's heart, but God wants you to be involved and receive the blessing, too.
Let us Pray Together:
PRAY: "God be merciful to me a sinner. Receive me now for Christ's sake. Cleanse me from my sin by your precious blood, shed on the cross for me; lead me to be Baptized and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Teach me to pray each day; to read Your will for my life from your word, the Bible; and help me to worship and serve You in the fellowship of your church. I thank you Lord Jesus Christ. AMEN!