The Necessity of Prayer – Lesson XXIII, Prayer and Character and Conduct
Conduct, is what we do; character, is what we are.
Conduct is the outward life, that those around us see.
Character is the life hidden within and cannot be seen, yet the evidence of character is by that which is seen.
Conduct is external, seen from without; character is internal—operating within.
If character is the father, then conduct is the son. And like the father, so is the son.
If character is the root of the tree, then conduct is the fruit of the tree.
Paul tells us in Titus 2:14 that the purpose of the atoning work of Christ is to create Christian character and as a fruit, Christian conduct.
He writes as he speaks of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14)
Prayer is a helper in that purpose for prayer is foundational to all of God’s gifts of grace.
Prayer helps to establish character and determine conduct, and both to be successful depend upon prayer.
There cannot be anything like distinctive Christian character and conduct without prayer.
The two musts for distinctive Christian character and conduct are the study of the Word of God and Prayer.
The more we pray and the more we become a devoted student of the scripture, the purer and more effective for God our lives will be.
Christ gave himself for us that we would be a peculiar people, a people of inward spiritual character, and conduct which produces good works .
Study the Epistles of Paul and you will find the overriding theme there to be the condition of the human heart and the integrity of the personal life.
You will find the insistence on holiness and righteousness of life.
Character and conduct are prominent subjects throughout the scriptures.
The salvation that Jesus Christ brings, brings that which changes men who are void of spiritual character, men who have loved unholyness, to men who become holy in heart and righteous in life
The salvation that Jesus Christ brings, changes the inward so that the outward conduct is changed.
The world’s method is to work on the outward regardless of what the inward is.
We are not to love the world and the whitewashing of the outward and the satisfaction with the whitewash is a part of the worlds economy.
But the salvation that Christ brings never works on the outward only.
It never whitewashes the sepulcher but it raises up the dead of the sepulcher and brings life to the inward that the outward may exhibit truly what the inward is.
And God uses prayer toward this end.
God is our refuge, a very present help in trouble.
And the redemption that Jesus Christ brings opens up to us what trouble we truly have for it brings us to see what we really are on the inside.
It drives us to that refuge, it drives us to prayer.
For any change in us is not “by works of righteousness which we have done,” but according to God’s mercy, which saves us “by the washing of regeneration.”
And this marvelous change is brought to pass through earnest, persistent, faithful prayer.
Christ has come to change lives, old things are passed away all things are become new.
And that is to include character and conduct.
If your form of Christianity does not bring this kind of change in your heart then you are living in deception and delusion.
This is not the Christianity of Christ.
But what is prayer than to go to God for help?
A help for what, a help for change.
Going to God for help reveals that there is a knowledge that help is needed, that change is needed.
Prayer is to change the character and conduct of men.
The proclamation of the Gospel is to bring men and women to Christ but that is not the end of the Gospel.
Bringing them to Christ is the beginning of the work of God, for the work of God is conformance of all of his sons to the image of Jesus Christ.
God takes hold and begins the work of making the things new that he has declared to be new.
God declares it to be, then makes it happen.
God gives a new nature, God changes character, which brings about new conduct.
The church’s primary duty is to create and foster righteousness of character.
This is its very first business.
We are not to think of the church’s main work as getting new members or getting the multitudes to come or the gathering of great sums of money, or even doing works of charity and mercy, but our main work is to produce righteousness of character, and purity in the outward life.
If you would call the church a factory then this is to be our product.
And prayer is right in the middle of this effort.
Unrighteous conduct is born of prayerlessness; the two go hand-in-hand.
Prayer and sinning find no company with each other.
Prayer and sinning are opposed.
One, or the other, must, of necessity, stop.
Edward M. Bounds in his book, the Necessity of Prayer wrote this: Get men to pray, and they will quit sinning, because prayer creates a distaste for sinning, and so works upon the heart, that evil-doing becomes repugnant, and the entire nature lifted to a reverent contemplation of high and holy things.
Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471)
Character is distilled out of our daily confrontation with temptation, out of our regular response to the call of duty. It is formed as we learn to cherish principles and to submit to self-discipline. Character is the sum total of all the little decisions, the small deeds, the daily reactions to the choices that confront us. Character is not obtained instantly. We have to mold and hammer and forge ourselves into character. It is a distant goal to which there is no shortcut.
Our outward imperfections are a reminder of God’s priorities. He is concerned with character; not the deception of outward beauty.
Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )
Personality has the power to open many doors, but character keeps them open.
Reputation is what folks think you are. Personality is what you seem to be. Character is what you really are.
Alfred Armand Montapert
The most fatiguing activity in the world is the drive to seem other than you are; it is less exhausting to become what you want to be than to maintain a facade.
Sydney J. Harris (1917–1986)
What we stand up for proves what our character is like. If we stand up for our reputation, it is a sign it needs standing up for! God never stands up for his saints, they do not need it. The devil tells lies about men, but no slander on earth can alter a man’s character.
Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)
What you possess in the world will be found at the day of your death to belong to someone else, but what you are will be yours forever.
Henry Van Dyke (1852–1933)
When the Spirit of God moves into a man’s heart, he will make that man generous, but he will never make a fool out of him. He will make the man happy, but he will never make him silly. He may make him sad with the woe and the weight of the world’s grief, but he will never let him become a gloomy cynic. The Holy Spirit will make him warmhearted and responsive, but he will never cause him to do things of which he will be ashamed later.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
When wealth is lost, nothing is lost;
When health is lost, something is lost;
When character is lost, all is lost!