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Personality or Spirit Prayers?
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
It’s really very difficult for each one of us in this auditorium, to realize that our personality is
the only one like it in the whole world. It’s really very difficult loved ones because our mass
society tries to emphasize the things we have in common with others, and the similarities we have
with others or to others. And our present psychological theories tend to stress how we are
dominated and dictated by our environment and our heredity. And so it’s quite difficult for us all
to really take this honestly and truly that there is nobody like you. There is not, loved ones.
There is no one just like you, in the whole world. You have a combination of shyness and drive that
nobody else has. You have a combination of humor and seriousness that nobody else has. And God
deliberately made you that way. You’re unique. And it’s very hard I think for many of us to
realize that. And we kind of hear it up here in our heads, but not down here in our hearts, and we
get back to, “Well everybody uses Alberto VO5 shampoo so I’m a consumer. Yeah, I get Alberto V05,
same as everybody else.”
But loved ones really that’s not true. The truth is that you’re different from everybody else in
the whole world, you really are. And you know too, that the effect that you have on the other
people with your personality depends to a great extent on the motives behind your personality. For
instance, you have a gift of humor that can be used in sarcasm to cut somebody down to size like
that, if the motive behind the humor is your exultation. But your humor can really put somebody
else at ease in a conversation if you just use it for making fun.
And it’s the same with shyness. Shyness is a real disadvantage, it’s a real debilitating thing.
It’s something that really cuts down and limits the possibilities of your being any use in society
if it is built primarily on your feeling that you’re not as good as you want to be and you’d really
like to be better than you are and you’d really like to be better than other people and so you don’t
want them to see how bad you are so you keep shy and quiet so that they won’t realize how
incompetent you are. If shyness is built on that, then shyness itself is a disadvantage. But, if
you yourself are really secure in your own status with your Maker then humility is something that is
beautiful. It’s something that wants to put the other people forward in conversation, it’s
something that wants to build the other person up. So your personality is unique but it can bring
about tremendously different results depending on the motive that governs your personality.
It’s the same with the life energy that runs through your personality. If the life energy that runs
through your personality is your desire to live your life independent of everybody else and make
yourself successful at all costs, then that affects everybody else in the world. But if the life
energy of God’s own spirit of love and peace runs through your personality, then it touches the
humor, and the shyness, and the drive, and the gentleness, and it touches them all into life that
enables you to transmit the life of God’s love and peace to other people. It really makes
As you think of a lake and you think of the sunlight on that lake early in the morning or at sunset
time. And it just touches the lake and the water just becomes gold or it becomes silver in the
morning. And it seems that the sunlight just transforms everything else. Or you look at a snow bank
and the sun hits it and it bursts into glistening light. Now that’s the same thing that can happen
to your personality. Your personality can be touched into gold and life and brightness and light if
the life of God’s spirit is running through it.
And you remember we said that if you’re not willing to let the life of God’s spirit take over your
personality and you in fact determine to use your personality for your own benefit and not for his
benefit or his glory at all, then that is what the Bible calls a sin unto death. That is a
resistance against the Holy Spirit of God’s life that will eventually bring you into darkness and
despair yourself and eventually into eternal destruction. Because God cannot let a wild personality
run through his universe doing whatever it wants, destroying wherever it wants. And so if you
reject the right of God’s spirit to run through your personality and to transmit itself to others,
then you commit a sin unto death. And you’ll remember we said it produces works of the flesh. It
produces anger, and you get angry because things aren’t going your way. When God’s life is running
through your life it seems to flow beautifully. But when it’s not running through your life you get
angry, you get envious, you get jealous, you get irritable, you get impatient. Those works of the
flesh come from a rejection on your part of the life of God’s spirit, a resistance to his Spirit
using your personality at all.
Do you remember the last day we said, that once you’ve accepted God’s plan, and you said, “Lord, I
know you want to pour your life through my personality. I know that’s why I have it.” Then that
Spirit of life begins to try to discipline your personality. And some things it doesn’t manage to
discipline and some things it does and some things you haven’t got light about yet. Some of us
still talk too much. Some of us are facetious; we’re funny at the wrong time. And some of us are
still harsh with our wives or with our roommates. And the Holy Spirit has not yet been able to give
us light about those things. Now those are sins not unto death, you see? Those are personality
traits. They are inexpedient traits that prevent the life of God’s Spirit getting through to other
people. They aren’t willful things. We’ve accepted, “Lord this is the principle that you have for
our lives: to let your life flow through us to others, and we’re willing to do that but there’s some
things that we haven’t seen yet that you want to change in us.”
You’re still doing them. They’re sins not unto death. Because they are not deliberate resistances
to God’s will — they’re simply blindness as to the way in which the Holy Spirit wants to transform
and renew your personality. And so loved ones last day, I think you remember, we talked about those
two. We talked about sins unto death, works of the flesh, anger, envy, jealousy. We talked on this
side about sins not onto death: inexpedient human traits, inexpedient personality habits that
you’ve got used to for years but really there is no iron in them. They’re there and you simply
don’t know yet that they’re wrong. The one is voluntary, the other is involuntary. The one is a
case of rebellion against God’s will, “I don’t want your Spirit running through my life.” The other
is deception, “I don’t know that your Holy Spirit wants to change me in this way yet.” The one
brings eternal death; the other brings a sense that you’re not ministering life. This one when
you’re free from it you become a child of God; this one when you become free of it you become a
minister of God’s life. This one is concerned with the end in view — you have a wrong end view, a
wrong motive. You’re living for your own self instead of for God. This other one you’re using the
wrong means to obtain the right end. You want to live for God but you’re using the wrong means to
Jesus said, “I’m going to have to die, I’m going to have to go to the cross and die.” Peter loved
Jesus with all his heart and he wanted the best for Jesus. His motive was right, he wanted himself
to live for Jesus, but the means were wrong. He said, “Be it far from you Lord. Don’t let that
happen to you.” And Jesus turned around and said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Not because Peter
was after the same thing as Satan, the elevation of self, but because Peter was using Satan’s
methods of avoiding danger at all costs in order to try to bring about the right end. So loved ones,
Now you can see that even though it was using the wrong means to bring about the right end, the
means in a way would have perverted the end. You can see that. If Jesus had accepted Peter’s
recommendation and had decided, “Yeah, I’d better avoid the cross at all costs,” we would presumably
not be here today. And so using the wrong means — while you can say it is just an inexpedient
trait of our personalities — it can result in dreadful disappointments and defeats in other
people’s lives. Loved ones, I really think a lot of people would probably be alive to Jesus if you
and I had allowed our personalities to be more disciplined by his Holy Spirit.
I think of about a 100 times when I believe honestly that I would’ve been prepared to listen to the
real gospel if it had not been spoken by someone whose personality was full of don’ts: “You don’t
smoke, you don’t drink, you don’t dance, you don’t go to the theater.” And it came over to me as a
negative, negative thing. And so when they shared the gospel with me I felt, “Oh I don’t want to go
into that kind of a negative life.” And I think it’s true of many of you. So I don’t think it is
enough to say, “Well Pastor then, as long as our motive is right that’s all that matters.” Loved
ones, no, I think the means is important in order to obtain the right end.
Now of course God has brought us down to this in a specific example and that’s what I’d like us to
look at today, it’s Romans 8:27, it is in regard to prayer. In other words some of us can really
miss out on God’s answers to our prayers, simply because we have not yet allowed our personalities
to be disciplined by his Holy Spirit. Romans 8:27 loved ones, “And he who searches the hearts of
men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to
the will of God.” And just look at the previous verse, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our
weakness.” King James Version says. “In our infirmities,” you remember, and we would say, “In our
personality weaknesses.” Likewise the Spirit helps us in our personality weaknesses; for we do not
know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for
In other words, God says the Spirit is always trying to pray through us despite our personality
weaknesses. And yet often we prevent him praying the way he wants to, because of our personality
weaknesses. And, of course, he always prays right. That’s why Romans 8:27 reads, “And he who
searches the hearts of men, knows what is the mind of the Spirit.” God looks down, knows the mind
of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” And I
think I will be able to make sense of it in a moment.
What’s the key to prayer? What’s the key to answered prayer? I’ll show it to you in Ezekiel 36:37.
It’s an important verse. “Thus says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me
to do for them: to increase their men like a flock.’” Now would you just look at it again? “Thus
says the Lord GOD: This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them: to increase their
men like a flock.” Now you almost feel like saying, “If you know what to do, why don’t you do it?
I mean Lord why do you say, ‘This also I will let the house of Israel ask me to do for them to
increase their men like a flock.’? If you know that’s what they need, they’ve been decimated by
this exile and they need to be increased in their numbers, why don’t you just do it?”
Now loved ones, the principle of prayer is that. That God always requires some free will human
agent here on earth to know what he wants to do and to ask him to do it before he is able to do it.
Now that’s incredible, that the infinite God should be so tied to you and me as that. But he is,
loved ones. You who are theologians or philosophers at all, you know that the whole plan of
salvation is based on one principle: the preservation of our free wills and the creating of a
family of freewill agents who will love because they want to love. Now do you see it is the same
with prayer? Loved ones, God could see what every one of you needs here this morning and he could
if he were not of the nature that he is, he could come down and answer all those things immediately.
And do you see what that would make of us? It would make of us puppets, marionettes. He would come
down wherever he saw something going wrong, and he would fix it. Wherever he saw someone about to
go the wrong way, he would just change it. And all we ourselves would become would be puppets or
Now the Father has determined that though he can see what each of us needs, he is not free to do it
unless one of us freewill agents ask him to do it. He cannot intervene without us asking him to.
In other words, the key to prayer is kind of twofold. First of all, God will not act against his
own will. He won’t act against his own will. Now that is in I John 5:14. God won’t act against his
own will. It’s part of what we read. “And this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we
ask anything according to his will he hears us.” In other words, God can only hear if we ask
something that is according to his will. So he will not act against his own will.
But the second part of the key to prayer is, he will not act apart from our wills. So he cannot act
against his own will, but he will not act apart from our wills. Now that’s in Matthew 9:29. “Then
he touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’” Or the King James
Version you remember is, “Be it unto you according to your faith.” In other words, it will be to
you according to what you believe and expect.
Now I think that’s the conundrum that we all face, that God cannot act against his own will, but he
will not act apart from our wills. So how do we solve it? Well some of us don’t solve it at all.
We add that little magical end to the prayer that makes it no prayer at all, “If it is your will.
Whatever you want. I haven’t a clue but whatever you want.” Loved ones, it’s not a prayer at all.
Truly, really it isn’t. It’s very different, the sense in which Jesus used that. And many of us
pray that way.
Others of us decide, “Well what’s his will? Well I don’t know.” And we use the old soul, our minds
and emotions, and we look around and we say, “Yeah well I think… Yeah okay, Lord do this.” Well
maybe that’s not his will so I will throw up another one. And we just keep throwing them up. And
we threw up so many that, sometimes by sheer chance, we hit on what God wanted to do and then — you
must admit kind of half-heartedly, because we have a fair idea that this might be coincidence — and
half-heartedly we say, “Ah, God answered my prayer.” Well you threw up so many that you were almost
bound to get one answer, about the same situation. You know, I know that we can throw up many
prayers about different things, but I think you’ll agree loved ones, that we come to a problem
situation when we hurl those things up to our Father as if it was just the volume of the prayers
that he would hear. It’s mad, it’s really mad.
It’s like me saying to my wife, “Love, let’s go and we’ll buy our Christmas presents.” And then me
saying to her, “Now don’t tell me, don’t tell me what you want,” and then I take her down to the
basement at Dayton’s and I start there. “Okay, would you like a pair of snow shoes?”, “No.” “Okay.
Would you like some wooly socks?” “No.” “Okay.” Then up, up to the book section, “Would you like
Martin Luther’s works? Would you like a camera, a Polaroid camera?” And I just go on, “Would you
like this? Would you like this? Would you like that? Would you like that?” Apart from the fact
that we’d never get it completed before Christmas, it is a dumb way to find out what she would like
But loved ones, that’s what we do with our prayers. We keep on hurling different prayers up hoping
that some time we might hit the one that God wants to answer. And you know the answer to it. I
should get together with my dear one and I should say, “Love, what would you like for Christmas?”
Or I should observe the things that she has admired during the past year. Or I should use my
knowledge of her over the years and knowing the kind of things that she enjoys doing. And then I
buy her something because I’ve heard it from her own lips or I’ve read her own mind. Now, loved
ones, that’s God’s will for us. Not to keep throwing up soulish prayers, not to keep looking around
and seeing what you think God ought to do in your home or your family, but instead to allow the
spirit of God to begin to draw you close to the Father, to worship the Father, to love him, to spend
time in his presence until the Spirit of God within you begins to give you a sense of what God wants
to do in your family.
Do you see loved ones that our great minds are so arrogant that they are full of all kinds of
convictions of what God should do in our family, “Well, Lord, you’d better deal with my brother.
Father, obviously, my father is the alcoholic, that’s the first one you should deal with.” And
loved ones, maybe that isn’t God’s order at all. The Father can look down on every one of our
situations and knows exactly what he wants to do in that situation, but he cannot do it until you
ask him to do it. That’s it. His hands are tied by the principles in Ezekiel 36:37. His hands are
tied until some little fly here on this earth discovers what God wants to do and asks him to do it
and then knows that he is heard. And then God is free to act.
Loved ones, that’s the principle that goes on right through all the Old Testament. I’ll just show
you maybe one example of it if you would look at it, it’s Exodus 14:15-16. The Israelites arrive at
the Red Sea and the Egyptian army is behind them, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to me?
Tell the people of this Israel to go forward. Lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the
sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go on dry ground through the sea.’”
God saw them. He knew what he intended to do. He told Moses what he should do and it was done.
Moses didn’t get to the Red Sea and it roaring against them and start crying and praying all kinds
of prayers. But God told him what he was going to do and then Moses went forward and did it.
It’s the same with Jericho. God explained to Joshua what he was to do, he got to Jericho and went
round the walls; the walls fell flat. God can always see what needs to be done in each situation
and he has already all the angels and archangels and all the power of the Holy Spirit marshaled and
ready to release into the situation and it all waits upon your word, loved ones. It all waits upon
you receiving through the Holy Spirit what God wants to do in a situation. I’m just encouraging
not only the mums, — because I don’t think you’re the only ones that do it — but those of us who
love our roommates and love our friends — would you stop being governed by your human, soulish
personalities, sympathies, and ideas as to what you think it would be a good idea for God to do?
And would you get together with the Father? And would you begin to sense from him what he wants to
do so that your prayers will begin to be an outflow of your worship and your fellowship with the
Father instead of some kind of emergency operation by which you try to pull the thing out of the
mess it’s in.
In other words, really, there’s one verse that states this and it’s I Kings 19:11. You remember it’s
Elijah. “And God said, ‘Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.’ And behold, the LORD
passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the
LORD.” That’s the immediate emergency that has taken place. The son or daughter has run away from
home, your roommate has just decided she’s going to leave and you are left with all the rent to pay.
“And a strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD
was not in the wind.” That wasn’t the right prayer to pray, “Lord keep her from moving.” Or, “Lord
keep her here at home.” “But the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake…”
That’s the earthquake of your own ideas of what ought to be done in this situation, “Lord I’ll tell
you what I think you need to do here in my family, I’ll tell you Lord what I need in my career.”
“But the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in
the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” And the Hebrew literal translation is, “And
after the fire a sound of gentle stillness.”
Loved ones, that’s what we need, that’s what we need. A sound of gentle stillness and the presence
of our Father whereby we receive from him what he’s going to do in this situation and then we ask
him to do that and the prayer is answered. And his purpose has moved forward, that’s really it.
But, you know, these old souls of ours are so swollen with human love and sympathy and these old
minds of ours are so arrogant in their convictions and ideas of what God ought to do in our
situations, that we’re offering up soulish prayers all the time and then wondering why they aren’t
answered. And all the time, the Spirit himself is interceding within us with sighs that are too
deep for words. And he who knows the mind of the Spirit, understands that mind because the Spirit
always intercedes according to the will of God.
So there is a dear Spirit inside you that is trying to pray the right prayer. And that dear Spirit
is trying to break down all your personality strengths that want very good things, but they’re the
wrong things. And they’re preventing God bringing about his will. So I pray, you know, that some of
you who have fought this business of unanswered prayer will begin to listen to God along these lines
and begin to be used by him to bring about his purposes. Let us pray.
Dear Father, we have done it for the best motive in the world but we see that we’ve been sending up
to you prayers that are filled with selfishness and filled with our own egotistical ideas of what
should be done. Father we see that we’re just foolish children, that you are the elder Father, you
have wisdom beyond ours. You know what we need before we even ask it. And all you want is for us
to discover what you intend to do and then ask you to do it. Lord, we thank you. Thank you for
tying yourself to us in that way. And Father we apologize for the countless occasions when we have
simply been filling the atmosphere with static and with interference instead of voicing to you your
desires for us. So Father we commit ourselves to seeking you and beginning to understand your dear
mind through the power of the Holy Spirit. And now may the grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of
God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with each one of us now and evermore. Amen.