During the Clinton impeachment debate in the House, I thought a lot about one comment that was made. A representative referred to unreasonably strong demands on imperfect people. He spoke of an "unattainable morality."
It's easy to relate. Probably most of us have had times when we wondered if we were capable of doing right.
But if you feel prayer makes a real difference in society, you can make a contribution. That's right. Prayer can make morality increasingly attainable.
The Ten Commandments provide moral direction. But do they seem somewhat unrealistic? If so, how can they become feasible through prayer? Christ Jesus gave some insight: start with the little things. Consider his parable about three men receiving funds from their boss (see Matt., Chap. 25). Two put their money to productive use; one dropped the ball entirely. For the two who did manage what they were given, here was the reward: "Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things" (verse 21).
We can pray that people will be faithful in little ways. That's attainable. Maybe it simply means that a friend will show up on time for an appointment. Maybe it will help your wife to remember on her way home from work to pick up the video she promised to watch with the kids.
Yes, fulfilling little points of faithfulness does make a difference. It opens the way for a divine influence to strengthen people's convictions regarding bigger issues. The founder of this newspaper felt so deeply about national problems, unfaithfulness, and the healing Christ - and how these three relate - that she said: "Each day I pray for the pacification of all national difficulties, for the brotherhood of man, for the end of idolatry and infidelity, and for the growth and establishment of Christian religion - Christ's Christianity" (Mary Baker Eddy, "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 220). She expected prayer to work.
Maybe a range of forces and pressures makes the Seventh Commandment in particular (the one about "not committing adultery") seem just too tough. But there are people who could tell you that here prayer not only disarms obvious pressures to give in ... but also uncovers and frees people from subtle forces of thought that make morality feel unattainable.
For instance, to see ourselves as inherently flawed (as opposed to having a spiritual, perfect identity) can actually pressure people to sin. I know a young woman whose church emphasized that we're born sinners. When her husband became attracted to a woman he worked with, this seemed pretty consistent with that doctrine. It seemed to jibe with the Bible's observation "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8, King James Version).
But her husband realized he didn't have to live out this flawed view of who he was. That verse wasn't the whole story. It presented only the material view of identity. This man realized he could be liberated by what another verse points out: "God's children cannot keep on being sinful. His life-giving power lives in them and makes them his children, so that they cannot keep on sinning" (I John 3:9, Contemporary English Version).
When this man saw he originated in God, the divine Spirit, not only was his marriage saved; the other woman began to adopt a more spiritual view of herself as sinless and pure. They both felt free of adulterous attraction.
Discovering we're each the innocent and beloved son or daughter of God - and not a mortal sinner influenced by either overt or covert material forces - can help stop people from taking actions that destroy marriages. Prayer can go even further, encouraging an actual restoration for those who have crossed the line and want to break free.
Morality of any kind is not unattainable. One person's willingness to pray - to challenge the view that to act immorally is inevitable, and to acknowledge that God's sons and daughters are sinless, innocent - will help other people recognize the love of fidelity God has given them.
Don't forget those little opportunities for faithfulness.