Concerning the Practice of Prayer
You place no importance on prayer in your daily lives. Man neglects the matter of prayer. Prayers used to be perfunctory, with man simply going through the motions before God. No man ever offered his heart fully before God and engaged in true prayer with God. Man prayed to God only when trouble arose. In all this time, have you ever truly prayed to God? Has there ever been a time when you wept tears of pain before God? Has there been a time when you came to know yourself before Him? Have you ever had a heart-to-heart prayer with God? Prayer comes through practice: If you do not ordinarily pray at home, then you will have no way of praying in church, and if you do not normally pray in small gatherings, then you will be incapable of praying in large ones. If you do not regularly draw near to God or ruminate upon the words of God, then you will have nothing to say when it is time to pray, and even if you do pray, you will just be paying lip service; it will not be true prayer.
What is true prayer? It is telling God what is in your heart, communing with God as you grasp His will, communicating with God through His words, feeling especially close to God, sensing He is there before you, and believing you have something to say to Him. Your heart feels filled with light and you feel how lovable God is. You feel especially inspired, and listening to you brings gratification to your brothers and sisters. They will feel that the words you speak are the words within their hearts, the words they wish to say, as though your words were a substitute for their own. This is what true prayer is. After you have engaged in true prayer, your heart will be at peace and will know gratification. The strength to love God can rise up, and you will feel that there is nothing of greater value or significance in life than loving God. All this proves that your prayers have been effective. Have you ever prayed in such a way?
And what about the content of prayer? Your prayer should proceed step by step, in line with the true state of your heart and the work of the Holy Spirit; you come to commune with God in accordance with His will and with what He requires of man. When you begin the practice of prayer, first give your heart to God. Do not attempt to grasp God’s will—only try to speak the words within your heart to God. When you come before God, speak in this way: “Oh God, only today do I realize that I used to disobey You. I am truly corrupt and despicable. I have only been wasting my life. From today I will live for You. I will live a life of meaning and will satisfy Your will. May Your Spirit always work in me, continuously illuminating and enlightening me. Let me bear strong and resounding testimony before You. Let Satan see Your glory, Your testimony, and the proof of Your triumph, manifest in us.” When you pray in this way, your heart will be completely set free. Having prayed in this way, your heart will be closer to God, and if you can pray in this way often, the Holy Spirit will inevitably work in you. If you always call out to God in this way, and make your resolution before Him, a day will come when your resolution is acceptable before God, when your heart and your entire being are gained by God, and you are ultimately made perfect by Him. For you, prayer is of utmost importance. When you pray and you receive the work of the Holy Spirit, your heart will be moved by God, and strength to love God will issue forth. If you do not pray with your heart, if you do not open your heart to commune with God, then God will have no way of working in you. If, after having prayed and spoken the words of your heart, the Spirit of God has not begun His work, and you have received no inspiration, then this shows your heart lacks sincerity, your words are untrue, and still impure. If, after having prayed, you have a sense of gratification, then your prayers have been acceptable to God and the Spirit of God is working in you. As one who serves before God, you cannot be without prayer. If you truly see communion with God as something that is meaningful and valuable, then can you forsake prayer? No one can be without communion with God. Without prayer, you live in the flesh, in bondage to Satan; without true prayer, you live under the influence of darkness. I hope that you brothers and sisters are able to engage in true prayer each and every day. This is not about following the rules, but about achieving a certain result. Are you willing to forgo a little sleep and enjoyment to rise early for morning prayers and enjoy the words of God? If you pray with a pure heart and eat and drink the words of God like this, you will be more acceptable to Him. If every morning you do this, if every day you practice giving your heart to God, communicating and engaging with Him, then your knowledge of God will certainly increase, and you will be better able to grasp God’s will. You say: “O God! I am willing to fulfill my duty. Only to You do I consecrate my whole being, so that You may be glorified in us, so that You may enjoy the testimony borne by this group of us. I beg You to work in us, so that I may become able to truly love You and satisfy You and pursue You as my goal.” As you take on this burden, God will surely make you perfect. You should not pray only for your own benefit, but you should pray also in order to follow God’s will and to love Him. This is the truest kind of prayer. Are you someone who prays for the sake of following the will of God?
In the past, you did not know how to pray, and you neglected the matter of prayer. Now, you must do your best to train yourselves to pray. If you are unable to summon up the strength within you to love God, then how do you pray? You say: “Oh God, my heart is incapable of truly loving You. I want to love You, but I lack the strength. What should I do? May You open my spiritual eyes and may Your Spirit move my heart. Make it so that, as I come before You, I throw off all that is negative, cease to be constrained by any person, matter, or thing, and lay my heart completely bare before You, and make it so that I may offer my entire being before You. However You may test me, I am ready. Now, I give no consideration to my future prospects, nor am I under the yoke of death. With a heart that loves You, I desire to seek the way of life. Every matter, everything—it is all in Your hands; my fate is in Your hands and You hold my very life in Your hand. Now, I seek to love You, and regardless of whether You let me love You, regardless of how Satan interferes, I am determined to love You.” When you encounter this issue, pray like this. If you pray like this every day, the strength to love God will gradually rise up.
How does one enter into true prayer?
When praying, you must have a heart that is quiet before God, and you must have a sincere heart. You are truly communing and praying with God—you must not try to wheedle God with nice-sounding words. Prayer should center upon that which God wishes to accomplish right now. Ask God to grant you greater enlightenment and illumination, bring your actual states and your troubles into His presence when you pray, including the resolution that you made before God. Prayer is not about following procedure; it is about seeking God with a sincere heart. Ask that God protect your heart, so that your heart may often be quiet before Him; that in the environment in which He has placed you, you would know yourself, despise yourself, and forsake yourself, thus allowing you to have a normal relationship with God and truly become someone who loves God.
What is the significance of prayer?
Prayer is one of the ways in which man cooperates with God, it is a means by which man calls upon God, and it is the process by which man is moved by God’s Spirit. It can be said that those without prayer are dead people who are devoid of spirit, which proves that they lack the faculty to be moved by God. Without prayer, it would be impossible to lead a normal spiritual life, much less keep up with the work of the Holy Spirit. To be without prayer is to break off one’s relationship with God, and it would be impossible to win God’s praise. As a believer in God, the more one prays, that is, the more one is moved by God, the more one will be filled with resolution and the better able one will be to receive new enlightenment from God. As a result, this kind of person can very quickly be made perfect by the Holy Spirit.
What effect is prayer meant to achieve?
People may be able to carry out the practice of prayer and to understand the significance of prayer, but for prayer to be effective is no simple matter. Prayer is not a case of just going through the motions, following procedure, or reciting the words of God. That is to say, praying is not parroting certain words and it is not imitating others. In prayer, one must reach the state where one’s heart can be given to God, laying open one’s heart so that it may be moved by God. If prayer is to be effective, then it must be based on the reading of God’s words. Only by praying from within God’s words can one receive greater enlightenment and illumination. The manifestations of a true prayer are: Having a heart that yearns for all that God asks, and moreover desires to accomplish what He demands; detesting that which God detests and then, building on this foundation, gaining some understanding of it, and having some knowledge and clarity regarding the truths God expounds. Where there is resolution, faith, knowledge, and a path of practice following prayer, only then can it be called true prayer, and only this type of prayer can be effective. Yet prayer must be built upon the enjoyment of God’s words, it must be established on the foundation of communing with God in His words, and the heart must be able to seek God and become quiet before Him. Prayer of this kind has already entered the stage of true communion with God.
The most basic knowledge about prayer:
1. Do not blindly say whatever comes to mind. There must be a burden on your heart, that is, you must have an objective when you pray.
2. Prayer must contain the words of God; it must be founded upon the words of God.
3. When praying, you must not rehash outdated issues. You should focus on the current words of God, and when you pray, tell God your innermost thoughts.
4. Group prayer must revolve around a center, which is, necessarily, the present work of the Holy Spirit.
5. All people have to learn how to pray for something. This is also a way of showing consideration for the will of God.
The individual’s life of prayer is based upon an understanding of the significance of prayer and of a basic knowledge of prayer. In daily life, pray frequently for your own shortcomings, pray to effect change in your disposition in life, and pray on the basis of your knowledge of God’s words. Each person should establish their own life of prayer, they should pray for the sake of knowing God’s words, and they should pray to seek knowledge of God’s work. Lay bare your personal circumstances before God and be real without fussing over the way you pray, and the key issue is to attain true understanding, and to gain real experience of God’s words. A person who pursues entry into the spiritual life must be able to pray in many different ways. Silent prayer, ruminating upon the words of God, coming to know the work of God—these are all examples of the purposeful work of spiritual fellowship for the sake of achieving entry into normal spiritual life, which ever improves one’s states before God and pushes one to make ever greater progress in life. In short, all that you do, whether it be eating and drinking the words of God, or praying silently, or proclaiming loudly, is in order to enable you to clearly see God’s words, His work, and that which He wishes to achieve in you. More importantly, all that you do is done in order to reach the standards that God requires and to raise your life to new heights. The minimum that God requires of man is that man be able to open his heart to Him. If man gives his true heart to God and speaks what is truly in his heart, then God is willing to work in him. What God desires is not the twisted heart of man, but a pure and honest heart. If man does not speak from his heart to God, then God will not move his heart or work in him. Therefore, the crux of prayer is to speak to God from your heart, telling Him your shortcomings or rebellious disposition, laying yourself completely open before Him; only then will God be interested in your prayers, or else He will hide His face from you. The minimum criterion for prayer is that you must be able to keep your heart quiet before God, and it must not depart from God. It may be that, during this phase, you do not gain a newer or higher insight, but you must then use prayer to maintain the status quo—you must not regress. This is the very least that you must achieve. If you cannot accomplish even this, then it proves that your spiritual life is not on the right track. As a result, you will be unable to hold on to the vision you first had, you will lose faith in God, and your resolution will subsequently dissipate. One sign of whether or not you have entered into spiritual life is to see if your prayers are on the right track. All people must enter into this reality; they must all do the work of consciously training themselves in prayer, not passively waiting, but consciously seeking to be moved by the Holy Spirit. Only then will they be people who truly seek God.
When you begin to pray, do not overreach yourself and hope to achieve everything in one fell swoop. You cannot make extravagant demands, expecting that as soon as you open your mouth you will be moved by the Holy Spirit, or that you will receive enlightenment and illumination, or that God will shower grace on you. That will not happen; God does not perform supernatural things. God grants the prayers of people in His own time, and sometimes He tests your faith to see whether you are loyal before Him. When you pray you must have faith, perseverance, and resolution. Most people, when just beginning to train, lose heart because they fail to be moved by the Holy Spirit. This will not do! You must persevere; you must focus on feeling the moving of the Holy Spirit and on seeking and exploring. Sometimes, the path of your practice is not right, and sometimes, your personal motives and notions cannot hold fast before God, and so God’s Spirit fails to move you. At other times, God looks at whether or not you are loyal. In short, in training, you should pay a higher price. If you discover you are veering off on the path of your practice, you can change the way you pray. As long as you seek with a sincere heart and long to receive, then the Holy Spirit will surely take you into this reality. Sometimes you pray with a sincere heart but do not feel as if you have been particularly moved. At times like these you must rely on faith, trusting that God watches over your prayers; you must have perseverance in your prayers.
Be an honest person; pray to God to rid you of the deception in your heart. Purify yourself through prayer at all times, be moved by the Spirit of God through prayer, and your disposition will gradually change. The true spiritual life is a life of prayer—it is a life that is moved by the Holy Spirit. The process of being moved by the Holy Spirit is the process of changing man’s disposition. A life that is not moved by the Holy Spirit is not a spiritual life, but a life of religious ritual only. Only those who are often moved by the Holy Spirit, and enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit, have entered into spiritual life. Man’s disposition constantly changes as he prays. The more the Spirit of God moves him, the more proactive and obedient he becomes. So, too, will his heart gradually be purified, and his disposition gradually change. Such is the effect of true prayer.