3. What is the prayer of religious ceremony? Can it meet with God’s approval?

Bible Verses for Reference:

“And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men” (Mat 6:5).

Relevant Words of God:

Faith in God necessitates a normal spiritual life, which is the foundation for experiencing God’s words and entering into reality. Does all your current practice of prayers, of drawing near to God, of hymn-singing, praise, meditation, and pondering the words of God amount to a “normal spiritual life”? None of you seems to know. A normal spiritual life is not limited to such practices as praying, singing hymns, participating in church life, and eating and drinking of God’s words. Rather, it involves living a new and vibrant spiritual life. What matters is not how you practice, but what fruit your practice bears. Most people believe that a normal spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom. Their prayers, hymn singing, and eating and drinking of God’s words are all just rule-following, done out of compulsion and to keep up with trends, not out of willingness nor from the heart. However much these people pray or sing, their efforts will bear no fruit, for what they practice is just the rules and rituals of religion; they are not actually practicing God’s words. They focus only on making a fuss over how they practice, and they treat God’s words as rules to follow. Such people are not putting God’s words into practice; they are just gratifying the flesh, and performing for other people to see. These religious rules and rituals are all human in origin; they do not come from God. God does not follow rules, nor is He subject to any law. Rather, He does new things every day, accomplishing practical work. Like people in the Three-Self Church, who limit themselves to practices such as attending morning services every day, offering evening prayers and prayers of gratitude before meals, and giving thanks in all things—however much they do and for however long they do it, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. When people live amidst rules and have their hearts fixed on methods of practice, the Holy Spirit cannot work, because their hearts are occupied by rules and human notions. Thus, God is unable to intervene and work on them, and they can only continue living under the control of laws. Such people are forever incapable of receiving God’s praise.

Excerpted from “Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life” in The Word Appears in the Flesh

When do you all pray? What do you pray about? Most people pray when they suffer, saying, “Oh God, I am in such anguish, please help me!”—that is the first thing they say. Is it good to always pray about your suffering? (No.) If not, then why do you always pray like that? Given the way those characters pray in the scripts and articles you write, as well as the movies and videos you shoot, I can see that you are unable to pray yourselves and do not know how to go about it. You have no idea what people should say and do when they come before God; you only know to open your mouths when you are having a hard time and say to Him, “Oh God, I am suffering so much! I feel so down. Please help me.” If you do not know how to pray, then what problem does this pose? Is it a major problem or a minor one? (A major one.) If you do not know how to pray, then there is one thing at the very least that can be confirmed, and that is that you do not know how to rely on God, seek Him, or allow Him to lead you when something happens to you, nor when you encounter a problem do you know what you need God to do for you, how to cooperate with God, or what sort of attitude you should have. You have no understanding of these things; you are but a layperson. Some people, from start to finish, and no matter what sort of problem it is they face, do not genuinely pray; when coming before God, they do not rely on Him in earnest, nor do they sincerely seek. They just say, “God, I am suffering. Oh God, I am suffering so.” They repeat this phrase to the point that people get fed up and disgusted at the sound of it. Most of you pray like that, do you not? (We do.) From people’s prayers, it can be seen how pitiful their conditions are! You only seek out God when you are suffering, and when you are not, and are not facing any problems, you feel no need for God, nor do you want to rely on Him. You just want to be your own master. Is this not the condition you are in? (It is.) How do most people pray when experiencing the judgment and chastisement of God’s words, being pruned and dealt with by God’s words, and recognizing their own corrupt dispositions? They are all of the same stripe, saying, “God, I am suffering. Oh God, I am suffering so.” Do those words not make you feel disgusted? (They do.) When you come before God, do you not actually need Him to enlighten you with a bit of something else? Do you not need faith and strength, or for God to be your mainstay, moreover enlighten and guide you so that you may walk well the onward path? Do you not need His discipline and chastening? Do you not need His guidance? Do you only need Him to relieve you of your suffering? People really are withered up inside, and in such a pitiful condition! Not knowing how to pray might seem to be a minor issue, but actually, when you penetrate this minor issue and dissect its essence, you see that it is not minor at all. This shows that you as a person do not possess any sort of life to speak of, and in what life you do have, you interact with God very seldomly. Between you and God, you simply have not established the sort of relationship that should exist between God and His followers or between objects of creation and their Creator. When faced with a problem, you make decisions based on your own subjective assumptions, notions, thoughts, knowledge, gifts and talents, and corrupt dispositions; you have nothing to do with God, so when you come before Him, you never have anything to say to Him. This is the sorrowful state of people who believe in God! This is such a pitiful condition! Inside, people are dried up and numb; they feel nothing when it comes to these things, nor do they have any understanding of them. When they come before God, they have nothing to say. No matter what sort of situation you find yourself in, no matter what plight you face, and no matter what hardships you encounter, if you are speechless before God, then can your faith not be called into question? Is this not the pitiful face of people? After believing in God for so many years, you still have to learn how to pray all over again, you still do not know how to pray, and whenever you encounter a problem, you either just shout out catchphrases and make resolutions or complain to God and voice your grievances, saying how you are suffering, or otherwise rationalize and justify yourself in confession. It is no wonder that you have been so slow to enter the truth.

Excerpted from “For Leaders and Workers, Choosing a Path Is of Utmost Importance (17)” in Records of Christ’s Talks

There is nothing God despises more than the prayers of religious ceremony. Prayers to God are only accepted when they are sincere. If you have nothing sincere to say, then keep quiet; do not always speak false words and blindly make oaths before God, trying to deceive Him, talking about how much you love Him, about how much you wish to be loyal to Him. If you are incapable of achieving your desires, if you lack this resolve and stature, do not, under any circumstances, pray thus before God. That is ridicule. Ridicule means making fun of someone, trifling with them. When people pray before God with this kind of disposition, then at the very least, this is deception. At worst, if you do this often, then you are of utterly contemptible character. If God were to condemn you, it would be called blasphemy! People have no reverence toward God, they do not know how to revere God, or how to love and satisfy Him. If the truth is not clear to them, or their disposition is corrupt, God will let it slide. But they bring such character before God, and treat God as the unbelievers treat other people. Moreover, they solemnly kneel before Him in prayer, using these words to try and wheedle God, and when they are finished, they not only feel no self-reproach, but also have no sense of the seriousness of their actions. That being the case, is God with them? Can someone who is utterly without the presence of God be enlightened and illuminated? Can they be enlightened with the truth? (No, they can’t.) Then they are in trouble. Have you prayed thus many times? Do you do so often? When people spend too long in the outside world, they reek of society’s stench, their scummy nature is amplified, and they become suffused with satanic poisons and ways of living; what come from their mouths are words of falseness and deceit, they speak without thinking, or else speak words that always contain nothing but their own motivations and aims, and seldom have the proper motivations. These are serious problems. When people take these satanic philosophies and ways of living before God, do they not offend God’s disposition? And what will be the consequence of this? On the surface, these prayers are attempts to deceive and fool God, and are incompatible with His will and requirements. Fundamentally speaking, this is caused by human nature; it is not some momentary revelation of corruption.

Excerpted from “Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Christ’s Talks

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