3. What the prayer of religious ceremony is and why nothing comes of it
Relevant Words of God:
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.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life
You used to always talk about your spiritual state and spiritual matters while neglecting to practice many things in real life, and neglecting your entry into them. You wrote every day, you listened every day, and you read every day. You even prayed while you were cooking: “Oh, God! May You become my life within me. However today goes, please bless me and enlighten me. Whatever You enlighten me about today, please allow me to understand it in this moment, so that Your words may act as my life.” You also prayed while you were eating dinner: “Oh, God! You have bestowed us with this meal. May You bless us. Amen! May we live by You. May You be with us. Amen!” After you finished your dinner and were washing the dishes, you started rambling: “Oh, God, I am this bowl. We have been corrupted by Satan and are just like bowls that have been used and must be cleansed with water. You are the water, and Your words are the living water that provides for my life.” Before you knew it, it was time for bed, and you started rambling again: “Oh God! You have blessed me and guided me through the day. I am truly grateful to You. …” This was how you spent your day, and then you entered into your slumber. Most people live like this every day, and even now they neglect actual entry, focusing only on paying lip service in their prayers. This is their previous life—their old life. And most are like this; they lack any actual training, and they undergo very few real transformations. They only pay lip service in their prayers, drawing closer to God in their words alone, but lacking depth in their understanding. Let us take the simplest example—tidying your home. You see that your home is messy, so you sit there and pray: “Oh, God! Look at the corruption that Satan has wrought on me. I am just as dirty as this home. Oh, God! I truly praise and thank You. Without Your salvation and enlightenment, I would not have realized this fact.” You just sit there and ramble on, praying for a long time, and afterward you act as if nothing has happened, as though you were a rambling old woman. You pass your spiritual life this way without any true entry into reality at all, with too many superficial practices! Entering into actual training involves people’s real lives and their practical difficulties—this is the only way they change. Without real life, people cannot be transformed. What is the use of paying lip service in prayer? Without understanding human nature, everything is a waste of time, and without a path for practice, everything is a waste of effort!
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Discussing Church Life and Real Life
Many people pray endlessly “in the presence of God.” Though prayers may be always on their lips, they do not really live in God’s presence. This is the only means by which such people can maintain their conditions in the presence of God; they are utterly incapable of using their hearts to engage with God at all times, and nor are they able to come before God by means of experiencing, whether through pondering, silent contemplation, or using their minds to engage with the God within their hearts, by being mindful of God’s burden. They just offer prayers to God in heaven with their mouths. Most people’s hearts are bereft of God, and God is only there when they draw close to Him; most of the time, God is not there at all. Is this not the manifestation of not having God in one’s heart? If they really had God in their hearts, could they do the things that robbers and beasts do? If a person really reveres God, they will bring their true heart into contact with God, and their thoughts and ideas will always be occupied by God’s words. They will not make mistakes in either speech or action, and will not do anything that obviously opposes God. Such is the standard for being a believer.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. On Experience
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? 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.
—The Word, Vol. 4. Exposing Antichrists. They Do Their Duty Only to Distinguish Themselves and Feed Their Own Interests and Ambitions; They Never Consider the Interests of God’s House, and Even Sell Those Interests Out in Exchange for Personal Glory (Part Nine)
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.
—“Only When You Know Yourself Can You Pursue the Truth” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days