The Significance of Prayer and Its Practice
How do you currently pray to God? How is it an improvement on religious prayers? What do you actually understand about the significance of prayer? Have you reflected on these questions? Everyone who does not pray is distanced from God, and everyone who does not pray follows their own will. The absence of prayer implies distance from God and betrayal of God. What is your actual experience with prayer? The relationship between God and humans can be seen from people’s prayers. How do you behave when the brothers and sisters admire and praise you for the results you produce in your work? How do you react when people give you suggestions? Do you pray before God? All of you take the time to pray when you face problems or difficulties, but do you turn to God in prayer when you are not in a good state? Do you pray when you reveal corruption? Do you truly pray? If you do not truly pray, you will not progress. Especially in gatherings, you should offer prayers and praise. Some people have believed in God for many years, but unfortunately, they don’t pray very often. They understand a few words of doctrine and become arrogant, thinking they have come to understand the truth, that they have gained stature, and they feel very pleased with themselves. As a result, they become mired in this kind of abnormal state, and when they next come to pray, they find themselves with nothing to say, and without the work of the Holy Spirit. When a person cannot control their state, they might enjoy the fruits of labor after doing a little work—or they might become negative, start slacking off in their work, and stop doing their duty when they come up against a little bit of difficulty, which is very dangerous. This is how people without conscience or reason are. Most people only take the time to pray when they have difficulties, or when they cannot fully understand a matter. They only pray when doubts and indecision plague them, or when they reveal a corrupt disposition. They pray only when they are in need. This is normal. However, you also must pray and offer up thanks to God when you get results in your work. If you only care about being happy and do not pray, are always elated, always enjoying these feelings, but you forget God’s grace, this is a complete loss of reason. When you depart too far from God, sometimes you are made to suffer discipline; or perhaps you run into a wall when you try to do things; or you make a mistake and are dealt with, are made to hear words that pierce the heart, and you endure pressure or misery, all without knowing exactly what you did to offend God. In fact, God oftentimes makes use of external environments to discipline you, cause you pain, and refine you, and when you finally come before God to pray and reflect, you realize that your state is incorrect—complacent, smug, and full of self-admiration, perhaps—you become disgusted with yourself, and totally remorseful. Once you pray to God and confess, you begin to loathe yourself and wish to repent, and at this time your incorrect state begins to rectify itself. When people truly pray, the Holy Spirit does His work, giving a certain feeling, or enlightenment, which allows them to emerge from an abnormal state. To pray is not merely to seek a bit, to observe a few formalities, and then be done with it. It is not to speak a few words of prayer when you need God, and then none when you do not. If you go a long time without praying, even if your state looks normal from the outside, you will be relying on your own will in the performance of your duty, doing whatever you want, and in this way, you will be incapable of acting in accordance with principles. If you go a long time without praying to God, you will never be enlightened or illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Even if you do your duty, you are merely following the rules, and performing your duty in this way will not bear the fruits of testimony to God.
I have said before that many people handle their own business and engage in their own affairs in the course of their duties, and people remain this way today. After working for some time, they stop praying, and God is no longer in their hearts. They think, “I will simply do as dictated by work arrangements. In any case, I haven’t made any mistakes, and I haven’t caused any disruptions or disturbances….” When you do things without praying, and if you do not give thanks to God when things are done well, there is a problem with your state. If you know your state is wrong, but you are unable to adjust it yourself, then you will constantly rely on your own will in your actions, and even when you understand the truth, you cannot put it into practice. You constantly think that your way of thinking is correct and you always stick to it, you do what you like, you ignore how the Holy Spirit works, you bury yourself in your own endeavors, and as a result, the Holy Spirit forsakes you. Once the Holy Spirit forsakes you, you will feel dark and withered. You will not be able to feel any nourishment or enjoyment at all. There are many people who do not truly pray even once in half a year. This kind of person no longer has God within their heart. Some people don’t usually pray, and they pray only when they are in danger or are suffering an affliction. Although they still perform their duty, they feel spiritually withered, so they inevitably have negative thoughts. Sometimes they think, “When can I finally be done with my duties?” Even thoughts like this may appear, all because they have not prayed for a long time, and have become distanced from God. If this gives rise to an unbelieving, evil heart, it is very dangerous. Prayer is critical! A life without prayer is dry as dust, and cannot obtain the work of the Holy Spirit; such people do not live before God, and they have already fallen into darkness. Therefore, you need to often pray and fellowship on God’s words, so you can enjoy the work of the Holy Spirit and praise God from your heart. Only in this way can your life be filled with peace and joy. The Holy Spirit works especially strongly in those who offer prayer and praise in everything. The power the Holy Spirit grants people is infinite, and people can never use it up or exhaust it. People might speak and preach endlessly, and they might understand many doctrines, but without the work of the Holy Spirit, it is useless and for nothing. There are many cases where people may spend half their day praying, but only come out with a couple of words while doing so, such as, “God, I thank You and praise You!” After a while, they might come out with the same sentence again. They can’t think of anything more to say to God, they have no inner thoughts to tell Him. This is very dangerous! If people who believe in God can’t even utter words to praise, thank, and glorify Him, how can they be said to have a place for Him in their hearts? You may claim to believe in God and recognize Him in your heart, but you don’t come before Him, you are unable to tell Him what is in your heart when you pray, and your heart is too distant from God, and so the Holy Spirit will not do His work. When you wake up every morning, you must open your heart sincerely in prayer, read God’s words, and then contemplate them until you find light and have a path of practice. Do this, and the day will be especially good and fulfilling, and you will feel that the Holy Spirit is always with you, protecting you.
I have noticed that many people have a problem in common. When they have issues, they come before God to pray, but when nothing troubles them, they ignore God. They cling to the pleasures of the flesh as they will, but never wake up. Is this believing in God? Is this having true faith? To lack true faith is to lack a path to walk. Without true faith, one cannot know what actions of belief in God are in line with God’s will or by which actions one might attain the truth or grow in life. Without faith, a person is blind, possessed of the desire to pursue but lacking direction and goals. So how is faith produced? Faith is produced by prayer and fellowship with God, and even more so by reading God’s words and gaining the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. The more you understand the truth, the more faith you will have. Those who lack understanding of the truth have no faith at all, and even if they mingle with the church, they are nonbelievers. People who believe in God cannot do so without prayer and reading God’s words. If they just keep attending meetings, but rarely sincerely pray, they will find themselves farther and farther away from God. All of you seldom genuinely pray, and some people still don’t know how to pray. The fact is that prayer is primarily about speaking from your heart. This is opening your heart to God and opening up simply before Him. If a person’s heart is of the right kind, then they are able to speak from the heart, and in this way, God hears and accepts their prayer. Some people only know to beg when they pray to God. They continually beg God for grace, saying nothing else, and thus the more they pray, the more dried up they feel. When you pray, whether you yearn for something, seek something from God, ask God to grant you wisdom and strength in a matter you are handling which you can’t see clearly, or ask God for enlightenment, you must possess a sense of normal humanity. Without sense, you will fall to your knees and say, “God, I beg You to give me faith and strength, I beg You to enlighten me and allow me to see my nature, I beg You to work and grant me grace and blessings.” There is a compulsory note in this “begging.” This is a way of putting pressure on God, of telling Him this matter must be done, as if it was predetermined. This is not sincere prayer. To the Holy Spirit, when you have already set the terms and have decided what you are going to do, are you not just going through the motions? Is this not cheating God? One should pray with a seeking, submissive heart. When something has befallen you, for instance, and you are not sure how to handle it, you might say, “God, I don’t know what to do about this. I wish to satisfy You in this matter and to seek Your will. I wish to do as You will, not as I will. You know that human will is entirely contrary to Your intentions, entirely resistant to You, and does not accord with the truth. May You enlighten me, give me guidance in this matter, and allow me to not offend You….” That is the appropriate tone for a prayer. If you say, “God, I ask that You help me, guide me, prepare the right environment and the right people, and let me do my work well,” after your prayer, you will still fail to grasp God’s intentions, because you are asking God to act according to your will. Now, you must ascertain whether the words you use in prayer are sensible, and whether they are from the heart. If your prayers are not sensible, the Holy Spirit will not work on you. Therefore, when you pray, you must speak sensibly and with a suitable tone. Say, “God, You know of my weakness and my rebelliousness. I ask only that You give me strength and help me endure my circumstances, but only according to Your will. I don’t know what Your will is, and I just make this request. Nevertheless, may Your will be done. Even if I am made to do service or serve as a foil, I will do so willingly. I ask that You give me strength and wisdom, and allow me to satisfy You in this matter. I wish only to submit to Your arrangements….” After such a prayer, your heart will particularly feel at ease. If all you do is beg, no matter how much you say, it will all be hollow words; God will not work in response to your plea, because you will have decided what you want in advance. When you kneel in prayer, say, “God, You know of man’s weakness, and You know man’s states. I ask that You enlighten me in this matter. Let me understand Your will. I wish only to submit to all that You arrange, and my heart is willing to obey You….” Pray thus, and the Holy Spirit will move you. If your intention is wrong when you pray, and you always make demands of God based on your own will, your prayers will be dry and barren, and the Holy Spirit will not move you. If you just close your eyes and spout off some hackneyed platitudes to muddle through with God, will the Holy Spirit move you like that? When people come before God, they must behave in an obedient manner and have a pious attitude. You are coming before the one true God, speaking with the Creator. Should you not be pious? It is no simple thing to pray. When people come before God, they brandish their fangs and claws, completely lacking in piety; and when they pray, they’re supine in their homes, uttering a few simple, superficial words, and they think they are praying and that God is able to hear them—is this not self-deception? My purpose in saying this is not to demand that people adhere to some specific rule. However, the least one can do is have a heart that obeys God and come before God with a pious attitude. Your prayers lack reason far too often. You always pray with the following tone, “Oh God! Since You have given me this duty to perform, make everything I do appropriate, so that Your work won’t be disrupted and the interests of God’s family won’t be harmed. You must protect me….” Such a prayer is too unreasonable, is it not? Will God work on you if you come before Him and pray in such a way? Would I listen if you came before Me and spoke unreasonably? If you disgusted Me, I would directly kick you out! Are you not the same before the Spirit as you are before Christ? When you come before God to pray, you must give consideration to how you might speak sensibly, and to how you might adjust your inner state to achieve piety and be capable of submission. Once you do so, praying again will be good, and you will feel God’s presence. Many times, people fall to their knees in prayer; they close their eyes, and all they can do is cry out, “Oh, God! Oh, God!” Why would they shout wordlessly in this way for a long time? This is because of people’s incorrect mentality and abnormal state. When a person cannot reach God in their heart, their prayers are wordless. Do you ever do this? You now know your own measure, but when your state is abnormal, you don’t reflect on yourselves or seek the truth, and you are unwilling to come before God in prayer, or eat and drink of God’s words. This is dangerous. Regardless of whether a person’s state is normal or not, or what problems arise, they must not stray from prayer. If you don’t pray, even if your state is normal now, over an extended period of time, it will become abnormal. Praying and reading God’s word must be normal. Reading God’s words to seek the truth can lead to true prayer, prayer can gain God’s enlightenment, and this can enable a person to understand God’s word. In praying to God, the most important thing is to first correct your mentality. This is the principle of prayer. If your mentality is incorrect, you will not be pious, you will just be going through the motions, and you will be cheating God. If you have reverence for God and obedience to God within your heart, and you pray to God, only then will your heart be at peace. Therefore, when you pray, you must have a correct mentality, and your prayers will bear fruit. If you often practice in this way, telling God what is truly in your heart when you pray, and saying what your heart most wants to say to God, then without even noticing it, you will be able to pray to God, and you will be able to fellowship normally with God.
Prayer does not require that you are educated or cultured, and it is not making an essay. Just speak sincerely, with the sense of a normal person. Consider Jesus’ prayers. In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “If it be possible….” That is, “If it can be done.” This was said as part of a discussion. He did not say, “I implore You.” With a submissive heart and in a submissive state, He prayed, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me: nevertheless not as I will, but as You will.” He continued to pray like this the second time, and the third time He prayed, “May Your will be done.” Having grasped the intentions of God the Father, He said, “May Your will be done.” He was able to completely submit, without any personal choice at all. In prayer, Jesus said, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” What did that mean? He prayed this way because He thought of the great suffering of bleeding on the cross to His last dying breath—this touched upon the matter of death—and because He had not yet completely grasped the intentions of God the Father. To pray like that, despite the thought of such suffering, shows the great depth of His submission. The manner of His prayer was normal. He did not propose any conditions in His prayer, nor did He say the cup had to be taken away. Rather, His purpose was to seek God’s will in a situation that He did not comprehend. The first time He prayed, He did not understand, and He said, “If it be possible … but as You will.” He prayed to God in a state of submissiveness. The second time, He prayed in the same manner. In total, He prayed three times, and in His final prayer, He came to completely understand God’s will, after which He asked no more. In His first two prayers, He was just seeking, and He sought in a state of submissiveness. However, people simply do not pray like that. In their prayers, people always say, “God, I ask You to do this and that, and I ask You to guide me in this and that, and I ask You to make ready conditions for me….” Perhaps God will not prepare suitable conditions for you. Perhaps God will make you suffer hardship as a means to teach a lesson. If you are always praying like this—“God, I ask You to make preparations for me and give me strength”—it is extremely unreasonable! When you pray to God, you must be reasonable, and you should pray to Him with a heart of obedience. Don’t try to determine what you will do. If you try to determine what to do before you pray, this is not obedience to God. In prayer, your heart must be obedient, and you must first seek with God. In this way, your heart will naturally be brightened during prayer, and you will know what is appropriate to do. Going from your plan before prayer to the change produced in your heart after prayer is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. If you have already made your own decision and have determined what to do, and then you pray to ask God for permission or to ask God to do what you want, this kind of prayer is unreasonable. Many times, people’s prayers are not answered by God precisely because they have already decided what to do, and just ask God for permission. God says, “Since you have decided what to do, why ask Me?” This kind of prayer feels a bit like cheating God, and thus, their prayers dry up.
Even though people are talking to God when they kneel down to pray, you must see clearly: Prayer is an avenue for the Holy Spirit to work in people. The Holy Spirit always enlightens, illuminates, and leads people while they pray. If people pray and seek while they are in a correct state, then the Holy Spirit will be doing work at the same time. This is a sort of unspoken pact between God and humans; you could also say it is God helping people take care of matters. Prayer is a way for people to come before God and cooperate with Him. It is also a way for God to save and purify people. Moreover, it is a path to life entry; it is not a ritual. Prayer is not just a way to motivate people, nor is it just a formulaic way of satisfying God. Such thoughts are wrong. Prayer is deeply meaningful! If you believe in God, you can neither walk away from prayer nor from reading God’s words. Through prayer, the Holy Spirit works in people, enlightens them, and leads them. If people do not pray to God, they will have a hard time obtaining the work of the Holy Spirit. If you pray frequently, practice prayer frequently, and frequently pray with a heart of submission to God, then your internal state is normal. If, when you pray, it is usually just a few sentences of doctrine, and you do not open your heart to God or seek the truth, nor do you contemplate God’s will and demands, then you are not truly praying. Only people who frequently contemplate the truth, whose hearts are frequently close to God, and who frequently live in God’s words have real prayer, have words in their hearts to speak to God, and are able to seek the truth from God. To learn how to pray, you must frequently contemplate the words of God. If you can understand God’s will, then you will have much in your heart to say to Him and you will be able to understand which words are reasonable prayers, and which are not; which prayers are true worship and which are not; which prayers are seeking to grasp God’s will, and which prayers you have already decided on and are just asking for God’s permission. If you never take these matters seriously, then your prayers will never be successful, and your internal state will always be abnormal. As for what is normal reason, what is true obedience, what is true worship, and what position one should occupy when praying—these lessons all involve the truths of prayer. They are all detailed matters. Because most people cannot actually see Me, they are restricted to praying before the Spirit. Once you begin to pray, it becomes a question of whether the words you say are sensible, whether your words are truly worshipful, whether what you are asking for meets with God’s approval, whether your prayer has a transactional element, or is adulterated by human impurities, whether your prayers and speech accord with God’s will, whether you have special reverence, respect, and obedience to God, and whether you are truly treating God as God. You must be serious about what you say in prayer, feel for God’s will, and be in accordance with His demands. Only by praying in this way will you know peace and joy in your heart. Only thus can you have normal reason when you come before Christ. If you do not pray or say what is in your heart before the Spirit, then when you come before Christ, you are liable to come up with notions, rebel and resist Him, or you will talk unreasonably, speak dishonestly, or constantly cause disruption with your speech and actions, and afterward you will always suffer reproach. Why will you always suffer reproach? Because generally you lack even the slightest knowledge of the truths of how to worship or treat God, and so when you encounter an issue, you become confused, do not know how to practice, and make mistakes constantly. How should people who believe in God come into His presence? It should of course be through prayer. If you have corrected your attitude when you pray and your heart is at peace, then you have come before God. After praying, you must reflect on whether the words uttered in prayer were rational, whether you were stationed in a suitable position, whether you were possessed of obedience to God, and whether you were possessed of human impurity or dishonesty. If you find some problems, then you must continue praying to God, and you must admit to your impurities and flaws before God. By saying what is in your heart to God in this way, your state will become increasingly normal, you will become increasingly conscientious and rational, and your incorrect states will be fewer and fewer. After you practice in this way for a while, your prayers will keep improving, and they will be heard and accepted by God most of the time. Those who can often pray to God in this way are those who have come to live before God. If you don’t take prayer seriously or amend your incorrect ways of prayer, then you will not know how to pray. As a consequence of not knowing how to pray, you will find it difficult to live before God. This kind of person will not have any life entry and they will be outside of God’s word. If you do not know how to pray or speak before God, if you are not serious when you speak, saying whatever you want, and you do not feel that there is any problem when you say wrong things, and if you have been consistently careless and muddleheaded, then as a result, when you come into the presence of Christ, you will be afraid of saying or doing something wrong. The more you fear getting things wrong, the more mistakes you will make, and you will never be able to make up for them. And because people can’t be in constant touch with Christ or often hear Christ speak to them face to face, because I cannot be before you often, all you can do is seek the truth and speak your heart before the Spirit in frequent prayer, and it is enough if you attain a submissive, God-fearing heart. Even if I speak to you face to face, it is still up to you to accept and pursue the truth and to walk the path of following God. From now on, you must pay more attention to what you say when you pray. Take your time to pray, to ponder, and to feel. Then, once the Holy Spirit enlightens you, you will make progress. The feeling you get when the Holy Spirit enlightens you is especially subtle. After having some of these subtle feelings and subtle knowledge, if you do certain things, or if you have contact with Christ to handle certain matters, you will then be able to recognize which words are spoken with good sense and which are not, which things are done with good sense and which are not. Thus, you will have achieved the purposes of prayer.
The Bible has recorded the prayers of many people who, in those prayers, had not already set their own terms. Instead, they used prayer to seek and grasp God’s will, and to allow the Holy Spirit to make decisions. For example, the Israelites attacked Jericho through prayer. The people of Nineveh also repented and obtained God’s pardon through prayer. Prayer is not a type of ritual. It is true communion between a person and God, and it has profound significance. From people’s prayers, one can see that they are directly serving God. If you view prayer as a ritual, your prayer will be ineffective, and it will not be a real prayer because you do not speak your inner feelings to God or open your heart to Him. So far as God is concerned, your prayer does not count. You do not exist in the heart of God. How will the Holy Spirit work in you then? As a result of this, after working for a period of time, you will become exhausted. From now on, without prayer, you will not be able to do work. It is prayer that brings about work, and prayer that brings about service. If you are a leader, someone who serves God, yet you have never devoted yourself to prayer or taken prayer seriously, then you have no thoughts to express to God, and in this way, you are liable to go wrong as you perform your duty, and you are liable to stumble as you constantly rely on your own intentions in your actions. It is unacceptable to believe in God without praying enough. Some people seldom pray, thinking that since God has become incarnate, it is enough to directly read God’s words. In this, you think too simply. Can you be enlightened and illuminated by the Holy Spirit just by reading God’s word without praying to Him? If a person never prays to God, in that they do not speak or truly fellowship with God, then they will find it very difficult to cast off their corrupt disposition and to satisfy God in the performance of their duties. Even God incarnate prays sometimes! When Jesus came incarnate, He also prayed when it came to critical matters. He prayed on the mountain, aboard the boat, and in the garden. He also led His disciples in prayer. If you often come before God and pray to Him, this proves that you treat God as God. If you frequently act according to your own desires, and you often neglect prayer and do various things behind His back, then you are not serving God, you are merely engaged in your own endeavors. As such, will you not be condemned? From the outside, it will not appear as though you have done anything that causes disturbance, nor will it seem that you have blasphemed God, but you will just be handling your own affairs. You will be engaged in your own endeavors, and pursuing fame, gain, status, and personal benefits. Is this not disrupting the work of the church? Even if, on the surface, it appears as though you are not being disruptive, in essence your actions are resisting God. If you never repent or change, then you are in danger.
Everyone has been in the state of being in pain and miserable when something unsatisfactory happens, and not wanting to talk to anyone. After a while, they feel better, but this state has not been resolved. Sometimes, they reveal a corrupt disposition in the performance of their duties and they delay the work, or they are pruned and dealt with, they are pained and distressed, but if one doesn’t seek the truth to resolve this, then this abnormal state will not be resolved. How many times have you come before God in your pain and distress to pray? You all take on a relaxed mindset and just muddle through it. In this way, there are many who claim to believe in God, but who do not have God in their hearts. No matter what duty they perform, whenever they encounter any problem, they never pray or seek the truth. They rely on their own will to do things blindly, seeming as if they are enduring suffering and expending energy, and they think they are doing their duty well, even though they are coming up with nothing and their effort is in vain. People often rely on their own wills and go astray as they walk. Once they do a little work, they grow arrogant, feel that they have capital, and then they have no place for God in their hearts. From this, one can see that people’s nature is to betray. People even think, “How could there be no place for God in my heart if I believe in Him? Aren’t I working for the church right now? How could God forsake me?” It’s not that God wants to forsake you, it’s just that you have no place for God in your heart. No matter how much work you do, you will be unable to redeem yourself of this, you will have no way to gain the work of the Holy Spirit, and no matter what you do, you will keep distancing yourself from God and betraying Him. The lesson of prayer is the most profound. If you go about your duty without even praying, then your performance won’t be up to par, and your labor will be in vain. The more abnormal your state is, the more you should pray. Without prayer, your state will only get worse and worse, and your duty will be ineffective. Prayer does not depend on how good the things you say sound. Instead, it requires speaking from your heart, speaking the truth of your own difficulties, speaking from the position of a created being and from the perspective of obedience: “God, You know how hardened humans are. Please guide me in this matter. You know that I am weak, that I am severely lacking, that I am unsuitable for Your use, that I am rebellious, and that whenever I act, I disrupt Your work and do things that do not accord with Your will. I ask that You do Your work, I simply wish to obey and cooperate….” If you can’t even speak these words, there is no hope for you. Some people think, “When I pray, I still need to discern whether I pray with reason or not. Then how should I pray?” Does it take long to discern whether you are reasonable? After each prayer, sincerely reflect, and you will find clarity. As you do this, you will become ever more reasonable in subsequent prayers, because when you pray, you will know that some words are inappropriate. When man prays, their relationship with God is the most direct, and the closest. Can you normally kneel down and pray immediately when you do things? Not always; it depends on the environment. When you are alone at home and you kneel down and pray to God, your relationship with God is at its closest. You can say whatever is in your heart, and you feel the greatest joy. When you read God’s word, if you pray first, reading His word will feel different. When you perform your duty, pray and seek first, then your heart will be serious, and when you perform your duty the effect will be different. If you read God’s word and find light, then pray to God and you will find greater joy. If you never pray, you will not feel God’s presence when you read God’s word and perform your duty. At times, reading God’s word will not enlighten you, and after reading His word, there will be no obvious effect. Nothing you do in your belief in God can be done without prayer. If you pray to God often, and your relationship with God becomes normal, you will have life entry, and your faith will grow stronger. If you don’t pray for a long time, you will lose your faith, and then how will you achieve life entry? People who have real faith attain it by living before God through prayer, and seeking the truth through prayer. Many people just go through the motions as they pray, and do not seek the truth. They only come before God to pray and beg when something happens and there is nothing else they can do. They always force God to do as they wish and satisfy them. Is this true prayer? Does God listen to prayers such as this? Praying and seeking in God’s presence is not a matter of coercing God into doing what you want, much less asking Him to do this or that. These are all manifestations of a lack of sense. What is a reasonable prayer? What is an unreasonable prayer? You will know these things from experience after a while. For example, after you pray, you may feel that the Holy Spirit does not do what you prayed for, nor guide you as you prayed for. The next time you pray, you will pray differently. You will not attempt to coerce God as you tried to last time or make requests of Him based on your own wishes. You will say, “Oh, God! May everything be done according to Your will.” As long as you focus on this approach, then after grasping around for a while, you will know what a reasonable prayer is and what an unreasonable prayer is. There is also a state in which, when you pray according to your own wishes, you feel in your spirit that your prayers are dull, and you soon find yourself with nothing to say. The more you try to say, the more awkward it becomes. This proves that when you pray like this, you are completely following the flesh, and the Holy Spirit does not work or guide you that way. This, too, is a matter of searching and experience. As you experience such matters more, you will naturally come to understand them.
Prayer is mainly about speaking honestly to God and telling Him what is in your heart. You say, “God! You know man’s corruption. Today I have done another unreasonable thing. I harbored an intention—I am a deceitful person. I wasn’t acting according to Your will or the truth. I acted as I willed and tried to justify myself. Now, I recognize my corruption. I ask You to enlighten me more and allow me to understand the truth, put it into practice, and cast off this corruption.” Pray in this way; real things stated and spoken in a real way. When most people come before God to pray, most of their words are that of doctrine. They are not real prayers from the heart. It is only in terms of thinking that they have a bit of knowledge, and their hearts are willing to repent, but they have not put any effort into contemplating or fully understanding the truth. This affects the progress of their life. If you can contemplate God’s words and seek the truth when you pray, and have the Holy Spirit enlighten you, then it is far more worthwhile than simply thinking about it and understanding it; you will be able to understand the truth principles. The Holy Spirit moves people as He works, and He enlightens and illuminates people in God’s words, so that people have true understanding and true repentance, which is much deeper than the thoughts and understanding of people. You must thoroughly understand this. If you engage merely in superficial, haphazard thinking and examination, you have no appropriate path to practice afterward, and you achieve little entry in the truth, then you will remain incapable of change. There are times, for instance, when you resolve to expend yourself in earnest for God, and to repay His love in earnest. Even with this desire in mind, though, you might not expend that much effort, and your heart might not be wholly committed to the endeavor. If, however, having prayed and been moved, you make a resolution and say, “God, I am willing to suffer hardship. I am willing to accept Your trials; and I am willing to submit to You completely. No matter how great my suffering, I am willing to repay Your love. I enjoy Your great love, and You have raised me up. For this, I thank You from the bottom of my heart, and give all glory unto You,” after having offered such a prayer, your whole body will be empowered, and you will have a path to practice. This is the effect of prayer. After a person prays, the Holy Spirit sets to work on them, enlightening, illuminating, and guiding them, giving them faith and courage, and enabling them to put the truth into practice. There are people who read God’s words daily without achieving such a result. However, after they have read them, they fellowship about them and their hearts grow bright, and they find a way. If, in addition, the Holy Spirit moves you, and gives you some burden, as well as some guidance, the results will be very different indeed. When you read God’s words you may only be somewhat moved, and at that time you may weep. After a short while that feeling will pass. But if the prayer that you offer is tearful, earnest, genuine and sincere, and you are moved by the Holy Spirit, then your heart will have joy for many days. This is the effect of prayer. The purpose of prayer is to come before God and accept that which He would give to people. If you pray often, if you often come before God to fellowship with Him, and have a normal relationship with Him, then you will always be moved by Him. If you always receive His provisions, and accept the truth, you will be changed, and your conditions will continue to improve. In particular, when brothers and sisters pray together, an especially great energy arises afterward, and they feel they have gained a great deal. In fact, they may not have fellowshiped much in their time together, but it was prayer that roused them, such that they could not wait a second longer to renounce their families and the world, and they wanted nothing, and having God alone sufficed. What great faith! The strength that the Holy Spirit’s work gives to people can be enjoyed without end! How far can you get by stiffening your neck and relying on your persistence, instead of relying on the strength God gives you? You’ll just walk and walk and run out of strength, and then when you encounter a problem or a difficulty, you will have no way to go. You will fall down and degenerate before you reach the end. There are so many people who have failed and fallen on the path of following God; without the truth they cannot stand. Therefore, people must constantly pray to God, rely on God, and maintain a normal relationship with God unto the end. Yet humans, as they walk on, stray far from God. God is God, humankind is humankind. Each follows their own path. God speaks the words of God, and humankind walks its own path, which is not the same as God’s. When a person loses strength in their belief in God, they come before God to say a few words of prayer and borrow some strength. After they have some energy, they depart once more. After a while, they run out of fuel, and come back to God for more. A person cannot sustain this manner of doing things for long. If a person leaves God, they have no way forward.
I have now discovered that many people’s ability to regulate themselves is especially poor. What is the cause? This is because people don’t understand the truth to begin with, and if they don’t pray, they are most likely to become debauched. They only understand the letter of doctrine, which does not work, and they can’t restrain themselves at all. In such a state, you can only gain enlightenment and illumination from the Holy Spirit through prayer, and only if you understand some truth can you be restrained in some way and have a little human likeness. Believers in God must read His words frequently, put emphasis on the truth, and pray frequently. Only then can people improve, bring about change, and live out some semblance of human likeness. If you only talk about knowing yourself and living out normal humanity, that is not okay; without the work of the Holy Spirit, it will have no effect. If you overlook how, exactly, the Holy Spirit works and moves people, and how people should seek and practice the truth in their daily lives, then how can you believe in God? What duty can you do? If in their hearts, people only believe in the existence of God, if all that is left of their belief is just an acknowledgment of God, and if His words and truth are put to the side, then they will not have life entry, and neither God nor the truth will be in their hearts. People’s thoughts and notions will be full of only the material world. This sort of belief in God has become a religious ritual. Those who do not love the truth could even accept atheism or materialism, and they might slowly put a question mark on whether God exists, and deny the spiritual world and matters of spiritual life. This is in complete departure from the true way, and they have fallen into the bottomless pit. Without prayer, people’s desire to practice the truth is just a subjective wish; they will just be sticking to the rules. Even if you act in accordance with arrangements from the Above and do not offend God, you just stick to the rules, and so you will never perform your duty well. People’s spirits are all numb and sluggish, now. There are many subtleties in people’s relationships with God, such as being moved and enlightened by the Spirit, but people cannot feel them—they are too numb! If people do not read God’s words or pray, and never experience the matters of spiritual life, and cannot get a hold on their own state, they have no way to guarantee they are living before God. If you want to live before God, it is unacceptable to not pray, and even more so to not read God’s words. Not living church life is unacceptable, too. If a person walks away from God’s words they no longer believe in Him, and to walk away from prayer is to walk far away from God. To believe in God, one must pray. Without prayer, there is no semblance of belief in God. I have said you do not have to adhere to rules, and that you may pray anywhere and at any time, so there are some who seldom pray. They do not pray in the morning when they awaken, but merely read a few passages of God’s words and listen to hymns instead. During the day, they busy themselves with external affairs, and they do not pray before they lie down to sleep at night. Do you not feel it to be true that if you merely read God’s words and do not pray, you are then like an unbeliever reading His words, with the words not sinking in? If people do not pray, then their hearts cannot get into God’s words, and they will not be enlightened by reading them. They will not have subtle feelings of the spirit, nor have their spirit moved. They are numb and sluggish; they just give surface-level fellowship about church work and performing their duty. When something happens, they cannot grasp the innermost feelings of their heart. Does this not influence their normal relationship with God? There is already no place for God in their heart, and pray as they will, no words come out, and they cannot feel God. This is already very dangerous. It means that they have wandered too far from God. Actually, retreating into your spirit to pray will not disrupt you from the external tasks of work; it will not delay things at all. If a problem emerges and it is not resolved, then things will be delayed. Prayer to God is meant to solve problems, and to enable people to live in God’s presence and enjoy His words. This is more beneficial to performing people’s duties, and to their life entry.