Lesson 12 – Exercising the Spirit by Calling and Pray-reading
EXERCISING OUR HUMAN SPIRIT
Today whatever we do positively in our spirit is a kind of exercise. The word in Greek for exercise is the basis of the English word gymnastics. To participate in gymnastics, one must use all of his energy to exercise his whole physical being. We must exercise our spirit in the same way. The whole environment around us does not help us to exercise. It has an intention to keep us down. The whole situation does not help us to go on to labor. It helps us to be lazy; it helps us to be backsliding. It is a downhill current. The downhill current helps us go down. Actually, the current carries you. But if you go uphill, you have to exercise, and you have to struggle.
Second Timothy 1:6-7 indicates that we need to fan our spirit into flame. In these verses Paul said, “For which cause I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but of power and of love and of sobermindedness.” Some might think that these verses do not say that we should fan our spirit but that we should fan our gift. But if you get into these verses, you will see that the fanning of our gift into flame is the fanning of our spirit into flame. Paul tells us in verse 6 to “fan into flame the gift of God.” Then in verse 7 he says, “For God has not given us a spirit….” Our God-given spirit is what we must fan into flame. We have to fan our spirit.
After you fan your spirit into flame, learn to practice another thing. Always manage your mind. Do not let your mind be a “wild horse.” The mind is the great part of the soul, and the soul is in between our outward flesh and our inward spirit. Romans 8:6 says, “The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.” After fanning our spirit into flame, we must learn to set our mind on the spirit. Our mind is very “talkative.” The mind speaks to us everywhere at all times. If we do not control our mind, we can wander in our imagination all over the globe within a short time. We can dream in our mind even during the day. This is why we must direct our mind to the spirit. When we do this, we will sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, or speak forth the Lord.
EXERCISING OUR SPIRIT BY CALLING
One of the secrets of exercising our spirit is to call on the name of the Lord. We may consider calling on the name of the Lord as the best secret of exercising our spirit. For example, the secret of exercising our feet is to walk. For walking, we use our feet; for seeing, we use our eyes; for hearing, we use our ears; and for praying, we use our spirit. Whenever we pray, we need to use our spirit. Some may have the feeling that when they pray they are often in their mind and not in their spirit. Praying in spirit requires much exercise. This may be likened to a child learning to walk. Before he can walk, he must first learn to crawl and later to stand. After he can stand, then he learns to walk. Once he learns to walk, he no longer needs to crawl or hold on to something. Perhaps when you first start to pray, you are in your mind; but after much practice in praying, you will gradually be in spirit. After further practice, you will reach a point that whenever you pray, you pray in your spirit and with your spirit. Prayer is not just for petitioning God but even more for contacting and fellowshipping with God. Therefore, the best way to pray is to call on the name of the Lord. The Bible even tells us to pray unceasingly (1 Thes. 5:17). The only way to pray unceasingly is to call on the name of the Lord.
Besides praying, we need to read the Bible. Reading the Bible is not for gaining more knowledge and doctrines but for receiving spiritual supply. The Bible contains profound truths that are not for the believers’ objective knowledge but for their subjective experience. To dive into these profound truths, we need to use our spirit because the Lord said that His words are spirit and are life (John 6:63). To touch the spirit in the Lord’s words, we need to use our spirit. When we use our spirit, we dive into these profound truths, which are able to help open up our prayers, making them more penetrating and richer. Whether our prayers are deep and rich depends totally upon our knowledge of the truth. Therefore, there are two secrets of exercising our spirit: prayer and pursuing the truth. These two matters complement each other. We must pray, and we must also dive into the truth. Praying can help us get into the truth. The more we get into the truth, the deeper and richer our experiences will be. Even the sense we have when calling on the name of the Lord becomes deep, rich, and weighty. In this way our taste and feeling for the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be very different from that in the past.
EXERCISING OUR SPIRIT BY PRAY-READING
In Greek, the antecedent of “which” in [Ephesians 6] verse 17 is the Spirit, not the sword. This indicates that the Spirit is the word of God. Both the Spirit and the word are Christ (2 Cor. 3:17; Rev. 19:13). We need to receive the word of God by means of all prayer and petition. According to verses 17 and 18, we are to take the word of God by means of all prayer. These verses indicate that we may take the word by pray-reading, that is, by praying with the words of Scripture and over them, using the words of the Bible as our prayer to God. The term pray-reading is not found in the Bible. However, the fact of pray-reading is according to the Scriptures.
Many saints throughout church history pointed out that the best way to understand the word is to read it prayerfully. To read the word with prayer and by prayer, to pray-read the word, is the best way to read the word. Mere reading only needs our eyes and our understanding, our mentality. But to receive God’s word into the depths of our being, our spirit is needed, and the prevailing way to exercise our spirit is by praying. Whenever we pray, we spontaneously exercise our spirit. Then what we read with our eyes and understand in our mentality will go into our spirit through our prayer. Every word in the Bible needs our pray-reading.
The matter of pray-reading to eat, drink, and breathe the Spirit and the life in the Word of God is seen in the word of the Bible; hence, pray-reading is not superstitious. When we pray-read, the word in letters becomes spirit and life, that is, the Lord Himself. To pray-read is to receive “the sword of the Spirit, which Spirit is the word of God, by means of all prayer and petition” (Eph. 6:17-18). Whenever we receive the Word of God by pray-reading, the result is that we eat, drink, and breathe in the Spirit and the life in God’s Word. Even an Old Testament saint, Jeremiah, also said, “Your words were found and I ate them” (Jer. 15:16). The Word of God is edible; hence, it is our food. Therefore, we must “long for the guileless milk of the word” (1 Pet. 2:2).…In addition, God’s Word is also God’s breathing out. When we breathe in God’s Word, breathing in what God has breathed out, we receive Him. It is clear, then, that to pray-read is to eat, to drink, and to breathe, and the more consistently we practice it, the better.
Whether in the morning or in the evening, we need to take the Word of God and pray-read a few verses. You do not need to exercise your mind to “squeeze out” some words or think about what you have read. You just need to pray with what you have read. You can have some living prayers with every page and verse. You do not need to close your eyes to pray-read. When you pray, you gaze on the Word of God. We must realize that when we pray, we do not always have to close our eyes. It is better if we can shut up our mind. We do not need to organize phrases or manufacture prayers. Simply pray-read the Word of God. Based on what you read, pray with the words in the Scriptures. Eventually, you will see that the entire Bible is a prayer book! You can open the Bible to any page and pray with any portion .Perhaps you are very familiar with the whole book of Romans. But even today, you still need to pray-read one or two verses from Romans. We may know everything about food, but every day we still need to get some food and eat it. No matter how much we know about food, we still need to eat it. Knowing is one thing, eating is another thing, and enjoying is yet another thing. You may have been a Christian for years, but no matter how long you have been a Christian, or how many times you have read a certain book in the Bible, you must not only read it but pray-read it. You must eat it, take it, and enjoy it.