Lesson 4 – Prayer
THE MEANING OF PRAYER
A real prayer is the mutual contact between God and man. Prayer is not just man contacting God, but also God contacting man. If in prayer man does not touch or contact God, and God does not touch or contact man, that prayer is below the proper standard. Every prayer that is up to the standard is one which is a mutual flow and contact between God and man. God and man are just like electric currents flowing into one another. It is hard for you to say that prayer is solely God in man or solely man in God. According to the fact and experience, prayer is the flowing between God and man. Every prayer that is truly up to the standard surely will have a condition of mutual flowing between God and man so that man may actually touch God and God may actually touch man; thus, man is united with God, and God with man. Therefore, the highest and most accurate meaning of prayer is that it is the mutual contact between God and man.
A real prayer is also man breathing in God just as he breathes in air. While you are thus breathing in God, spontaneously you are obtaining God, just as when you breathe in air you receive air. Consequently, not only is God obtained by you and becomes your enjoyment, but also your whole being surrenders to God, turns unto God, and is wholly gained by God. The more you pray, the more you will be filled with God, and the more you will surrender yourself to God and be gained by Him. If you do not pray for a week or, even worse, a month, then you will be quite far from God. What does it mean to be quite far from God? It means that you cannot obtain God and be obtained by Him. The only remedy for this situation is to pray. And it is not enough to pray for only two or three minutes; you must pray again and again until you have actually breathed God and are actually obtained by God, and God by you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, real prayer is of great importance to a Christian’s spiritual life.
By these illustrations we can see that real prayers will certainly cause our being to be wholly mingled with God. We will become a person of two parties, i.e., God mingled with man. When you pray it is He praying, and when He prays it is also you praying. When He prays within you, then you express the prayer outwardly. He and you are altogether one, inside and outside; He and you both pray at the same time. At that time you and God cannot be separated, being mingled as one. Consequently, you not only cooperate with God but also work together with God that God Himself and His desire may be expressed through you, thus ultimately accomplishing God’s purpose. This is the real prayer which is required of us in the Bible.
PRAYER BEING THE DENIAL OF THE SELF AND RELEASE OF THE SPIRIT
Do you know what it means to pray? To pray means that we realize that we are nothing and that we can do nothing. This implies that prayer is the real denial of the self. To pray, therefore, is to deny ourselves, knowing that we are nothing and are not able to do anything. Furthermore, to pray is actually to declare, “Not I, but Christ” [Gal. 2:20]. I wish to emphasize the fact that the word “prayer” in [Mark] 9:29 actually indicates “no longer I, but Christ.” Concerning this matter, we need to understand why this case immediately follows the revelation of Christ as our replacement and the Lord’s word about denying ourselves. We need to deny ourselves so that Christ may be our replacement and become everything to us. Although the disciples saw this revelation, they did not practice it or live according to it. To see the revelation is one thing, but to live it is another.
Prayer is the release of the spirit. If you do not release your spirit, you can never receive the Spirit. This may be likened to a water hose. When water is coming out of the hose, this means that water is coming into it. Thus, to release our spirit is to receive the Spirit. The proper prayer always releases us. If we pray and our spirit is not exercised and released, our prayer is wrong. Prayer must exercise our spirit and release our spirit. When our spirit is released by our prayer, we are released persons.
We should remember two things. First, when we pray, we need to petition, to supplicate, not to explain. Second, when we pray, we should pray by and in our spirit. Paul said in Ephesians 6:18 that we should pray at every time in spirit. A number of translations translated “spirit” in this verse with a capital “S.” But the spirit here is not the Spirit with a capital “S,” but our spirit. We need to pray at every time in spirit, and watch unto this kind of prayer in our spirit. If we pray without being in the spirit, we have to adjust ourselves. When we pray, we must pray from our spirit. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit (John 4:24). Whenever we come to the Lord, we must exercise our spirit.
CONTINUE STEADFASTLY IN PRAYER
When some saints hear a word about prayer, they immediately ask how to pray. We should forget about how and simply pray. For example, a child learns to walk by walking. Few parents teach their children to walk. In the same principle, we learn to pray by praying.
In [Colossians] 4:2 Paul charges us to persevere in prayer. This means that we should not merely continue in prayer, but we should strive to continue. Almost everything in our environment is contrary to prayer. In order to pray, we must go against the tide, the current, of our environment. If we fail to pray, we shall be swept downstream. Only prayer can enable us to go against the current. Therefore, we need to persevere in prayer, to pray persistently.
Day by day we need to exercise ourselves to pray. We should even set aside certain times each day for prayer. Do not excuse yourself by saying that you do not have the burden to pray. Pray even when you seem to have no burden, or when apparently you have nothing to say to the Lord.…But when you go to the Lord in prayer even without a burden, telling Him that you have nothing to say, you will find yourself refreshed in the Lord and able to pray genuinely. When we open to the Lord and admit that we do not know what to say to Him, we breathe in fresh spiritual air, and we are preserved in the Lord’s grace.
Before you try to persevere in prayer, you should first make a deal with the Lord concerning your prayer life. Pray to Him in a definite way and say, “Lord, I mean business with You about this matter of prayer. I call heaven and earth to witness that from this time forth I will have a life of prayer. I will not be a prayerless person. Rather, I will be a praying person.” …We need to say to Him, “Lord, I am desperate about this. I offer myself to You so that I may have a prayer life. Lord, keep me in the spirit of prayer. If I forget this or neglect this, I know that You will not forget it. Remind me again and again about prayer.” This kind of prayer may be regarded as a vow made to the Lord. We all need to make a vow to Him concerning our prayer life. We should tell the Lord, “Lord, I know that if I forget this vow, You will not forget it. From the very beginning, Lord, I want to clearly hand the responsibility over to You. Lord, don’t let me go. Remind me to pray.”
After we make such a deal with the Lord concerning prayer, we should set aside definite times for prayer. For instance, you may reserve ten minutes every morning. During this time, prayer must be the top priority. Our attitude should be that prayer is our most important business and that nothing should be allowed to interfere with it. If we do not have this attitude, we shall not be able to have a successful prayer life. No matter how many things we have to do each day, we can reserve at least a few minutes here and there for prayer. We may pray a little in the morning. Then again at noon, after work, and in the evening we may have other times for prayer. By setting aside definite times during the day, we may be able to have a half hour reserved for prayer.