By Liu Shuo, China
One day, I came back home frommeeting, my legs aching. I sat on my bed, patting my two legs and humming a hymn quietly, “We have to praise , because all things are out of Him. He is the Ruler of the heavens and earth and all things. There is no other God like Him …” Just as I was singing, my husband opened the door and came in. Seeing him back, I was very excited and asked, “You have finally come back. How come you were out so long this time? It’s been nearly two years.”
My husband put the things with him on the table, explaining, “I’ve been busy these days with the affairs of the church and I couldn’t get away.” Then he came to the bedside and asked me with concern, “Why are you massaging your legs?”
I said, “I received a notice from the upper-level co-workers and had a meeting for a few days. I came home a little while ago. My legs are aching badly. I just massage them to stimulate circulation.”
My husband said with a smile, “Did you kneel to pray for a long time in the meeting?”
I said gruffly, “That’s right. The two co-workers prayed for more than one hour and called on the name of the Lord for over twenty minutes. In the end, they again prayed for more than one hour. It was almost three hours in all. In fact, after praying for forty minutes, I felt my legs were numb and my calves were swollen. I wanted to stand up to relax my legs and reduce soreness, but at the thought that this suffering was approved by God, I had to kneel there and continued praying. Later, when thewas finished, I could hardly stand up. I felt tired and painful. I really couldn’t bear it.”
My husband said seriously, “Thehas ever said: ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). Prayer is the most direct way for us to worship God. We need to use our heart to pray to the Lord and speak intimate words with Him. That is, we should talk to God about our true state and actual difficulties, rather than show off our eloquence and exhibit ourselves in praying. In the past, when I prayed with brothers and sisters during my sermon, many times I listed verses and said a bunch of nice sounding words. I didn’t pray with my heart. Instead, I wanted to win others’ favor for admiration and let others look up to me. Now, I am very fed up with the way I prayed.”
I said in puzzlement, “Yeah, the Lord Jesus asked us to use our heart and integrity to worship Him. Putting like that, I find I have the same attitude that if I pray with many words, list many scriptures and pray for a long time, I will be spiritual and others will not look down upon me. Actually, we co-workers also list verses to compare ourselves to each other. That’s the reason why each of us prayed longer than the next.”
My husband said, “In reality, God pays no mind to our half-hearted prayers. In Matthew 6:5-7, it recorded what the Lord Jesus has ever taught His disciples, ‘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. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly. But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.’ From these words, we can see that the Lord Jesus loathes the prayers of the hypocrites. But we think that the more words of our prayers are, the happier the Lord will be. In fact, it is not. Our prayers are to flaunt ourselves on purpose and to show off, so that others will mistake our outward practices for our devotion to the Lord. How can such behaviors deceive the Lord?”
After hearing his words, I nodded and said, “What you said is truly so. Well, I find you have had much progress. Where did you get so much light? I have never heard before.”
He said with a smile, “Such understanding was from some words a net friend sent to me the other day. I felt he had his own unique insights about prayer, so I wrote down some of the important passages on my notebook. When I am free, I can ponder them. Let me share them with you.” Saying these words, my husband stood up and walked to the table. He took out his notebook, and began to read, “Prayer is not a case of going through the formalities, or following procedure, or reciting the words of God, which is to say, prayer does not mean parroting words and copying others. In prayer, you must give your heart to God, sharing the words in your heart with God so that you may be touched by God.” Then he said, “You see how these words are accordance with the Lord’s requirements for us. That is to say, prayer is not going through the formalities or following procedure or reciting God’s words. In prayer, we should give our heart to God and speak from our heart to Him.”
Looking at these words, I said, “In this light, our former prayers were mainly reciting verses, parroting words and following procedures, but not giving our hearts to God.”
My husband said, “Hmm” and continued “Well, let me read another passage about what a true prayer is, ‘What does it mean to truly pray? It means speaking the words within your heart to God, and communing with God having grasped His will and based upon His words; it means feeling particularly close to God, feeling that He is in front of you, and that you have something to say to Him; and it means being especially radiant within your heart, and feeling that God is especially lovely. You will feel especially inspired, and after hearing your words your brothers and sisters will feel gratified, they will feel that the words you speak are the words within their hearts, the words they wish to say, and that what you say represents what they want to say. This is what it means to truly pray. After you have truly prayed, in your heart you will feel at peace, and gratified; the strength to love God will rise up, and you will feel that nothing in your entire life is more worthy or significant than loving God—and all this will prove that your prayers have been effective.’ From these words, we can see: The result achieved by true prayers is to draw our heart closer to God, to make us feel God’s dearness and loveliness. Besides, it can make us enjoy the peace and joy God bestows upon us, and obtain deeper knowledge of God’s words. If we always reciteverses to God every day, just as a Buddhist monk chants scriptures, how can the Lord accept and listen to our prayers? Should this continue, we will become further and further from God and even be despised by God. Just like a child who always says the same thing to his parents repeatedly since his childhood, are his parents willing to listen?”
I was silent for a moment with my head bent, and then I said, “It seems that our former way of prayer is really not in line with the Lord’s will. No wonder even when I pray every day, my spiritual condition can’t be invigorated, and I cannot feel the Lord’s presence. Can it be said that it has a direct relationship with our prayer?” My husband looked at me with approval.
Then, I asked again in puzzlement, “We pray twice at a specific time every day, the morning prayer at 5 a.m. and the evening prayer; we deacons and others who have burdens must pray for the brothers or sisters who need help as well as all the other people in the church, asking the Lord to keep these families peace in the Lord; then we pray for the unbelievers, from families to countries, and even pray for the world peace. I don’t know whether such kind of prayer will be listened to by the Lord.”
My husband said with a bitter smile, “Compared to the facts, we will know whether God has listened or not. We pray for the world peace every day, but from the world situation we can see that wars become more and more intense, to the extent of breaking out at any moment. Every country united with each other in military exercises to show his own country’s power. We prayed to God asking Him to forgive man’s sins and remove man’s disasters, but we can see from the TV reports that there are more and more disasters and the scope which they involved is broader and broader. All kinds of phenomena indicate that our prayer has not reached God’s ears, and God doesn’t approve our prayer at all.”
I said, “According to the reality, your words are really true. Though we kneel before the Lord to pray for such a long time every day, the Lord doesn’t seem to listen to our prayers.”
Then he said seriously, “The facts are the best answer. Let me read another passage to you, ‘Like the people in the Three-Self Church who are limited to daily morning watch, evening prayers, giving thanks before meals, expressing thanks in everything, and other such practices, no matter how much these people do, or how long they practice, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. If people live within rules, with their hearts poured into practice, then the Holy Spirit has no way to work, because people’s hearts are taken up with rules, are taken up with human conceptions; therefore God has no way to do work; people will just always be living under control of the law, and this type of person will never be able to receive the praise of God. A normal spiritual life is to live a life before God. When praying one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer one can seek for enlightenment by the Holy Spirit, know God’s words, and can understand the will of God’ (‘Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life’). From these words, we can see: If we live within the rituals of religion and rules, all we do will not be approved by the Lord, much less can we receive the Holy Spirit’s work. Moreover, sometimes when we don’t know, we stubbornly require God to do this or do that, as if we were God’s advisers. We ask God to act in accordance with our thoughts in all things, but don’t quiet our hearts before God to seek His meaning or speak intimately to Him to seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance. We should bear the burden for our own lives, seek and pray often for the truths we don’t understand, and pray for the growth of our spiritual life. Only such prayers are in concert with God’s intentions and will be approved by God.”
I said with excitement, “Thank God for His guidance. In the past, I always thought that if we prayed to or knelt before God for a long time, it showed that we were devout to the Lord; if we could adhere to all kinds of religious rituals, it showed we were loyal to the Lord. In fact, our hearts didn’t quiet before God and we did not have heart-to-heart talks with God. It appears that no matter how long these outward behaviors last, it’s no use; and we cannot receive the Holy Spirit’s work, either. I must quickly share this new light with brothers and sisters in the next meeting, so that they can change their ways of praying which are not in line with God’s will.”
My husband said delightedly, “Let’s leave this here. I am very hungry. Please make some food for me. Then I will fellowship with you about some light regarding another aspect of the truth.”
I said happily, “All right, I will do that at once.”
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