We have said that God has a will for everything. Yet God does not act independently; He will not do anything by Himself. Even though God has a will, He wants the free will on earth to echo His will before He does anything. If there is only a will in heaven, God will not move. The heavenly move is accomplished on earth only when the earth wants the same thing as heaven. Today this is called the ministry of the church. Brothers and sisters, the ministry of the church is not only the preaching of the gospel. This does not mean that we should not preach the gospel; it means that the ministry of the church is not merely the preaching of the gospel. The ministry of the church is to bring the will in heaven to earth. How does the church bring the will in heaven to earth? It is by prayer on earth. Prayer is not as small and insignificant as some may think. It is not something that is dispensable. Prayer is a work. Prayer is the church saying to God, “God, we want Your will.” Prayer is the church knowing God’s heart and opening its mouth to ask for what is in God’s heart. If the church does not do this, it does not have much use on earth.
Many prayers for spiritual edification, prayers for fellowship, and prayers for supplication cannot replace prayers which are in the nature of work or ministry. If all your prayers are prayers for spiritual edification, fellowship, and supplication, they are too small. A prayer which is in the nature of work or ministry is one in which you stand on God’s side, wanting what God wants. Brothers and sisters, if a prayer is uttered according to God’s will, it is the most powerful thing. For the church to pray means that it finds out God’s will and speaks out this will. Prayer is not just asking God for something. For the church to pray means that it stands on God’s side to declare that man wants what God wants. If the church declares this, the declaration will be effectual.
Now let us consider three great principles in ministerial prayer from Matthew 18:18-20.
In verse 18 the Lord says, “Whatever you bind on the earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on the earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Who is the “you” here? It is the church because verse 17 mentions the church, and verse 18 is a continuation of verse 17. Whatever the church binds on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever the church looses on earth will be loosed in heaven. This is a very important principle: today God works through the church. God cannot do anything at will; He has to do everything through the church. Without going through the church, God cannot do anything. Brothers and sisters, this is a very sober principle. God cannot do anything by Himself today. There is a free will besides His will. If this will does not cooperate with Him, He cannot do anything. The amount of power that the church has expresses the amount of power that God has because His power is expressed through the church. God has placed Himself in the church. The height and extent that the church reaches is the height and extent that God’s power reaches. If the power of the church is small and restricted, God cannot express the height or extensiveness of His power. The water department’s reservoir may be great, but if you have only a small tap in your house, a great amount of water will not flow out. If you want more water in your house, you have to install a larger pipe. Today the capacity of the church determines the degree to which God’s power is expressed. This can be seen from God’s expression in Christ; the capacity of Christ is the degree of the manifestation of God. Today God is expressed in the church; the capacity of the church determines the degree of the expression of God and also the amount of knowledge one can have about God.
(The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)