II. A STRONG WILL
Man’s will needs to be strong. The emotion should be soft, but the will should not. To have a soft will is equivalent to having no will. Please consider: if the brake is soft, how can you stop the car? If the rudder of a ship is made of paper, it cannot function as a rudder. It is imperative that the rudder be hard and strong. Likewise, one’s will cannot effectively function as a will unless it is strong.
Anyone who follows the Lord faithfully and maintains his standing unchanged till death is a person with a strong will. Every martyr is a man with a firm, strong will. Consider Martin Luther or John Wycliffe. They were people with a strong, resolute will. Again, look at the three friends of Daniel. The trial of the fiery furnace showed that they truly had strong, firm wills. Similarly, our prayer cannot last long unless we have a strong, firm will. The Lord Jesus said, “Watch and pray; pray always.” We need a strong, firm will in order to be able to watch and be constant in prayer. One who is a jellyfish can never be watchful. He can only pray sometimes. He cannot endure in prayer. Although prayer is a refined matter, it requires a resolute will. From the first day that Daniel prayed for his people, his words were heard by God, and God sent an angel to answer his prayer. However, the angel met the resistance of an evil prince in the air and fought for three weeks before he could get to the earth. During that time, Daniel, who was on earth, needed a resolute will to persist in prayer for the three weeks. None of those who know how to pray properly and constantly have a weak will. Rather, each one has a will that is strong.
Fallen people have many abnormal conditions such as: the will needs to be strong, yet it is not; the mind needs to be sober, yet it is not; and the emotion needs to be in abundance, yet it is not. But with a spiritual man, his mind is sober and rich; his emotion is certainly abundant and moderate, and his will is definitely strong and firm. We often say that one needs to be bold. But one who has a weak will can never be bold. All the bold ones are men who have a strong will. The three friends of Daniel were really bold when they were there by the furnace, because their wills were really strong. That boldness came from the strength of their will. Some are very weak and can be easily frightened by one little threatening word. Because their will is not resolute, they become afraid. Such a man cannot pray. Satan will use all kinds of methods to torture, destroy, and obliterate the life of prayer that is in man. Therefore, unless man has a strong will, his prayer life will be torn down. Hence, it is necessary to have a strong will in order to maintain the prayer life.
III. A PLIABLE WILL
To be strong is one thing, but to be pliable is another thing. To be strong yet not pliable is to be stubborn. To be strong is proper, but to be stubborn is not proper. Everyone who learns how to pray should have a will that is strong but not stubborn. The will should be pliable. This pliability can be illustrated by the spring in a watch. You may say that the spring is hard, but you may also say that it is pliable. Because the spring is strong yet pliable, it can serve as a motivating power.
To be strong means that I reject everything that is negative. To be pliable means that I receive and yield myself to everything that is positive. I exercise a strong will to deal with everything that is from Satan, but I exercise a pliable will to receive everything that is from God. In our prayers, many times when we have barely touched the presence of God we soon lose it. The main reason is that we are not pliable enough. In our prayer, God’s feeling has taken a turn, yet we do not turn. We insist on praying as before. To have such an insistence is not to be properly strong, but to be headstrong.
The day that Peter went up on the housetop to pray and saw the vision of the great sheet, his will was firm but not stubborn—it was pliable. The record in Acts 10 says that when he was praying, he became hungry. Then he saw a certain vessel descending, as it were, a great sheet, wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts, creeping things of the earth, and birds of the heaven. And there came a voice to him, saying, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat” (v. 13). But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (v. 14). This shows his resoluteness. But God spoke to him three times, and, during the last time, some men were calling for him at the gate. The Spirit told him to go down to meet them. Once he went down, his attitude was changed and he immediately agreed to go with those Gentiles. Here you can see that Peter’s will was very pliable and not stubborn. To be stubborn means to be hard. If he had insisted that regardless of anything he would not communicate with the Gentiles or touch anything that is common and unclean, he would have been a stubborn, hard person.
Many times we are unable to follow the move of the Spirit in our prayers, for we are strong to the extent that we become hard. This is a very great problem of ours. The problem arises, not only with regard to prayer, but in many other matters, also. Sometimes when we need to be strong, we are not. At other times, in being strong, we go too far and become hard. Hence, we cannot see the light, touch the presence of God, or have spiritual growth. At the same time, we are not able to endure in prayer. The firmness of our will needs the corresponding pliability. The pliability must balance the firmness if the will is suitable for prayer. Satan always utilizes men, things, and outside activities to consume, extinguish, and obliterate our prayer life. Hence, we need to exercise our will in order to stand fast. At the same time, in our prayers, our will should at all times be able to submit and turn according to the consciousness in our spirit.
Consider how soft the spring in a clock or watch is. Yet once it has been wound and starts to move the hands of the clock, it will not yield or be subdued—that is its firmness. Once they have been disturbed by some trivial matter, some are not able to pray. This shows that their will is not firm enough. On the other hand, there are some who are very strong, and who insist on praying for a certain matter. They do not know how to turn and follow the move of the Spirit in them. This shows that they are not pliable enough. Many have a will that is either too soft or too hard. But neither softness nor hardness is desirable. The kind of will we need is one that is strong yet not hard, and pliable yet not soft.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)