I will mention a few more things about our experience so that we can know God more. There are many spiritual principles concerning the matter of praying. If we do not learn them, God will not answer our prayers. For example, we may ask God for a watch. After we pray for two or three days or five or six days, we forget about the matter. God has not answered our prayer, and we have totally forgotten about it. Many times we pray for this or that or tens or hundreds of other things. God has not answered us, so we forget about it and so does God. This kind of prayer is like not even praying at all. Strictly speaking, we should ask God why He has not given us the watch. We should say, "God, I asked for a watch; why did You not give it to me?" When we deal with God this way, He will show us that our desire is not strong enough. Since our desire is not that strong, even if God were to answer our prayer, we would not feel very happy. If God did not answer our prayer, we also would not feel much of a loss. Since this is our condition, God cannot answer our prayer. Any prayer that cannot move our own heart cannot move God. If we pray, we must have an absolute desire before God. We should not let God go if He does not answer. If we can let go of something whether or not God answers our prayer, He will certainly not answer our prayer, because He knows that it does not matter to us. If we realize this, we will acquire new knowledge and realize that all of our prayers must be accompanied by sincere desires.
Sometimes we are full of desire, yet still do not receive an answer. If we ask God again, He may tell us that while we truly have a desire, we have not asked; we have not opened our mouth to speak out what we want. This is what the Bible says: "You do not have because you do not ask" (James 4:2). Thus, you acquire new knowledge that even with a desire within, you still have to ask without.
Suppose that you want God to answer your prayer and you have a desire within and an asking without, and God still has not answered your prayers. If you pray again and ask God why He has not answered you, He may say that you still have not obeyed Him in one thing and that He will not listen to your prayer until you obey Him in that one thing. Then you will realize that you need to obey God totally. After you have obeyed Him, you may say, "O God, I have removed what You wanted me to remove. God, answer my prayer now." In this way you acquire the new knowledge that God only answers the prayers of the obedient ones. The kind of knowledge which you acquire through dealing with God and through being dealt with by God is very different from the knowledge you acquire from reading the Bible or listening to messages.
Let me say a sincere word. The reason God does not listen to the prayers of many brothers and sisters is that they have not learned to obey God. If you do not listen to God all the time, neither will He listen to your prayer. You may think that many things are small and that you can ignore them. You may ignore them, but God will never ignore them. Let me say a very frank word: Many Christians still need to go through a thorough dealing from God. You cannot ignore things, one by one, until tens or hundreds of items have piled up. When you pray to God, you must have a thorough dealing with each matter, one by one. Unless you do this, God will not answer your prayer. Sometimes a great danger is approaching, and God may make an exception and listen to you. However, if you want God to continually answer your prayers, you have to faithfully obey God every time, on every item, and in everything.
Perhaps you have obeyed, but your prayers are still not answered. You should then inquire of God again. Perhaps God will tell you that you have no faith. You can then inquire how you can have faith. Perhaps you repeatedly ask God to answer your prayer, and you pray that He will give you faith. If you still do not have it, God may tell you that you need to deal with some things before you can have the faith. Perhaps you have prayed too zealously and asked repeatedly, to the point that even when God says no, you do not let Him go. This proves that you have not obeyed. When you obey, you will say, "God, even if You do not give me what I want, I will still obey You." This seems to contradict the point about desire that we mentioned earlier. Indeed, many spiritual things are contradictory one to another. Yet they are all facts. When you reach this point, God may tell you that you need to ask for faith. If you, accordingly, pray for faith, you may come across or may look up a passage in the Bible, and one of the lines will lay hold of you. The word lays hold of you, instead of you laying hold of the word. The letters may be in a small size, but when the word lays hold of you, they may appear to be much larger. You will realize that God has comforted you and has given you a word. You will realize that God has heard your prayer and has given you the promise. You can then speak to God and reckon with Him on the basis of His word. In this way you acquire the new knowledge of faith in God in prayer. By then you will know what faith means in the Bible.
Perhaps you have dealt with everything and have obtained faith. Yet you still have not received the watch. You may pray again. After you have prayed for one or two months, you still may not have received the watch. The more you pray, the less likely it appears that you will receive it. You ask the Lord again and learn that after receiving a promise, you should praise rather than pray. If you pray after you have already obtained faith, your prayer will bring forth doubts. If God has given you the word and you have the faith, you should praise. Satan may come at once to tempt, saying, "You should pray." You should reply, "No, I should praise." He may come a second time to tempt, saying, "You should pray." You should still reply, "No. God has heard my prayer, and I should praise instead." This is the right thing to do. This is actually what happens in our human relationships; if others have not promised anything, you can ask for it. But if they have promised something, all you have to do is thank them. In the same way, since God has given you His promise, you should praise Him. If you pray more, the prayer will cause you to lose your faith. Mr. B______, an experienced brother in the Lord, once said, "Do not pray yourself out of the realm of faith." If your prayer causes you to lose faith, doubts will be brought in. More prayer means that you do not believe what the Lord has spoken to you. In this way you acquire new knowledge from God; you now know how to offer up praise in your prayer based on faith.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 10: The Present Testimony (3), Chapter 14, by Watchman Nee)