GAINING LIFE THROUGH PRAY-READING
Concerning the matter of understanding God’s Word, I have mentioned four points. First, we must understand God’s Word literally. Second, whereas literal comprehension requires that we use our eyes and our mind, we also need to use our spirit to pray-read God’s Word. The Word of God is the bread of life and the spiritual milk; it is also God’s breathing out. Since it is food, we need to eat it; since it is milk, we need to drink it; and since it is breath, we need to breathe it in. By pray-reading we are able to eat, drink, and breathe. This is what is lacking among many Christians today. They exhaust their minds to study the letter of the Bible, but they do not use their spirit to pray-read the Word of God. Therefore, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures…and you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). To study the Scriptures is one thing, but to come to the Lord by prayer to touch Him and gain His life is totally another matter. The common problem of today’s theological seminaries is that they place too much emphasis on mental exercise to study the letter of the Bible in a doctrinal way, thus neglecting the use of their spirit to pray-read the Word.
I read a book about a contemporary of John Wesley named George Whitefield. His preaching was even more powerful than that of Wesley. He prayed on his knees over the Greek New Testament from beginning to end. His biography mentions that whenever he preached the gospel or ministered God’s Word, he prayed for a long time beforehand over what he would say. No wonder his preaching was so full of authority and power! One day he was speaking about hell. He described it so vividly that one person from the congregation stood up quickly and ran to a huge column in the assembly hall. He held onto the column and cried, “Oh! Be careful, or else we will all fall into the lake of fire!” Whitefield’s preaching was so powerful that it seemed that he was presenting the lake of fire before the eyes of the congregation.
BEING CLEANSED BY PRAY-READING
The matter of pray-reading the Lord’s Word is not a theory. We read the Word with our eyes and comprehend the letters with our mind; then we need to use our spirit to pray-read the Word. You may try this not only with Bible passages of comforting and enlightening words; even pray-reading the genealogy in the first chapter of Matthew a few times will cause you to sense the painting of the inner anointing, just as drinking a good beverage will make you feel fresh and living. On one occasion, someone said to Brother Nee, “I do not have a good memory, and I often forget the verses which I just read. It seems that I am wasting my time. What I read in the morning I will forget by the evening; I might just as well not read the Bible at all.” Brother Nee answered, “No, it makes a great difference whether or not you read. You see, it is just as one cleans rice in a bamboo basket in a pond. When the basket is immersed, it is full of water. But when it is taken out of the pond, the water is gone. By repeating the process of immersing the basket and taking it out of the water eight or ten times, the rice is washed. When you get up in the morning, you read the Bible and pray a little; but later, after working for two hours, you have forgotten all the verses which you have read. Yes, the words are gone, but the effectiveness of the washing still remains.”
Therefore, in reading the Bible we do not need to understand it too clearly in our mind. Exercising our mind too much might distort the meaning of the Bible. The most important thing is to let our spirit be fed. Every morning we should immerse ourselves in the water of the Lord’s Word eight or ten times. Two hours later we may become dry again. But even though there is no more water, neither is there any more dirt; we have been cleansed. Therefore, when we read the Lord’s Word, having used our mind to understand it, immediately we should turn to prayer. Do not think that you are smart and can compose a prayer by yourself. Let me tell you, young people, the best way to pray is to use the words of the Bible. For example, we can convert Matthew 1:1 into a prayer: “O Lord Jesus! I worship You. I love You, Son of Abraham. O Lord Jesus, You are the Son of Abraham. How precious! You are also the Son of David. Oh, the Son of David! Lord Jesus, Son of David! The generation of Jesus Christ. Jesus—the name is so sweet! Oh, Christ—the name is so high! Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, amen. Jesus, amen. Christ, amen. Jesus Christ, amen!”
Brothers and sisters, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. We have to read the letter, because this is how the Bible is written, and we have to use our mind to comprehend. However, we must convert the letter of the Bible into prayer. Once they have been converted into prayer, God’s words become spirit and life. Not only so, we also need to take a further step: having understood and prayed over the words, we need to seek the revelation of life by going beyond the letters.
(The Full Knowledge of the Word of God, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)