The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee


If the outer man is broken, the spirit spontaneously will remain in the Lord all the time. A brother read Brother Lawrence’s book The Practice of the Presence of God the second year after he was saved. He struggled very much because he was not able to enjoy God’s presence continually like Brother Lawrence. He made a pact with a brother to pray once every hour. He wanted to follow the biblical teaching of praying unceasingly. Every time the clock struck the hour, they would try to kneel down to pray. Nevertheless, they felt as if they could not maintain God’s presence, and they wrestled to turn back to God all the time. It was as if they wandered away from God whenever they went about their own business or became engaged in their studies so that they had to hurriedly turn back to God. If they did not turn back, they felt that they would be gone forever. They prayed all the time. On Sundays they prayed the whole day, and on Saturdays they prayed half of the day. They did this for two or three years. But even though they felt His presence when they turned back to God, they would lose it as soon as they turned away. The problem of maintaining God’s presence with human memory is a great frustration to many Christians, not just to these brothers. To them, the "presence" of God can only be maintained when their memory is fresh; when their memory fails, the "presence" is gone. Such attempts to preserve the divine presence with human memory are foolish. God’s presence is in the spirit, not in the memory.

In order to deal with God’s presence, we have to first deal with the matter of the breaking of the outer man. The nature of our emotion is different from the nature of God; the two can never be joined as one. The same can be said of our mind. John 4 shows us that God’s nature is Spirit. Only our spirit is of the same nature as God, and only our spirit can be in harmony with God forever. If we try to retain God’s presence in our mind, this presence is lost as soon as we are not in complete control of our mind. If we try to retain God’s presence in our emotion, the same is true; this presence is gone as soon as we are not in complete control of our emotion. Sometimes when we are happy, we think we have God’s presence. But this happiness does not stay. When it goes away, our sense of His presence is gone. We may think that we have God’s presence when we weep, but we cannot weep all the time. Sooner or later our tears will stop, and when they stop, God’s presence seemingly stops as well. The function of the mind and the function of the emotion are both activities, and no activity can go on forever. If we try to maintain God’s presence with activity, this presence will be gone as soon as the activity stops. Two substances will blend together only when they are of the same nature, such as water with water or air with air. Things with the same nature can enjoy each other’s presence. The inner man is of the same nature as God; therefore, it can realize God’s presence through His Spirit. The outer man is constantly in the realm of activity; therefore, it is a frustration to the inner man. The outer man is not a help but a hindrance. The inner man will be free from distractions only when the outer man is broken.

God has installed a spirit within us to respond to Him. The outer man, however, only responds to outward signals. A man loses God’s presence and the enjoyment of it because his outer man is constantly responding to outside activity. We cannot eliminate all outward signals, but the outer man can be broken. We cannot stop all outside activity. Millions and billions of things in this world are occurring outside of us. If the outer man is not broken, we will react whenever something happens outside of us. We cannot enjoy God’s presence calmly and continually because the outer man is constantly reacting. God’s presence is based on the breaking of the outer man.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 2, by Watchman Nee)