The Prayer Ministry of the Church, by Watchman Nee


Some may ask why God would want the earth to control heaven. If we want to understand this, we have to remember that our God is limited by time. Time refers to the section between the two eternities. There is an eternity past and an eternity future. Between these two eternities, there is time. Within this section called time, God is limited. He cannot work as freely as He wants to. This is a limitation God encountered in the creation of man. According to Genesis 2, God gave man a free will when He created him. God has a will, and man has a will. Whenever man’s will is not one with God’s will, God is limited. In this room, there is a table, chair, floor, and ceiling. If a man comes in, he can do whatever he wants and not be restricted. The table, chair, floor, and ceiling will not be able to restrict him. God is a powerful God; He can do anything. If the earth was filled with spiritless material, God would be without restriction. But one day, God created man. The man He created was not like a piece of stone or wood; he was not a table or a chair which could be placed here or there by God at will. The man that God created had a free will. Man could choose to obey God’s word and he also could choose to disobey His word. God did not create a man who was obligated to obey Him. He created a man with a free will, one who could obey or disobey His word. After God created a man with a free will, His power was limited by this man. He could no longer act according to what He wanted. He had to ask whether man wanted the same thing and whether he was willing to do the same thing. God cannot treat man like a stone, a piece of wood, a table, or a chair, because man has a free will. Since the day God created man, man could choose to allow God’s authority to be carried out or to be blocked. This is why we say that within time, the period between the two eternities, God’s authority is limited by man.

God is willing to be limited in time because He wants to gain a harmonious will in the second eternity. He wants man’s free will to be harmonious with His will. This is a glory to God. If you put a book on the table, it remains on the table. If you put it on the shelf, it remains on the shelf. It is very obedient to you. But even though it is obedient, you are still not satisfied, because it does not have a free will; it is completely passive. God does not want the man He created to be like a book which can be shuffled around at will. Even though God wants man to be fully submissive to Him, He also gave man a free will. God’s intention is that man’s free will would choose to obey Him. This is a glory to God! In eternity future the free will of man will be joined to God’s eternal will. That will be the time for God’s eternal will to be fulfilled and for man’s free will to become harmonious with God’s eternal will. Every man has a free will. In eternity future man still has a free will, but it will stand on God’s side. He still has the ability to oppose God, but he will not oppose Him. Hallelujah! Even though man will have the freedom to oppose God, he will not oppose Him. He will do what God wants. This harmony of will is a glory to God!

In eternity future, although man’s will is free, it will be in conformity to God’s will, and there will be no will that is not subordinate to God’s authority. However, in time, God is limited by man. Man does not do what God wants, or man does only a little of what God wants. God may want something to be big, yet man may want it to be small. Or God may want something to be small, yet man may want it to be big. God has no freedom at all! God’s move is controlled by man in time. This speaking is in reference to the church. All of God’s moves are limited by the church in time because the church represents man in eternity future. The church is standing on the earth today for God’s will. If the church comes up to the standard of God’s will, He will not be limited. But if it does not come up to the standard of His will, God will be limited. God is doing what He wants to do through the church. Today the church is taking the position that man will take in eternity. Then, even though man’s will is free, it will stand completely on the side of God’s eternal will. The church is taking that position ahead of time. Just as God will express Himself in eternity through the New Jerusalem, the Lamb’s wife, He also is expressing Himself today through the Body of Christ. Although the church has a free will, it submits this will to God’s authority as if no other will existed. This allows God to do whatever He wants to do. When the church places its will under God’s will today, He will move in the same way that He will in eternity; He will move as if no other will were opposing Him. This is a glory to God!

Now we can see the church’s position before God. We cannot make the church so low by suggesting that it is merely a meeting. No, the church is a group of people who have been redeemed by the blood, who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, who have committed themselves to God’s hand, and who are willing to take God’s will, do His will, and stand for God on earth for the sake of maintaining His testimony.

We have to see that God works according to a law. Since there is free will on earth, God will not annul man by His own will. Brothers and sisters, do not think that this is a strange thing. This is a fact. God is in heaven. Yet all His works on earth can be accomplished only when there is a will on earth that agrees with and decides to do the works. He will not put aside man’s will on earth. He will not usurp man’s will on earth and act independently. Everything related to Him can be accomplished only when there is a will on earth that cooperates with Him. When the earth works, God works. When the earth decides, God acts. God must have man’s will in harmony with His will. This harmony in will is a great glory to God!

(The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)