Lessons on Prayer, by Witness Lee

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The illumination we are referring to is not the result of some kind of instruction in doctrine or teaching in truth. Rather, it is primarily produced by man’s subjective experience in life. While the light in the outer court is natural, the light in the Holy Place shines forth as a result of adding the beaten olive oil to the golden lampstand. On the one hand, it is the gold beaten and shaped into a lampstand. On the other hand, it is the oil produced from crushed olives. This is entirely a subjective experience of the inner life. Once you have the practical and subjective experience of the Lord, the life in you will have the function of illumination.

Some messages concerning the truth seem to issue in a kind of enlightenment, making known to men what is pleasing to God and what is not pleasing to God. However, these messages are unable to cause men to burn incense before God in a deeper way. Only the illumination resulting from one’s experience in life can enable him to go before God and burn the incense in a deeper way. Hence, real prayers are not the result of keeping the outward doctrines, but of being enlightened by the light of life within. I may give eight or ten messages telling the brothers and sisters to fast and pray. I may speak very logically and with great persuasiveness. But I know that after my speaking, they will not be able to fast and pray, because their doing so would be merely due to the influence of the doctrine. What you must have is an experience before the Lord, so that even though no one has ever taught you anything about the matter of fasting, you cannot help but fast and pray. Then it will be something of your experience in life. There is an inner light shining and compelling you to fast. It is not an outward doctrine but an inward realization that will not let you go. At that time, your fasting and prayer are the issue of the life illumination. Take another example: I may preach the word in Matthew 5 which says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go away; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” My message may be merely an outward doctrine and not the illumination of life. You must learn to live in the Lord and experience Him as life. Thus, there will be something in you that keeps enlightening you. If you continue to condemn your brother there will be something in you condemning you. This is the light of life. Only this kind of light can enable you to have real prayers.

As another example, suppose you hear a brother speaking a word concerning how to pray. If you have the experience in life, you will be able to discern whether his exhortation is just an outward doctrine or is from his inner experience. If it is an outward doctrine, you may become greatly stirred, but it will produce no result. But if it is his own experience, then his word will be able to open and touch your inner being. While you are listening, the light in you is mysteriously lit. You feel that there is something in you shining and pressing you so that when you go home you cannot help but pray.

I hope that the brothers and sisters will learn the deep lessons in these matters. Then when they stand up to give a word, that word will be able to touch the inner being of men. It will cause them to have a kind of life function issuing forth as an illumination, so that under the illumination of life they will spontaneously pray.

Only those who experience the illumination of life are able to receive the burden and commission before God and bear the burden in prayer. Many times in their prayers they almost forget themselves. They remember very little concerning their own needs or problems—whether in the material aspect, the business aspect, or even the spiritual aspect. Such a person may have a certain weakness that he is unable to overcome, but he does not pay much attention to it. The more one cares for himself, praying and dealing with his own weaknesses, the more it proves that he may not be in the light nor living in the experience of life. One who lives in the experience of life, and thus in the light, will pray largely outside himself. He is able to receive a definite burden which is not the result of some outward exhortation, but the issue of the inner illumination of life.

(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)