Lessons on Prayer, by Witness Lee

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It is not enough that a Christian live before God; he must also learn to live in God. In today’s Christianity we often hear people say that we should live before God and have a fearful heart before Him. Of course, these teachings are very good; however, please remember that in the New Testament age it is not enough for man just to live before God; it is also necessary that he live in God. In John 15:7 the Lord Jesus says, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall come to pass to you.” In this word the Lord shows us that a man of prayer must be one who abides in Him. To live before the Lord surely is good, but it is quite possible that you and the Lord may still be two; the Lord is the Lord, and you are you. Only when you live in the Lord can you become one with Him. Then you can say to the Lord, “Lord, it is not I alone praying here, but it is You and I, I and You praying together. This is not just I praying before You, but, much more, it is I praying in You. I am one who is united with You and who has become one with You. Thus I can pray in Your name.”

The Bible says that we should pray in the name of the Lord. To pray in the name of the Lord is to pray in the Lord. You who pray in the name of the Lord are in the Lord and are a part of Him; you and the Lord have become one. We have often used an illustration to explain the matter of praying in the name of the Lord. Suppose I have some money deposited in the bank, and I write out a check, sign my name on it, and give it to a brother to draw the money from the bank. When he goes to withdraw the money, he represents me, not himself. When the teller releases the money, he does it not according to that brother’s name but according to my name. At that moment, that brother is I. The same is true when we pray in the name of the Lord and God answers our prayer. Therefore, in order to be a man of prayer, one must be a man who lives in the Lord.

In John 14, 15, and 16, the Lord Jesus told people to pray in His name. In these three chapters, at least six or seven times the Lord says, “Ask in My name.” This is the same as His saying, “Abide in Me,” and “You in me, and I in you.” To ask in the Lord is to ask in His name. When we pray, it is the Lord praying in us, and we praying in Him; the Lord and we praying together. For we are those who are united with the Lord and have become one with Him.

If you would thus abide in the Lord, there would not be a moment of broken fellowship with the Lord. The flowing of an electric current is the best way to illustrate the fellowship that is spoken of in the Scripture. Spiritual fellowship is a flowing in the spirit—God’s Spirit and our spirit, our spirit and God’s Spirit—two spirits having mutual fellowship. In a proper prayer, the Spirit of God and the spirit of man always have mutual fellowship, mutual flowing; the two spirits have become one spirit. When we really enter into prayer, we can say, “God, here is a man who lives in You and who has fellowship with You in spirit.” Whenever we pray, whether we pray aloud or silently, we must have the sensation that the Spirit of God is moving within us. It is we who are praying, yet it is the Spirit of God moving in us. Such is one who has fellowship with the Lord and who is a man of prayer.

Some say that sufferings will compel us to pray. But I would like to tell you, brothers and sisters, if you have to wait for sufferings to drive you into prayer, then you are not a man of prayer. A proper man of prayer does not wait to pray until sufferings come; rather, he learns to abide in the Lord daily and have unceasing fellowship with Him. Thus, he spontaneously has a spirit of prayer within him. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit Who grants grace which causes man to beseech God. Hence, He in man’s spirit would surely cause man to pray.

Fellowship with the Lord does not permit any barrier between you and the Lord. If within you there is a little thought of unwillingness to forgive others, this unwillingness to forgive would become a barrier between you and the Lord. A barrier that is allowed to remain causes you to become more and more distant from God. It was for this reason that the Lord said, “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…” (Matt. 5:23-24). This means that you should not have any problem with anyone. For once you have a problem with man, there exists a barrier between you and God, and you cannot be one who abides in God and who has fellowship with Him.

I think we all have had this kind of experience. Sometimes it may be because of a certain sin (not necessarily a big one) which we would not deal with, or a preference or tie which we would not break off. These immediately become barriers between us and the Lord. Once we fall into this kind of situation, our spirit of prayer is quenched. This is because we are not in the Lord, and the fellowship between us and Him is lost. When the life of prayer is cut off, even if you exercise your mind to conceive a prayer or exercise your will to squeeze out a prayer, it is futile.

If we just love the world a little and are secretly united to it, even this would make us unable to pray. Sometimes the barrier exists because within us there is a little pride, boasting, or showing off. Maybe there is a thought that is not pure and simple but that desires something for oneself. These are some factors, or rather, you can call them poisons, which slay the spirit of prayer within us. If you would be willing to deal thoroughly with sins, separate yourself completely from the world, seek simplicity before the Lord, allow the Spirit of the Lord to purify you, and permit the cross to slay in you everything that is condemned by the Lord, then you will immediately see that the spirit of prayer inside you is quickened. You would surely enjoy praying, have the appetite to pray, and be able to pray prevailingly, for at that moment you would be one abiding in the Lord and having fellowship with Him. It is a marvelous thing that the life within us is a life of prayer. If you were to ask me, “What is the primary function of the Holy Spirit within us?” I would say that it is to lead us into prayer. Whenever you yield some room to the Holy Spirit and obey Him a little, the inevitable result is that He leads you to pray. On the other hand, whenever you disobey or quench the Spirit a little, the prayer within you will immediately cease and the spirit of prayer will also disappear. Therefore, brothers and sisters, if you want to be a man of prayer, you must be one who abides in God and one in whom the Spirit of God has room. You must be in the Spirit of God and have continual fellowship with Him, i.e., the two spirits are flowing through one another. The greater the flow, the more prayer you have. You may flow to such an extent that not only can you pray in your room, but the spirit in you can also pray while you are in the car, on the street, or talking with people. Even when you stand up to minister, you can be ministering and still be praying, and when you talk with others and contact them, you can be contacting them and still be praying inside.

The spirit of prayer is a law of prayer, just like the digestion which takes place in the stomach is a law. While I am speaking my stomach is digesting; while I am sleeping it is also digesting; while I am walking it is still digesting. If there is no trouble with my stomach, then its digestive function will continue according to the law in the stomach. In the same principle, in our spirit there is also the law of prayer. Whenever we live in the spirit, allowing the Spirit to have place in us, we will continue in prayer according to the law of prayer in our spirit. At this moment our prayer will be very spontaneous.

Never think that only when one shuts the door and devotes himself to prayer can it be counted as prayer. I admit that this is necessary, but with regard to a man of prayer, the emphasis is not that he should devote himself wholly to prayer; rather, he should allow the spirit of prayer to have room in him. Once the spirit of prayer has place, there is the law of prayer in the spirit causing him to pray at any time; even while he is not outwardly praying, he is still praying.

I hope, therefore, all those who minister the Word will practice this one thing—on the one hand, ministering, and on the other hand, praying. If there is the lust of sin or if anything in our being is reserved for the world, outwardly we may be ministering, yet inwardly there is a blockage. At moments like this, those who listen can tell immediately that our words are outward, empty, dead, and stale, for our words are short of the spirit. But on the other hand, if while we are speaking outwardly, inwardly we are also praying and having fellowship in the spirit; although the words are the same as before, when they go forth, people can sense the freshness. This is a marvelous thing. If one who speaks is living and is in touch with the spirit inwardly, others can sense it. While he is speaking, others can sense that he is not only speaking outwardly, but he is also praying inwardly, touching God, and fellowshipping with Him.

(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)