IV. MUST BE ONE WHO PUTS EVERYTHING OF HIMSELF ASIDE, ESPECIALLY HIS ABILITY AND OPINIONS
One who learns to pray must learn the strict lesson of putting himself aside and halting his being. The self here refers especially to self-opinions and natural ability. In Acts 10 there was a man, Peter, who went up on the housetop to pray. At that time, he had already passed through Pentecost and had a considerable amount of spiritual experience, yet his prayer shows that he still could not put aside his own opinion. Although he went up on the housetop to pray, he still argued with God there and needed God to give him the vision once again. When he saw a great sheet descending from heaven and heard a voice saying, “Rise, Peter; kill, and eat,” he said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean” (Acts 10:13-14). This was his opinion. God spoke to him immediately, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (Acts 10:15). Here Peter’s opinion conflicted with God’s will; therefore, he could not get through in his prayer.
Never think that in the matter of prayer we have fewer conflicts with God than Peter had. When we come before God, we have too many opinions. Please read the many prayers in the Bible. You can see man’s natural ability as well as human opinions in a good number of them. Jonah is a good example in the Old Testament. When he was praying, he could not put his opinion aside. He prayed his opinion, which was in conflict with God. Again, look at Peter. On the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed, it seemed that he was praying to the Lord, saying, “Although all shall be caused to stumble, yet I will not, even if I must die with You.” As Peter was holding very tightly to his natural ability, the Lord could not answer his prayer. His prayer was: “Even if others were caused to stumble, I still would ask You to make me stand firmly.” Although he did not state it in this way, you must believe that he hoped to be able to stand. That hope was his desire before God. But the Lord said, “You will surely fall; I cannot answer your prayer to bring success to your natural ability.”
One who prays before God should be one who always falls down before God. The strongest illustration of this is Jacob’s experience at the ford of Jabbok. At that time, his prayer before God was really full of his natural strength. There he even wrestled with God to the extent that God, having no alternative, was compelled to touch the hollow of his thigh. As a result, Jacob became a cripple. There are numerous such examples in the Scripture. A good number of men went before God and prayed by their natural strength and according to their own opinions—both of which are the greatest hindrances to prayer.
Therefore, a true man of prayer is surely one who falls down before God, and whose natural strength as well as opinions and views have been broken by God. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, all who were able to touch God and pray before Him were those whose natural strength had gone bankrupt and whose own views had been laid aside. Daniel was one who completely fell down before God—he had neither his strength nor his views. The same is true with David, in the Psalms. Hence all proper men of prayer are very soft before God. They have put self aside, have fallen down before God, and have been broken. They do not have their insistence, natural strength, ideas and opinions. Only such men can touch God’s throne and His will as well. Only such men can be men of prayer.
V. MUST BE ONE WHO IS WILLING TO PAY ANY PRICE TO YIELD TO ALL GOD’S DEMANDS
Another requirement of a man of prayer is that he must be willing to pay any price to yield to God’s every demand. I would like to tell the children of God that there cannot be a single instance in which you meet God in fellowship that He does not demand anything from you. Every time you meet Him, He demands something from you. We always think that God is a God Who bestows grace upon us. But I would like to tell you, brothers and sisters, God is also a God Who makes demands upon us.
I am afraid that it has never occurred to some of the brothers and sisters that God is a God of demands. It cannot be denied that God gives us supply, but we all must remember that we do not need to pray for God’s supply, for all His supply is ours already. What we need the most is God’s stripping. Although the cross is a plus sign, actually it is a minus sign. Our problem today is not that we have too few things upon us; rather, we have too many things in us. Thus, whenever God meets us He demands that we get rid of something.
Please read the story of Abraham. From the beginning when he was met by God until he finally came to know God, there was not a single time God appeared to him that He did not strip him of something. The first time God said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred,” the second time He said, “Get thee out from thy father’s house” (Gen. 12:1). The first time was to strip him of his country; the second time was to strip him of his father. At another time he was stripped of Lot. Abraham proceeded on his way, dragging Lot, whom he should have left behind; for Lot was of his country, kindred, and father’s house. Then, in chapter fifteen, when he eventually let go of Lot, he turned his dependence to Eliezer of Damascus. He told God, “Lord God…the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus…” (Gen. 15:2). But God said, no, “This shall not be thine heir…” (Gen. 15:4). Even this one had to be dropped. Later, in chapter sixteen, he acquired Hagar and begat Ishmael. More and more were added to him, but these acquisitions were given to him by Egypt and not by the cross. Therefore, in chapter seventeen, God came to him saying, “You need to be circumcised and get rid of something, for you have too many things in you.” The covenant which God made with Abraham was a covenant of decreasing and not of increasing. Then, in chapter twenty-one, God said formally that both Hagar and Ishmael needed to be cast out. I tell you, even the very last one that remained, Isaac, who was a work of God’s grace, had to be offered up. We say that Abraham was one who inherited the blessings, yet when we read the stories of his dealings with God we seldom see him receiving anything from God; rather, what we see over and over again are God’s strippings and His making demands upon him.
There is one thing I can tell the children of God with full assurance: if God has not demanded something of you today, then you have not met Him today. Every time you encounter God He will demand something of you. If your prayer touches God, you encounter a demand. Therefore, you must be ready to pay the price. Not only that which is born of the flesh needs to be gotten rid of, even that which is gained through grace also needs to be stripped off. Ishmael needs to be cast out, and Isaac needs to be offered up. Every true prayer will cause you to touch God, and every one who touches God encounters His demands. Hence, a man of prayer is definitely one who pays the price.
Brothers and sisters, our problem before God is not that we lack something but that we have excess. Our problem lies not in our deficiency but in our sufficiency. We have so many things in us that every time God touches us something has to go. Because God makes demands every time, we need to pay the price every time. If God has a demand, but you would not satisfy Him by paying the price of meeting that demand, then it would be very hard to maintain a free, flowing fellowship between you and Him, and you would not be able to live in the Spirit of prayer. Although you still could pray, you would not be a man of prayer. Therefore, in order to be a man of prayer, one needs to be willing to pay the price. Whatever God demands of you, you can say, “God, by Your grace I am willing to pay this price. Even if it be Isaac whom You gave to me, if You so desire, I am willing to send him to the altar.” He who is willing to thus pay the price to satisfy God’s desire is a man of prayer.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)