IX. NOT CONSIDERING ANSWERS TO PRAYER
AS AN INDICATOR OF GOD’S WILL
Once I asked a Christian, "How do you know that this is the Lord’s will?" He answered, "Because I have prayed over it." I responded, "I wish you had done this without praying over it," because his action was absolutely contrary to the Scripture. Many believers think that as long as they have prayed over a certain matter, their actions will be according to God’s will. But this is not true! There is no difference between doing something after praying and doing something without praying. (I am referring to the believers who act without becoming clear through prayer that their activity is according to God’s will.) Some people think that the first thought that occurs to them after they pray, or the first voice they hear, is from the Lord. Little do they realize that it is very easy for Satan to come in at this time, exercise his deceptions, and deceive man. Some consider the thoughts and voices they receive during their prayer as being from the Lord. But if this is so, can we say that all the confused and wild thoughts we have in our prayers are also from God? Of course they are not. If we cannot say this, we should not consider everything we hear or think during our prayer time as being from the Lord.
Some people think that if they receive some answer to their prayer, it must be according to God’s will. For example, you may pray for the Lord to open a way for you to do something. The way may eventually be opened and everything may be ready so that you can do that certain thing. Under such a circumstance, it is very easy to think that it is God’s will for you to do that certain thing. This can be true at times. But this can never be a perfect guide and tell you for certain that you are walking in His will. Consider one example: the Israelites lusted in the wilderness and desired meat. The Bible says, "And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul" (Psa. 106:15). Did not God answer their prayer? Did not God perform a great miracle among them and give them meat? Yet their soul became weak (lean) because they were outside God’s will. It is easy to be misled into thinking that since God answered their prayer, the provision of meat must have been according to His will. Yet this was the very reason for the leanness of their soul. When we beseech the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus, He hears us. But we have to be careful to not necessarily think that we are walking in His will because He has answered our prayer. Sometimes we should ask Him not to answer all of our prayers so that we may stand firm in His will.
Therefore, do not think that because we prayed for a certain matter and received some thoughts, voices, or answers, our request was according to God’s will. We must discern God’s will clearly and not be led astray by the answers. (Please note that I am not saying that answers to prayer are unreliable. I am only saying that we should not rely solely upon them.)
X. NOT BEING STUBBORN AND IGNORANT
AND NOT WAITING FOR GOD’S CHASTISEMENT
Many children of God are often not at peace with God. When their wild nature erupts, they follow their own will. To deal with the lawlessness of this group of believers, God, at times, has to use sufferings, pain, and even calamities to show them His will and turn them. They will not stop the advance of their self-will unless they see God’s strong hand. When they make up their mind to go to a certain place, they will immediately act without waiting for God’s will. They insist on charging forward until they reach the end of the road and all bridges are gone; then they realize that they have not followed God’s will. They do not inquire about God’s will. When they set their mind to do a certain thing, they will not stop unless God intervenes with a strong hand to make them sick, financially depleted, or faced with unexpected calamity. These are the most pitiful kind of believers.
We can take Balaam and Jonah’s cases as examples. Balaam was not clear until the Angel tried to kill him; he thought that his journey was according to God’s will and that he could reap both material gain and fame for himself. Jonah had to wait until the storm arose and he was swallowed up in the fish’s belly before he repented. If we are willing to be taught and desire to seek after the Lord’s will, we will avoid many ill-fated encounters in our daily life. Much of the suffering, pain, and sorrow in our life is unnecessary. Only our stubbornness and ignorance drive these things upon us! Do not think that this is the experience of a special group of believers. We have to admit that many times in our experience, if God had not raised His intervening hands, we would not have stopped doing what we were doing.
"I will instruct you and teach you concerning the way you should go; / I will counsel you; my eye is upon you. / Do not be like a horse or like a mule, without understanding; / Whose trappings consist of bit and bridle to constrain them, / Else they do not come near you" (Psa. 32:8-9). These two verses clearly tell us that God has no intention to guide us with strong hands. He does not want us to be horses and mules, who only obey when they are led with bits and bridles. His intention is that we fellowship with Him, understand His will through intimate fellowship, and walk accordingly. The Lord promises that He will guide us with His eyes. This means that we should look to Him all the time; we should look to Him continuously. He does not have to open His mouth. He can guide us with His eyes. How wonderful this is! In order for the Lord to guide us with His eyes, we should be in fellowship with Him so that as soon as there is the command, we can immediately act according to the command. Please remember that we must wait on Him, look to Him, and obey Him. If we do, He will not have to deal with us through bits and bridles, and we will not have to learn about His will through the use of bits and bridles.
Those who desire to walk according to the Lord’s will should pay particular attention to these ten points. Please remember that if we want to walk according to the Lord’s will, we should try to understand His will from many aspects. We should not follow one kind of guidance alone. If we do, we will fail. If we make a decision by mistake before we are clear about the Lord’s will, we should resolve to stop advancing and give up our opinions as soon as we know it is not the Lord’s will. If we are clear that something is according to His will, we should not be discouraged and doubt the Lord’s will, even though there appear to be many oppositions and persecutions (which may not actually be real) that may push us down. We should pursue the Lord’s will all the way to the end and "press on." Then we will realize that the sufferings and oppositions that come upon us are Satan’s strategies, which try to go ahead of God’s move; they are but empty threats. When we obey the Lord to take on these challenges, they will become nothing to us! Then we will regret and realize how meaningless were our fears and doubts. After we are clear about the Lord’s will, we should proceed on and not hesitate. There may be many threats along the way. But we will know that they are only "paper tigers" put up by the devil; they cannot hurt us. Therefore brothers, "Rise, let us go from here!" (John 14:31).
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 02: The Word of the Cross, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)