PRAYER AND DESIRE
Prayer is an expression of our desire before God. The Bible records that many people had their prayers answered. Every one of them prayed with a desire. Without a desire, there is no need for prayer. If what we pray for truly comes from the bottom of our heart, surely the answers to our prayers will not be so few. It is because our desire is not single that our prayers become sounding brass and clanging cymbals. The greatest danger to prayer is our attempt to be ornate and to pray according to formal rules. There is more danger in public prayer than in private prayer. Actually, nine times out of ten the long prayers of a "thousand words" are empty prayers. I am afraid such prayers are directed more toward men than toward God. Many times, the content of a prayer is very pleasant, the voice very desperate, and the tone very harmonious. Yet everything is directed toward man. God will not hear nor answer such a prayer. Prayers that are without any desire are a mockery to God. In God’s eyes these prayers are detestable. Even when a person prays alone, is it not true that many terms he uses are familiar terms that are uttered without much thought? Because the words have become so familiar, the same words may be uttered without any response from the heart. Such prayers are really a waste of time. They are worse than useless!
Those who truly understand God and His holiness and majesty will never do such things. If we come to God with a pure heart and realize who He is with whom we have come face to face, would we ever dare to be hypocritical? Actually, we should never pray beyond what the Holy Spirit has prompted us to pray. If we do this, surely it is counterfeit. Hence, it is best to allow the Holy Spirit to place in our spirit the things that we should pray for, so that we will not offend God. We should learn to be honest before God. It is better to have short prayers than false prayers. We should pay all the more attention to this matter when we pray for others. Many supplications are but a kind of payment of debts! Thus, there is no sense of desire, and the whole thing is a mere routine. Therefore, those who do not have a real love for others cannot pray for others. When we feel others’ need to be like our own, we will pray sincerely for them. When we feel others’ need in the same way they feel it themselves, we will make supplications for them faithfully. It is because there is no love for others that prayers have become mere empty voices. We should sympathize with others more and should identify ourselves with others more. May we henceforth pray with our mouth and also with our heart. May our prayers reach the presence of God like fragrance.
HOLINESS AND HARDNESS
Christians are the most unaffected people. Yet at the same time, they are the most compassionate people. They know only the heavenly things. Other than the Lord Jesus, they have no other loves. This is why they are the most unaffected people. However, they are not selective in their love of men; they love all the brothers, the lovable ones as well as the unlovable ones, and they love even their enemies. This is why they are the most compassionate people. Holiness is the believers’ goal. Yet if a person is not careful, his holiness will become others’ stumbling block. In our experience, many times our holiness becomes a hardness! The holy believers many times are the difficult ones! The holier they are, the more people in their eyes need to be condemned, and the more merciless will the judgments and criticisms be that follow. The holiness of those who do not fully understand God’s grace gives the impression that they are without affection and are simple-minded. Such people will not help others but will only invite criticism. They think that they are uplifting God’s standard and bearing a good testimony for God’s truth.
However, they have forgotten that God’s holiness belongs to God, while they are human. We have to recognize this fact and should not indiscriminately take God’s holiness as our holiness. God in His holiness is imposing and unapproachable, but we are human. Although we are saved and regenerated, we are still human. We should assimilate God’s holiness and make it our human holiness. This is what the Lord Jesus did in His life. He was holiness incarnate. On the one hand, in His spirit He was separated from sinners. When Peter saw Him, he had to declare, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord" (Luke 5:8). On the other hand, He is the friend of sinners, publicans, and prostitutes, the men and women despised by the human race. Christ sympathized with them, cared for them, had pity on them, and comforted them. In the first case, He demonstrated His holiness. In the last case, He also demonstrated His holiness. He was not at all unapproachable, nor was He hard in any way. It is good for believers to be holy, but they must not be hard and unapproachable to the extent that others cannot love or admire them. Actually, to be hard is not the same as to be holy. The two are absolutely different. It is right to be holy. Yet this is with respect to the self. Toward ourselves, we should not be afraid of being hard. To give up self-pitying is a signpost to the way of the cross. Yet toward others we should have love and sympathy. God is holy, but this holiness is coupled with grace. We can be holy, but we must not be negligent to the point that we become cold and indifferent like rocks and wood. God has not saved us to become non-human. On the contrary, it was because we had fallen into a non-human condition that He came to save us and make us human. Hence, although we may appear to be the most unaffected people, we should at the same time be the most compassionate people. A truly holy life is never lacking in meekness, peace, goodness, and all the other virtues. We should treat others in the same way that a shepherd cares patiently for his flock. A poured-out life is often a fruit-bearing life. Hardness drives men away, whereas kindness melts men’s heart to join us in the heavenly path.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 07: The Christian (5), Chapter 26, by Watchman Nee)