PRAYER BEING THE ONLY WAY TO PRACTICE THE CHURCH LIFE
If we are going to learn to pray with others in such a way, we must first give up our self and our own thoughts. We honor the Lord, we respect the Lord, and we implore the Lord, “Lord, we come to You to seek Your mind. We bring ourselves into Your presence to give You the full opportunity to speak something.” We need to pray in such a way. I hate any other way to practice the church. Some people today say, “We are practicing the New Testament church,” and some even seek to practice the church life outwardly according to The Normal Christian Church Life. This is wrong. The only right way to practice the church life is to go to the Lord to pray.
We are not following an outward way, and we will not copy a certain way. This is something dead. We must go to the Lord and pray to open a new way for Him to come in. We must pray for the present situation concerning what the Lord will speak and what He will do. We must pray each day until we all see the same thing and have the same inner anointing and the same assurance. If we do not have the anointing and the assurance, we need to pray again even with fasting and without sleep. This is the only way to practice the church life.
It is even wrong to say that we are going to practice the church life according to the book of Acts. We should not say, “Here is something in Acts which the apostles practiced in the early days. Let us do the same thing today.” This is merely to copy the apostles in the way of dead letters. This has no life, no anointing, and no impact. Rather, we must pray. We must bring our present situation, our need, and all things in prayer to the Lord and pray continually until all the leading ones have the same anointing and the same assurance that they see something of the Lord for us today. Then there will be the freshness, the newness, the anointing, and the impact. The Lord will honor this.
It is easy to speak about this, but to practice this kind of prayer is very difficult. If we try to pray in this way, we will discover where we are. If we come together merely to discuss something, everyone will be very active, but if we try to kneel down to pray, after a few minutes some may begin to sleep. They simply have no interest in this kind of prayer. Instead, they want to know what they should do. One of the largest cities in China, with a population of more than one million, was a big field for the Lord’s work with much potential. However, the church there did not have any improvement for a number of years, and the news of their troubles and problems always came to us. One day we were led by the Lord to go there to pray with them for a certain period of time. Then I discovered that they did not have many problems; they had only one, the problem of quarreling. Whenever they came together, they only knew to quarrel with one another. They even quarreled in front of us concerning the hospitality that they were to render us.
After I discovered this problem, I suggested that the leading ones and serving ones come together to pray. They all agreed to come, but to my impression they all came ready to argue. I did my best to stop the arguing. I said, “Brothers and sisters, let us kneel down and pray.” However, when we knelt down, no one began to pray. I was forced to start the prayer, but after I prayed, no one continued. Then I prayed a second time, but still no one continued. When we rose up, everyone smiled pleasantly and prepared to listen to what I was going to say. This condition killed the church. I stayed with them for many weeks until they were somewhat helped to realize what their problem was.
I wish to recommend to you that the best, proper, and only way to practice the church is to pray in a new way. It is not to pray in an old way to convince others or to ask the Lord to help us to convince others. We must give up every idea or thought to pray in this way. Forget this way and come to the Lord in a new way to pray, to let the Lord come in, and to let Him speak something. If we do not learn how to pray corporately in a new way, the church can never be prevailing.
On the one hand, before we come to practice the church life, we first must read the Scriptures and many spiritual teachings. We should know how the Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Lutherans, and others practice the church. We should also know the way practiced in the Epistles and taught in The Normal Christian Church Life and other proper writings. On the other hand, however, in order to practice the church life in a living and prevailing way, we must not depend on all those teachings. Lay them all aside and simply go to the Lord to pray in a living and new way. This is the right way. To follow others by copying them does not work. There is no life, impact, or freshness in that. We need the freshness, newness, impact, life, anointing, power, and authority, and there is no other way to have this but by prayer.
Moreover, we must pray sufficiently, pray through, and pray in a new way. We should not have a formula in our mind and bring it to the Lord to ask Him to perform it. This is the wrong way to pray. Many times people have a formula which they bring to the Lord and ask Him to carry it out according to their own way. This does not work. We must come to the Lord like a sheet of blank, white paper, saying, “Lord, here we are. Write on us. Impress us with what Your mind is and what You want to do.” This requires strength, energy, patience, and travailing in the spirit. There is no quicker way. The practice of the church is not a quick matter. We must pay a price for it in the spirit.
(Basic Principles for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)