Lessons on Prayer, by Witness Lee

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Every time we pray before God, we need to deeply experience death and resurrection. For example, you may pray for the church or for the work of God. If you remain for a time somewhat quiet before the Lord, you will have an inner realization that there are so many natural and human elements in your prayer. You will discern the presence of human ideas, desires, inclinations, choices, and demands. At this time, if you are careless and negligent, you will feel as if you are offering a prayer of strange fire or strange incense. This is not the incense of the sweet spices which God wants. You will sense that God will not listen. And you will also condemn yourself within. If you have learned the lessons precisely, once you come to this point, you will not be able to utter a word. First you need to pass through the cross. You need the cross to do a separating and purifying work, so that the natural things may be thoroughly removed. Otherwise, you will have no way to pray.

When we first got saved, it was very easy for us to open our mouth before God. It seemed that we were very relaxed and prayed freely for anything. But gradually, as we learned the lessons, we could no longer pray for many of these things before God. Later, as we knelt to pray, we had the inner sensation that in those matters we still had our inclinations, desires, choices, prejudices, ideas, and biases.

Sometimes we notice that two brothers are at odds with one another, and we intend to pray for them. But as we are about to open our mouth, we realize that there is something not right within us. Our emotion is moved. We have some prejudice in the matter. Unless we deal with our situation first, we will not be able to pray before God. Also, in praying for our material needs, often we discover that we are very much in ourselves and not in resurrection. Therefore, we simply cannot utter any words. Such experiences prove that we have learned a great deal before God.

When those who have not learned the lessons go before God, they are really daring and are not afraid to pray for anything. I know of someone who went before God and prayed, “O God, You see how much that person has hurt me; You must stretch out Your hand to give him a heavier blow than he has given me.” And some sisters who have been offended by their husbands would pray with weeping and crying, “O Lord, You must vindicate me; You must extend Your hand to deal with my husband.” By listening to such prayers, you know those individuals probably have not even entered the gate to the outer court of the tabernacle. That is why they are so daring. If a person has really entered into the Holy Place, touched the altar of incense, and learned some lessons, he would not be able to pray in such a way. Many times he is unable to pray, but can only groan.

Brothers and sisters, I am convinced that when Romans 8:26 says, “The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings which cannot be uttered,” it is due to our ignorance of the principle of resurrection. Many times we pray in ourselves, and when the Spirit forbids us within, we do not know how else to pray. Suppose we go to visit a brother who is sick, and we are very clear inside that God’s hand is upon him for some reason. But his wife, who is also a sister, naturally hopes that her husband will be quickly healed. At such a time it is very hard for us to pray. Sometimes we would try to do her a favor by praying, “O Lord, You are omnipotent, and You are able to raise the dead. O Lord, Your intention is to give peace and not to send woes; surely You will cause our brother to be healed.” While you are praying in this way, you know you are merely trying to please her. Ordinarily, under such circumstances, we have no way to pray. We cannot say, “O Lord, we thank and praise You, for it is You Who are doing a work in this brother.” As we do not dare pray in this way, we can only groan. Because we cannot measure up to the principle of death and resurrection, many times the Holy Spirit has to pray with groanings in us. Since we cannot pray for him in either a negative or a positive way, we can only allow the Spirit to intercede in us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 16, by Witness Lee)