III. PRAYER IS MAN AS WELL AS HIS PRAYER PASSING THROUGH GOD
Prayer is not only God passing through us, but every time we prayed an effective prayer which touched God as well as His throne, we also felt that in such prayer we were walking in God, and that even the words of our prayer were spoken in God. Both we, the praying ones, and the words of our prayer passed through God. Because of these two aspects of passing through, when we pray we often sense God’s presence more strongly than at any other time. In our daily living, God’s presence is with us in the closest, deepest, strongest, and sweetest way when we have had really good prayer. While we pray, on the one hand, it is God passing through our being, and on the other hand, it is also we, our being, passing through God. On one hand, it is God passing through the words of our prayer, while on the other hand, it is the words of our prayer passing through God. Hence, at such a time of prayer we can sense a very strong flavor of God’s presence. Let me say this simple word again; prayer is God walking in us, as well as we having our activities in Him. Once we lose such a sense in our prayers, we must immediately adjust ourselves, for we have departed from this particular principle of prayer and have a problem before God.
IV. PRAYER MUST BE GOD AND MAN, MAN AND GOD PRAYING TOGETHER
Prayer is not only a matter of God and man’s mutual passing through, but also a matter which God and man do together. I admit that such a saying is seldom heard among Christians. Very few people would tell you that when you pray, you must pray together with God. But in reality, many who pray well have this experience. As we have mentioned in chapter one, a good prayer is Christ in you praying to the Christ on the throne.
I would like to point out one thing. Take the example of one who ministers the Word properly. The words which he speaks are not only his speaking but also the utterance of the Spirit. When such a condition exists, while you are listening you really feel you are touching God. It not only causes you to be stirred, but also, it causes you to touch God. This not only applies to ministering the Word, but also to the matter of prayer. Many times when you pray with the brothers and sisters, such a condition may exist. While someone is praying very properly, you may sense that you have touched God in the words of his prayer and that his utterances are God’s coming forth. When we meet this kind of situation we say his spirit has come forth. Actually speaking, it is God coming forth from him, for it is not only he praying there, but God and he praying together. God is praying in him, and he is praying in God. He really can say, “My prayer is God and I; I and God praying together.” We have had this kind of experience in the past; however, since it had not been pointed out adequately, there was not the thorough knowledge concerning this matter. Now we can point out from our experience that a prayer which is up to the standard is not only God passing through man and man passing through God, but also man and God, God and man praying together.
V. PRAYER IS NOT FOR MAN HIMSELF BUT FOR GOD
A prayer that is up to the standard must be one in which man is not praying for himself or for others, but for God. Even when we pray for sinners to be saved or for the brothers and sisters to be revived, we ought to be praying for God. In the Bible there are many examples of such prayer. For example, in Daniel chapter nine, Daniel prayed that God would hear and be gracious to Daniel and this people, not for their sake, but for “thine own sake” (v. 19).
Brothers and sisters, what then is prayer? The highest meaning of prayer is that it is a means by which God may gain His authority and benefit. Apparently, you may be praying for many people, for many things, or for yourself, but you must be able to go to the root of the matter and say, “O God, all these prayers are for Your sake. Whether or not my prayers are answered is of very little significance, but Your authority and benefit in these matters are of immense importance. Therefore, although I am praying for these people, events, and matters, actually my prayer is for Your sake. The same is true when I pray for the church. Whether the church is cold or hot, good or bad, dead or living—these are of small concern compared to whether or not Your plan, Your testimony, and Your authority can benefit and gain their rightful places. Therefore, I am not praying for the revival of the church, but for Your authority and benefit.” Brothers and sisters, I know for a fact that if we pray in accordance with these first four principles, our prayer will surely be one through which God may gain His authority and benefit. Obviously, if this transpires, the church will be revived.
May the Lord cover me with His blood and allow me to share something from my own experience. There were quite a few times when I suffered want in material things and necessities. The moment I went to pray concerning these things, I was immediately put to the test. As I knelt down before God, there was an asking within, “Are you praying for yourself, or are you praying for God’s sake?” Whenever there was such an asking within, I prostrated myself before God and said to Him, “O God, if it were for myself, it would not matter if I suffered poverty and starvation even unto death, but Your authority and benefit are involved. Although I am asking for some material things from You, it is still not for my own sake, but for Your sake. If You would rather let Your authority and benefit suffer loss, my poverty and hunger are insignificant matters.” You see, this is a proper prayer.
I know that when some brothers and sisters pray for these necessities, usually they are not so brave and strong. Instead, the moment they kneel down they would shed tears and pray, “O God, have pity on me. I have nothing to eat, I have nothing to wear, I have no place to live; I beg You, have pity on me.” This kind of prayer is pitiful because it is altogether for yourself. Therefore, in asking God for material things, we may have two vastly different motives, for God’s sake or for ourselves.
Let me ask you, brothers and sisters, what if your child should get sick today and you go to pray for him. In your prayer could you say to God, “O God, my child is sick, please heal him; yet my prayer is not for my own sake, but for Your sake”? Could you pray such a prayer? Or would you pray feeling your child is so lovely that you wonder what you would do if he were to die; and therefore, shed tears, earnestly and mournfully begging God to heal him. If so, I can boldly say that although your prayer is fervent, it is not in God but altogether in yourself. Your earnest imploring does not pass through God nor does it allow God to pass through you; moreover, it is not God and you, you and God, praying together. Instead, it is purely you yourself praying before God. But there are some who have learned the lesson and have received guidance so that when they pray for the healing of their child, they can also say before God, “O God, this is not for my sake but for Your sake; this is not my business but Your business. Not only when this one child is ill, but even if all my children were sick and all would die, it is Your business, not mine.”
Brothers, we must touch this deep and tremendous principle and measure our prayers by it. Then you will discover even in such a divine matter as prayer, how much you are still filled with yourself, and how little you have passed through God’s purification. Whether it is in the intention, the motive, or the expectation of your prayer, there is mixture within you. Yes, you are praying to God, but in your heart you are praying wholly on your own and for your own sake. Therefore, you must be dealt with by God until one day you become able to say, “O God, I am praying not for myself but for Your sake. In my motive, intention, and expectation there is no place for me; rather, everything is for Your sake.”
Brothers, if we would learn such a lesson, we would no longer need to implore God or beg for His pity; instead, we would be able to pray bravely and strongly, for we would be praying not for ourselves but for God’s sake. I very much like this word which Daniel uttered: “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake” (Dan. 9:19). Without a doubt, Daniel was one who passed through God and allowed God to pass through him. He was also one who prayed with God and allowed God to pray with him. Hence, he could pray, “O Lord, hear…for thine own sake.” This is a very basic principle.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)