III. PRAYER IS MAN COOPERATING AND CO-WORKING WITH GOD, ALLOWING GOD TO EXPRESS HIMSELF AND HIS DESIRE THROUGH MAN, AND THUS ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSE
If a brother or sister has really learned the secret of prayer covered in the preceding two points, spontaneously there will be the following result: such a praying one will certainly cooperate with God, work together with God, and allow God to express Himself and His desire from within him and through him, ultimately accomplishing God’s purpose. This is according to Romans 8:26 and 27, which tell us that we do not know for what we should pray as is fitting, but the Holy Spirit intercedes in us according to God’s purpose. Actually, we do not know how to pray. We know what people ordinarily call supplication, but we know little about the prayer which is spoken of in the Scriptures. The first time I read these two verses in Romans 8, I questioned their meaning. When I was sick, I thought, did I not pray to God asking him to heal me? When I was in want, did I not pray to God asking Him to send me provision? How could the Scriptures say that we do not know for what we should pray as is fitting? Gradually, the Lord showed me that we really do not know anything about the kind of prayer that God desires. We know those prayers which people generally consider to be prayers but which are below the standard. We do not know those prayers that touch God’s desire and are up to the standard. This is our weakness. Thank God, in this matter of our weakness, the Spirit Himself joins in to help us and intercede for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Brothers, real prayers are the Holy Spirit within man expressing God’s desire through man. In other words, real prayers are prayers involving two parties. They are not simply man alone praying to God, but they are the Spirit mingling with man, putting on man, and joining with man in prayer. Outwardly it is man praying, but inwardly it is the Spirit praying. This means two parties express the same prayer at the same time. Please remember that this alone is the prayer which is spoken of in the Scriptures.
We often speak of Elijah’s prayer. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.” “Prayed earnestly” in Greek means prayed with prayer, or prayed in prayer. This is a very peculiar expression in the Bible. Please remember, this is what we mean by prayer of two parties. When Elijah was praying, he was praying with or in a prayer. In other words, he prayed with the prayer of the Spirit within him. Thus we can say that Elijah’s prayer was God praying to Himself in Elijah. Andrew Murray once said that a real prayer is Christ Who indwells us praying to Christ Who is sitting on the throne. That Christ would be praying to Christ Himself sounds strange, but in our experience this is really the case.
Let us look again at Romans 8:27. There is a clause which says, “the Spirit…intercedes…according to God.” This means that the Holy Spirit prays in us according to God; that is, God prays in us through His Spirit. Thus, such a prayer certainly expresses God’s intention as well as God Himself.
By these illustrations we can see that real prayers will certainly cause our being to be wholly mingled with God. We will become a person of two parties, i.e. God mingled with man. When you pray it is He praying, and when He prays it is also you praying. When He prays within you, then you express the prayer outwardly. He and you are altogether one, inside and outside; He and you both pray at the same time. At that time you and God cannot be separated, being mingled as one. Consequently, you not only cooperate with God but also work together with God that God Himself and His desire may be expressed through you; thus ultimately accomplishing God’s purpose. This is the real prayer which is required of us in the Bible.
Hence, Jude verse 20 says, “praying in the Holy Spirit.” This means you should not pray in yourself. In other words, it means your prayer should be the expression of two parties, you and the Holy Spirit, praying as one. Ephesians 6:18 says, “By means of all prayer and petition, praying at every time in spirit.” It is hard to say that the spirit here refers solely to the Holy Spirit. All those who read the Bible from an orthodox viewpoint admit that the spirit here does not refer solely to the Holy Spirit; rather, it also includes our human spirit. When we pray we must pray in such a mingled spirit.
From our fellowship in this chapter we can see that the Bible is God breathing out Himself, while prayer is our breathing in God. Bible reading and prayer are our breathing before God and thus our breathing in of God. Hence, we should not be those who only read the Bible and fail to pray. If we only read the Word, we do allow God to breathe out Himself, but we still do not breathe in God. Thus we still need to pray. However, in our prayer our supplications for people, happenings, and things are but the outer skin, the framework. Real prayer always matches the Scriptures; it is an exhaling and inhaling before God, causing us and God, God and us, to contact one another and to obtain one another. Consequently, we wholly cooperate and work with God, and God expresses Himself and His desire through us, ultimately accomplishing His purpose. This is a fundamental meaning of prayer in the Bible.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)