IX. PRAYER IS THE DISCHARGING OF OUR BURDEN BEFORE GOD
In a proper prayer you should always feel very much burdened at the beginning but very light at the end. If at the beginning of your prayer you are indifferent and at the end you are still indifferent; if you are neither burdened nor light; if it seems to make no difference whether you pray or not; then you know your prayer is not up to the standard. A prayer that matches the standard must be one in which you first draw near to God. While you draw near, an intention enters into you which becomes your burden, making you feel the need to go before God to pour out your heart and discharge your burden. Then, after you have prayed adequately, you immediately feel light within; the burden having been discharged. If this condition does not exist, your prayer is not quite proper.
For an illustration, let us use the story of the salvation of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. His biography tells us that when he was around fifteen or sixteen years old, on the day of his salvation his mother was visiting a relative seventy to eighty miles away. In the afternoon she felt a desperate burden concerning her son’s salvation. Hence, she locked herself in a room and prayed before God, pouring out her heart’s desire. She prayed until the burden within her was gone, and she felt rather light and free. Then, knowing that God had answered her prayer, she thanked and praised God. While his mother was praying, Hudson Taylor noticed in his father’s reading room a gospel tract which contained this word: “the accomplished work of Christ.” This simple word touched him and compelled him to receive the Lord as his Savior with his whole heart. After a short while, when his mother came home, Hudson Taylor went to the door to meet her, telling her that he had good news for her. But his mother embraced him with a smile saying, “My son, I already knew some time ago and have been rejoicing over your good news for two weeks.”
In this story we can see that, firstly, God’s intention was to save Hudson Taylor. At that moment, his mother was looking to the Lord and was quiet before God. Thus, God gained the opportunity to put His intention into the mother, making it her inner burden which she poured out before Him. Ultimately, this burden was completely discharged before the throne of God, and God then came in to bring this prayer to pass.
This illustration should convince us that this prayer not only caused Hudson Taylor to be saved; it also caused the praying mother to enter more deeply into God and to be gained by God in a deeper way. We cannot tell exactly how much the mingling between man and God in her had deepened after that prayer. Moreover, this was not just a matter of a soul being saved. It involved the immeasurably great matters of the authority and benefit which God gained through Hudson Taylor. This should be the result of a proper prayer.
X. THE PURPOSE OF PRAYER IS TO GLORIFY GOD
A proper prayer is not to cause man to have the enjoyment in his accomplishment or in the result, but to cause God to gain one hundred percent of the glory. Yes, it is you who prayed; it is God Who answered your prayer and brought it to pass, but you should not have any place in this. If after a prayer has been fulfilled you have any place in it, then you ought to know there is something wrong with your prayer—you have not as yet thoroughly learned the lessons of prayer. Therefore, this principle is very important.
In Jeremiah 29 God said, “That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (vv. 10-11). These words proclaimed God’s intention toward the Israelites; these were things that He intended to do. But, let me ask you, brothers and sisters, how could God carry out His intention? According to God’s principle, His intention must be carried out through man’s prayer on earth. Without man’s prayer, God’s desire cannot be fulfilled. What kind of person can be used by God to pray for His intention? There is only one kind, a person who lives before God, waits before Him, and allows God to do the initiating. When you read the book of Daniel you see that Daniel was one who really did not initiate anything before God. He waited before God, caring only for God, not for himself. Thus, he touched and understood this particular intention of God and learned that God would turn again the captivity of the children of Israel after seventy years were accomplished. Since Daniel’s desire matched God’s intention, he fasted and poured out this desire before God in prayer. Thus God’s heart’s desire and intention came out from God, went into Daniel, passed through him, and eventually returned to the throne of God. Then the throne of God took immediate action concerning the situation. This action was not at all for Daniel’s enjoyment or glorying but for God to gain the glory. This is a very meaningful matter. Although Daniel prayed for others that God would cause them to return, Daniel himself did not go back. He may have returned eventually, but there is no clear record of that in the Bible. It seems that he had asked for one thing and God brought it to pass, yet he himself did not participate in the result.
Therefore, concerning the principles of prayer, your whole being from head to toe must be put aside. Your being does not have much place in prayer. In the beginning it is God who initiates, in the process you are but one who cooperates with God, and ultimately it is for the glory of God. This is real prayer—man being united with God and cooperating with Him on earth, allowing Him to express Himself and accomplish His purpose through man. It is based upon this that we have these ten principles. By the test of these ten principles, you can tell what kind of prayer you are praying. If all these ten principles apply to your prayers, your prayers before God are pure with not much mixture of self in them. But today how few people on earth can pass the test of these ten principles. This requires a very strict learning of the lessons. May God be merciful to us that we may strongly pursue this matter.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)