The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee


We do not become qualified for God’s work simply by learning some doctrines. The basic problem is our very person. Our person is the means by which we carry on our work. It is a matter of whether or not our person has passed through God’s dealings. If the right doctrines are committed to a wrong person, what can be ministered to the church? The basic lesson for us is to make ourselves usable vessels. In order to make ourselves usable vessels, our outer man must be broken.

God has been working in us all these years. Although we are not very clear about this work ourselves, nevertheless, God has been carrying on the breaking day by day. We have gone through sufferings and difficulties for years. Time after time God’s hand has halted us. We want to go one way, but God does not let us do it. We want to go another way, but God stops us again. If we do not see God’s operation through the working together of all these environments, we have to pray, "God! Open my eyes so that I may see Your hand." The eyes of the donkey are often sharper than the eyes of a self-proclaimed prophet. The donkey has seen Jehovah’s messenger already, but the self-proclaimed prophet has not seen it yet. The donkey realizes God’s halting hand, but the self-proclaimed prophet is still ignorant of it. We have to realize that breaking is God’s way with us. For years God has been trying to break our outer man. He has been trying to crush us so that we will not remain intact. Unfortunately, many people think that what they lack is doctrines. They wish they can hear more doctrines, pick up more ideas for preaching, and understand more expositions of the Bible. But this is absolutely the wrong way. God’s hand is doing only one thing in us—breaking us. We cannot have our way; we have to take God’s way. We cannot have our thoughts; we have to take God’s thoughts. We cannot have our decisions; we have to take God’s decisions. God has to break us down completely. The trouble with us is that while God stops us time after time, we blame this and that for the blockage. We are like the prophet who did not see God’s hand; instead, we blame our "donkey" for halting.

Everything that comes our way is meaningful and under God’s sovereign arrangement. Nothing accidental happens to a Christian. Nothing is outside God’s ordering. We have to humble ourselves under God’s sovereign arrangements. May the Lord open our eyes to see that God is arranging everything around us; He has a purpose in us. Through everything He is crushing us. When God grants us the grace one day, we will gladly accept all the arrangements He places in our environment. Our spirit will be released, and we will be able to use our spirit.


In dealing with us and in breaking us for the release and exercise of the spirit, God works according to His law, not according to our prayer. What does this mean? This means that the release of the inner man through a broken outer man is a law. It is not something that we secure by means of prayer.

A law cannot be altered by prayer. If we put our hand into the fire while we pray, our hand will still be burned. (I am not speaking about miracles here. I am speaking about a natural law.) Our prayer cannot change the law. We have to learn to obey God’s law. Do not think that prayer alone will work. If we do not want our hand to be burned, we should not put it in the fire. We should not pray and put our hand in the fire at the same time. God deals with us according to law. The inner man can only be released through the outer man. This is a law. If the outer man is not broken and pulverized, the inner man will not be released. This is the Lord’s way. He has to break us before He can have an outlet through us. We should never challenge this law while praying for this or that blessing. Such prayers do not work. Our prayer cannot change God’s law.

The way to true spiritual work is for God to be released through us. This is the only way God will take. If a man is not broken, the gospel will not go out through him, and God cannot use him. He will have no way to go on. We have to truly prostrate ourselves. Submission to God’s law is better than many prayers. A minute of revelation of God’s way is better than an incessant, ignorant pleading for God’s blessings and His help in our works. It is better to stop such prayer and say to the Lord, "I humble myself before You." Our prayer for blessing often is nothing but a hindrance to God. We often long for blessing but do not even find mercy. We have to ask for light. We have to learn to humble ourselves under His hand and obey this law. With obedience there is blessing.

(The Breaking of the Outer Man and the Release of the Spirit, Chapter 3, by Watchman Nee)