IV. THE POSITION OF PRAYER
The position of prayer is the position of ascension. You can only pray in the heavenly sphere. Whenever you leave the heavenly realm, you lose the position of prayer. You may pray, but that prayer does not count before God.
I can give you several simple but true examples. When I was a boy I studied in a Christian school. That was during World War I. I heard some smart ones asking the pastor, “There are Christians in Germany, and there are also Christians in Great Britain, yet the two countries are implacable enemies. We heard that the Christians in Germany are praying for the victory of Germany, and that the Christians in Great Britain are praying for the victory of Great Britain. Will you please tell us which side’s prayer will be answered by God?” Today, brothers and sisters, I would like to ask you the same question. How would you answer? If I remember correctly, the pastor answered wisely, saying, “God is not foolish, and being a righteous God, He will not foolishly answer an unjust prayer.” He did not say that God would answer the prayers of the British or that God would answer the prayers of the Germans. He simply gave an ambiguous answer and dismissed the question.
Later, after I was saved, this question often came back to me. Gradually I became clear about it. God would not listen to the Christians in Germany, or Great Britain, as they prayed on the position of their respective country. Neither Great Britain nor Germany is the position of prayer. Whoever prays by standing either on the position of Great Britain or Germany will never have his prayer answered by God. There is only one position for prayer—that is the heavenly position. You must pray in the heavenly sphere.
Let me give you another example. Suppose there is a couple who always quarrel with one another. Both are saved ones, yet their personalities are very incompatible. One day the husband prays asking the Lord to deal with his wife, and the wife also prays imploring the Lord to deal with her husband. Whose prayer will God answer? Don’t think that I am making up this story. It is a real case. A certain wife, wiping away her tears, prays to God, “O God, You are a just God. You are omniscient and know the wrongs that I have suffered. Do grant me justice.” You hear the wife praying thus in one room, and going to another room, you hear the husband praying the same prayer from his viewpoint. Brothers and sisters, whose prayer will God answer? Neither! For they have fallen from heaven to earth. Since they have lost the position of prayer, God cannot answer their prayers.
Again, suppose two co-workers serve together yet cannot get along with each other. One of them prays, “Lord, this is really difficult for me. The condition of my brother is such that, unless You deal with him, I cannot take it any longer.” The other one also prays, “Lord, this is really hard. Please come to intervene.” Let me ask you, brothers and sisters, to which side will God attend? Please remember, there is no position of prayer here, for they do not pray in the heavens, but entirely on earth.
Some may even pray for the church in their locality or for the gospel there. These things are very good in themselves; but we still should ask, are they praying in the heavenly realm or on earth? There are a great number who pray for such things on earth, not in the heavenly sphere.
Some brothers may pray for their enterprise, and some sisters may pray for their husband’s business, yet they pray on earth, not in the heavenly realm. Sometimes you notice that there are problems among the brothers and sisters, and you intend to pray for them. However, you realize that their problem has touched you and that you have been stirred up within before you go to pray. You are not in the heavenly realm, but on earth.
Hence, in prayer you need first to settle the matter of position. If you remain on earth you will have no way to pray, for the position of prayer is not on earth. Without the particular position, one cannot perform the particular task. Many times people ask, “Why didn’t God answer our prayers?” Brothers and sisters, most likely it is because you have lost your standing of prayer. It may be that you still have a little anger or agitation causing you to argue for yourself and ask God to avenge and vindicate. This proves that you have left the heavenly sphere.
The New Testament says that God’s children should only bless and not curse. Regardless how much people give you a hard time and persecute you, if you can still bless them, it proves that you are in the heavenly sphere. When Stephen was being martyred and stoned by men, he could still ask God to forgive them! His face resembled the face of an angel; he was in the sphere of the heavens. If one lives in the heavenly realm, he is able to love his enemies. Regardless how much trouble you give him, he can still love you. If a Christian hates his enemies and sounds out voices of cursing when being mistreated or persecuted, he is surely an earthly man.
Brothers and sisters, you may desire to pray for the church in your locality or for your evangelistic work. These are very good topics of prayer, but not having been dealt with, you still feel that the church and the work are “yours.” You want “your” church here to prosper and increase in number that “your” work here may be fruitful. This also proves that you are not in the heavenly realm but have fallen to earth. If you wish to pray for these matters, you must first get into the heavenly position. Not only in these matters, but even when you get sick or encounter problems in your home and in your daily living, you must first get into the heavenly sphere when you are going to pray.
The position of prayer is entirely a heavenly position. You cannot have a bit of jealousy, spite, or anger toward others. Once these things are found in your prayers, immediately you are not in the heavenly realm. You are not burning the incense in the Holy Place. You may be burning incense on the street, being wholly on the earth and in the world. Hence, we have said that you may be able to do and say things freely at all times and on all occasions, except while in prayer. Prayer is not only a holy ground, but even more, it is a spiritual realm. The position of prayer is heavenly. Once you leave the heavenly sphere you lose the position of prayer.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 17, by Witness Lee)