III. THE PRAYER OF LIFE
All real prayers are prayers of life. A prayer of life means that such a prayer comes entirely out of life. Because it comes out of life, it is therefore a real prayer. Any prayer that is not of life is feigned, imitated, reluctant, ritual, and outward. In other words, it is false.
Let us assume we have two guests visiting us. One is old, over sixty years of age, and the other is young, a little over two. As we are together, I notice that there is a tremendous difference between our guests in their words and manners. Sometimes the old one tries to copy the smile of the young one. Such a smile is pretentious, false. At other times the young one tries to imitate the language of the old one and sounds somewhat like him. However, there is still the sense that the child is feigning the speech of another. He is not yet sixty years old, but he speaks the words of a sixty-year-old. Although he fakes it very well, you still have to admit that it is false, because his life has not yet reached that stage. If he were to scream and yell, turn the plates upside-down, and throw away the bowls, one would feel that his behavior is genuine, for that behavior genuinely reflects his level of life.
Please keep in mind that the same is true with respect to prayer. A genuine prayer is definitely of life. There is no way to imitate the tone, sound, words, form, and style of the prayers of anyone else. And even if you could imitate them very well, it would still be false.
Brothers and sisters, I hope you can see that prayer is a matter of life. We may not be so strict concerning other matters, but prayer is uniquely and absolutely a matter of life. The extent of your life determines the extent of your prayer. The measure of your life decides the measure of your prayer. Your life is the deciding factor of your prayer. The condition of your life reveals the condition of your prayer. If there is a problem with your life, there will surely be a problem with your prayer. Life and prayer are entirely in direct proportion to one another, and they run parallel to each other. All genuine prayers are prayers of life.
We have said that prayer depends also on words. But do not forget that words are the expression of the degree of one’s life. You need to reach a certain degree of life in order to speak the words of that degree. Otherwise, you may have learned to speak them, but they carry neither the backing of life nor the weight of life. We should not merely exercise ourselves in prayer yet ignore the matter of the growth in life. If we ignore the growth in life, our prayer will be little different from a performance. Hence, we need to measure our prayer by our growth in life. This is an absolute principle.
IV. SUPPLY OF LIFE
The measure of life supply being received by us determines the weightiness of our prayer. One who has the life supply may not pray with all his life supply, but one who does not have the life supply cannot possibly pray. In other words, life supply always exceeds prayer, but prayer can never exceed life supply.
Do not think that preaching is very hard and praying is very easy. If you pray in an acting or performing way, then, of course, it is very easy. But it is not an easy matter to pray a prayer of burden, a genuine prayer, a prayer that can touch the throne. Prayer is a difficult labor. According to the historical record of the human race, there has never been one who labored on something to the point of sweating blood. But in the garden of Gethsemane there was One Who did pray and sweat blood. When Moses prayed on top of the hill, he needed Aaron and Hur to support his hands. To lift up the hands is easy, but to lift up the hands and pray is not easy.
Brothers, I know no passage in the Bible that says we need to fast and preach the Word, but I have certainly found it to say we need to fast and pray. What does the Bible mean when it says to fast and pray? It does not mean just to treat our body severely. It means to exercise our whole being to bear the burden of a certain matter. Then the burden presses us to the point that we do not feel hungry, causing us to fast and pray.
Prayer can supply as well as consume life. On the one hand, prayer can really cause one to receive supply. On the other hand, prayer can also cause one to be consumed in life to a considerable extent. If a prayer does not supply you with life, that prayer is questionable. On the other hand, if a prayer does not consume you in life, it is also very questionable. Only those prayers which are a performance do not consume life. A genuine prayer that bears a burden will definitely be life-consuming. After praying thus for an hour, you need the replenishment of a large measure of life.
Therefore, one who seeks true prayer should know how to obtain the life supply. Many times when we draw near to the Lord it is not to pray but to fellowship with Him in order to gain some life supply. To pray in a genuine way, one should not bear too many burdens daily; otherwise, it will become a real hardship and suffering. Because prayer is the highest as well as the most lasting part of spiritual work, it really consumes life. We should not overwork ourselves, and in the same principle, we should not pray excessively. This means that our prayer must not exceed the life supply. Everyday we should have a time when we do not bear any burden of prayer but merely draw near to the Lord and receive His supply.
I hope that every brother and sister will remember this principle: if you do not receive the supply of life at set times daily, your prayer is certainly questionable. If there is no life supply, there is definitely no prayer life. Hence, we must learn to receive the supply of Christ as life continually. Receive the supply of life through the quiet time, meditation, calling on the Lord, reading the Word, and through fellowshipping with the saints. This will enable us to have true prayers before God. We also need to learn to receive the burden in prayer. However, it must not be too heavy a burden lest we suffer loss. Receive regular life supply daily; this is a great principle of prayer.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)