The Key to Prayer, by Watchman Nee

(JOHN 12:27-28; MATTHEW 26:39-46)

The prayers of our Lord were always perfect, and they always touched the key to prayer. When He refused to see the Greeks who sought Him, He said, "Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say?" (John 12:27). He turned the matter over carefully and thought, "What shall I say? Father, save Me out of this hour." No, He knew He could not pray in that way. He realized, "For this reason I have come to this hour" (v. 27); therefore, He prayed, "Father, glorify Your name." This prayer was answered immediately. "Then a voice came out of heaven: I have both glorified it and will glorify it again" (v. 28). If this is the way the Son of God, as the Son of Man, prayed to God on the earth, how dare we on the impulse of the moment open our lips and utter rash prayers! It is essential that we learn the key to prayer.

That night in the garden of Gethsemane our Lord Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. How did He pray under those circumstances? "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will" (Matt. 26:39). He possessed the key to prayer. He had no fear of death, and He was not without His own will. But He did not choose to take His own will; He wanted to take the Father’s will. So He prayed a second time, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done" (v. 42). He prayed a third time, "saying the same word again" (v. 44). When He was utterly clear concerning the Father’s will, He said to His disciples, "The hour has drawn near....Arise, let us be going" (v. 45-46). If our Lord as a man on the earth mastered the key to prayer and set Himself aside in order to seek after God’s will, how dare we randomly utter a few words in prayer and conclude we have discerned God’s will!

(MATTHEW 15:22-28; MARK 7:24-30)

When the Canaanite woman was in distress, she cried out in her need, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David!" (Matt. 15:22). Was she earnest in prayer? Truly she was. But it is amazing that the Lord "did not answer her a word" (v. 23). The disciples seemed to be in sympathy with her because they said on her behalf, "Send her away, for she is crying out after us" (v. 23). But what did the Lord reply to them? He said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (v. 24). The Lord’s reply gave the woman the key to approach Him. She saw that the Son of David was related only to the house of Israel, not to the nations. So she came and worshipped Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" (v. 25). She called Him "Lord," not "Son of David." She realized that only the house of Israel had the right to use that title, so she forsook the wrong ground on which she had been standing and addressed her prayer to Him as Lord. This prayer brought His answer: "It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs" (v. 26). The answer seemed so cold that it sounded as though the Lord was rejecting and embarrassing the woman. Actually, He was trying to show her where she stood so that she might know the meaning of grace. The woman saw her own place; she saw the Lord as well as His grace, and seizing the key to prayer, she said, "Yes, Lord, for even the little dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table" (v. 27). This called forth the Lord’s commendation, and He said to her, "O woman, great is your faith!" (v. 28). She had found the key to prayer, and spontaneously she had faith. In Mark 7 the Lord said, "Because of this word, go. The demon has gone out of your daughter" (v. 29). Her prayer was answered "because of this word." Her word touched the key to prayer. This is what we need to learn. Often we pray, yet our prayer seems to disappear like a stone dropped into the ocean; it goes away without any answer from God. We have not found the right key to unlock the door; however, we do not try to discover the reason that God has not answered our prayer. Brothers and sisters, how can we expect God to answer such foolish prayers? In all of our prayers we must first find the key; only as we do this can we expect to have constant answers from God.

(The Key to Prayer, Chapter 1, by Watchman Nee)