Lessons on Prayer, by Witness Lee

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The function of the mind is to understand the consciousness in the spirit. The function of the emotion is to enable the spirit to be expressed. But without the decision of the will, even though the mind has understood something and the emotion is able to express it, such understanding and expression are useless. For example, your mind has understood that the sense within your spirit is directing you to pray. Your emotion is also able to express the feeling of the spirit. However, your will is not taking a stand or making a decision. In such a case you are still unable to pray. Let us illustrate in this way: suppose that at the Lord’s table someone really has an inspiration. His mind understands the inspiration as being a sense of the Lord’s glory. His emotion really feels the Lord’s glory to the extent that the joy almost moves him to tears. But at this time he remains indecisive and is not willing to pray because of various considerations. Why is this so? This shows a lack in the will. The will is not cooperating with the spirit. While he is considering this and thinking about that, another brother calls out a hymn. Following the singing of the hymn he is still hesitating. In the meantime, another brother offers a prayer. Thus his indecisiveness has quenched his inspiration. After the meeting he goes home and is restless the whole night. He definitely had an inspiration, but it was not expressed. It was not because his mind was not able to understand it; neither was it because he did not have the emotion to express it. It was simply because his will was not decisive enough to execute it. Since his will was weak and unable to make a decision, he became timid. He should have exercised his will to immediately make a decision and burst forth with a prayer. Then that which was in his spirit would have been released. This is the function of the will in relation to the spirit.


Unless one has a sober mind and a moderate emotion, he cannot pray effective prayers. Similarly, unless one has a strong yet pliable will, he is unable to pray properly. Hence, there is a very close relationship between the will and prayer. Every spiritual matter, no matter what it is, requires the proper exercise of the will. The same applies even to the time when one initially is stirred to believe in the Lord. Someone may be touched in the gospel preaching meeting and may even be weeping. But if you ask him to stand up and receive the Lord, he may refuse to make a decision with his will. He may say that he will think it over, or that he will go home to talk it over with his wife, etc. He has understood and is touched. Both his mind and his emotion are in function. But since he refuses to use his will, there is no way for him to be saved. The same principle operates in the relationship between the will and prayer. It is absolutely necessary to exercise the will properly in order to pray effectively.


We often think that prayer is a matter entirely related to the spirit. This is correct. But, many times there is no inspiration. Shall we then give up praying? No. In such times you must learn to pray with your will first. By praying with the will first, you can easily usher in the inspiration. It is like driving a car. The initial step is not to apply the gas but to turn on the ignition. Once the ignition is on, it immediately causes the combustion of the gasoline. Many times you may want to pray, yet your spirit is unmoved. If you keep waiting until your spirit is moved, you may not pray for the entire day. Suppose as you rise in the morning your spirit is unmoved, so you do not pray. After waiting for two hours there is still no movement in your spirit, and you still do not pray. Today there is no inspiration, so there is no prayer. Tomorrow there is still no inspiration, so there is still no prayer. Perhaps for one whole week there is no inspiration and, therefore, no prayer. It is very dangerous to keep on waiting until you are moved in your spirit in order to pray. Hence, you need to learn to pray with your will in order to usher in the inspiration.

The same situation may occur in the meetings. Yes, when we meet together we should wait for inspiration and pray by inspiration. But many times it is not right, especially for some brothers who are in a leading position to help the meeting, to simply sit there, stiffly and passively, waiting for the so-called inspiration. Sometimes there is the inspiration, so that there is no need for you to take the initiative. The Holy Spirit is initiating, and all you need to do is pray according to the Spirit. But there are other times when there is no clear indication of the Spirit’s initiation. Of course you must first be purified, forgiven, looking to the Lord, and in fellowship with Him. Then, when you know there is a need to pray in the meeting, you should exercise your will to release the meeting. Once you exercise your will to open your mouth and pray, in less than two sentences you can cause your spirit to rise up. On some special occasion a brother might be asked to offer a prayer. He may not have any inspiration at that particular moment, but since he was asked, he would have to exercise his will and pray. If he is one who fears God, has fellowship with Him, has his spirit exercised, and has touched the spirit, in less than three to five sentences his spirit comes into function. This prayer of his will, like turning the ignition on when driving a car, immediately activates the spirit, causing it to rise up. This is called the prayer of the will.

Furthermore, sometimes it seems that while praying, your inspiration has been interrupted, yet you feel you have not discharged the burden of your prayer. At such a time you need to sustain that prayer with your will. After sustaining it for one or two minutes you will see that the inspiration returns. The will is a very useful faculty. Whenever the spirit falls short you need to fill in with the will. Learn to exercise your will in cooperation with your spirit, but do not use your will apart from the spirit. The function of the will is to cooperate with the spirit and to fill in for the spirit. Before the spirit is stirred up you may start with your will. While the spirit seems to be resting you should also fill in with your will. These initiating or filling-in prayers are called the prayers of the will.

Furthermore, when the Bible says “pray,” “be watchful,” “pray always,” “pray in spirit,” etc., these imperatives are commands directed at our will. All require the function of the will. Only the functioning of the will can maintain the life of prayer.

Daniel 9:2-3 says, “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.” This shows that Daniel’s prayer was altogether an action of his will. His prayer was not initiated by the spirit but by the will. But when you proceed to read the words after Daniel 9:3, you will notice that, although in the beginning it was Daniel who set himself to pray according to his will, after a few sentences his spirit was stirred up. When you read the prayer in Daniel, chapter nine, you can realize that it was entirely in the spirit. With his will he initiated that prayer and moved his spirit—he substituted his will in the place of his spirit, and he used his will to set his spirit on fire. Hence, we see the will is extremely important to prayer. The will not only has to move the spirit to pray, but if necessary, it has to pray in place of the spirit. This is the prayer of the will.

(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)