IV. THE RULING OF THE WILL
The ruling of the will means that the will is in control. It is not the will that is being ruled; rather, it is the will that is ruling, controlling the other parts of the soul. In the chapter concerning the emotion we said that the emotion should be controlled by the will. That day when the two sons of Aaron violated the holiness of God and were struck dead, Aaron did not weep. If he had not exercised his will he would surely have wailed and wept bitterly. But because he exercised his will to rule over his emotion, he was able to completely obey Moses’ word and show no sign of mourning. That was not an easy thing to do. The will cannot rule in this way unless it has been exercised to the extent that its firmness and pliability are in full cooperation with one another.
Ephesians 4 tells us, “Be angry, and do not sin” (v. 26). Being angry is a matter of the emotion, but to sin not is a matter of the ruling of the will. The verse goes on to say, “do not let the sun go down on your indignation.” Once the sun sets, your anger has to disappear with it. The question is, how can you dispel your anger? This can only be done through the controlling of the will. But with some, once they are angry their anger remains; once they are offended by others they will not forgive them during their entire lifetime. Please remember, such a situation indicates that the will is not in control. The will is not able to rule over the emotion. To be a good Christian who is able to pray, one’s will must be able to dominate the emotion. Regardless how much a brother has provoked you to anger, your anger must be dispelled with the going down of the sun. One whose will has been exercised and subjected to the rule of the spirit is able to be angry for one minute and to dispel his anger the next.
I have heard it said, “This person or that thing has made me so angry that I cannot pray anymore.” It is true that you cannot pray if you are angry. If you want to pray, you need to dispel your anger. But in order to dissipate your anger, you need your will to rule over your emotion. It is possible that a brother really has done something wrong which made you angry. But please remember, a half minute later your anger should cool down. Otherwise you will not be able to pray.
It is not only anger that makes one unable to pray. Even joy can prevent one from praying. Someone may be so excited over his son’s passing an examination for studying abroad that he cannot pray. He really wants to give thanks to God, but because he cannot pray he has no way to give thanks. This proves that his will is not in control.
In the normal condition, neither happiness nor anger will render you unable to pray. Rather, when it is time to pray, your will is able to apply the brake to your emotion. At such a time, the qualities of the emotion will demonstrate soundness, tranquility, temperance, and restraint, because the emotion is being regulated by the will. Unless the will has been adjusted properly, the emotion will never be normal, because they are connected to one another. Someone may ask, “Why do you bring out these complicated matters when speaking of prayer?” Keep in mind that prayer involves human beings performing a task, and within this human machine there are many complicated things. If there is something wrong with any part of a car, the car cannot be driven and will require some repair work. In like manner, if any part within you goes wrong, you will not be able to pray. Hence, to pray competently, the parts of one’s being need to be proper.
The will not only needs to control the emotion; it also needs to control the mind. Some always have vain imaginations in their mind. The moment they kneel down to pray their mind begins to travel around the world. In less than two or three minutes they may have circled around the world twice. This shows that they have not practiced using their will to control their mind. You may say, “This is the disobedience of my mind.” Whether your mind is obedient or disobedient is another matter. You still need to exercise your will. It is imperative that your will be the ruling organ in your being. It should not follow that you would hit someone simply because you are angry now. This cannot be. It is the will, not the emotion, that should rule. Neither should you go ahead with a certain matter simply because your mind is clear about it. Even when you are clear, you should still wait for the will to make a decision before you make a move to do anything. It is the will, not the mind, that should rule.
A ship is secure if it can depend on its rudder to determine its direction. If a car can depend on its brakes to control its speed, that car is definitely safe. But if the direction of the ship is not determined by its rudder, and the speed of the car is not controlled by its brakes, both the ship and the car are very dangerous. Likewise, in both our walk and our prayer we must allow our will to rule over our emotion and mind. Thus, we can be proper humans. To behave according to an undisciplined mind and emotion is dangerous. A child who always plays but is not willing to study surely has a weak will. If his will is strong and is being used properly, it will restrict him from playing when he should be studying. Therefore, learn to exercise the will so that it will be strong yet pliable. Learn also to allow the will to rule, to take the lead, controlling the mind and the emotion. Thus, you can be a proper man. When this condition exists, you can pray.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 8, by Witness Lee)