V. THE STILLNESS OF THE MIND
One who knows how to pray can usually quietly rest his mind. Not only is he able to concentrate with his mind, but he can also quiet his thinking. It is just like the rest sign in music. A pianist coming to a rest sign first pauses and then goes on. It is also similar to the term “selah” in the Psalms, which designates a certain time of silence. Sometimes our prayer before God needs to come to a halt. We need to train and control our mind to such an extent that we can think, pause, concentrate, and obey at will. Thus, we can be a man of prayer.
The stillness of the mind is not only a pause in the mind’s activities, but also includes resting one’s mind. One whose thinking never ceases uses his mind to excess and will experience a very difficult time in prayer because his mind cannot be still. Many times we are unable to pray before going to bed at night. This is also due to the fact that our mind has hardly stopped during the day and is exhausted. The spirit desires to pray, but the mind is tired and cannot be used. This is very damaging to prayer. Thus, in order to pray, it is necessary that you frequently still your mind. You not only need to refrain from foolish thinking and vain imaginings, but sometimes you need to stop even the proper use of the mind. Always reserve a portion of your mental capacity for the purpose of prayer. If the mind is not properly controlled there will be a problem in prayer.
VI. SETTING THE MIND ON SPIRITUAL THINGS
With regard to the control of the mind, both concentration and rest are negative aspects. The positive aspect of exercising the mind is to set the mind on spiritual things. It is not easy to stop our mind. Psychologists tell us that even in our sleep our mind does not rest. Therefore, we need to place more stress on the positive aspect of exercising our mind. In addition to performing the normal duties, during leisure times one should use his mind to think concerning the spiritual things. This is minding the things of the Spirit (Rom. 8:5). When the mind is unoccupied, you need to set it upon spiritual things.
Of course, even while setting the mind on spiritual things, we must refrain from fanciful thinking. Formerly there was a sister in northern China who always imagined herself to be Madame Guyon. She always sat there, closed her eyes, and engaged in vain imaginations. Yet she thought she was fellowshipping with the Lord. She said, “I wish to renew the marriage vow between the Lord and me.” She also said, “I would choose the cross, not any easiness.” In such a way she engaged herself in fanciful thinking. This departs from the normal way of minding spiritual things. In order to set the mind on spiritual things in a normal way, you need to think in the proper way. For example, you may think of the Word, consider the beauty of the Lord or His works, or reflect on how the Spirit leads within us. We need to think on these spiritual things.
Some brothers inquired of me why they are short of utterance in ministering the Word. I always like to answer in this way: “It is because, ordinarily, you never consider the spiritual things. Either you think about the flood in the middle part of Taiwan, or you remember that spinach used to sell at a yen per pound but has now gone up to three yens. You are continually thinking about these earthly things. Because you have been thinking about these things, when you give a message you are short of utterance. If you still would not adequately restrict your thinking, I am afraid that one day the words ‘spinach is selling at three yen per pound’ will slip out of your mouth while you are ministering the Word. Because you think only of these things and do not mind the spiritual things, your mind becomes very dull. So it is with prayer. When some people speak a humorous word or a satirical and mocking word their two lips are very sharp, but if you want them to pray their mind becomes inoperative.”
I wish to tell you, brothers and sisters, that utterance in ministering the Word is a deposit being built up daily by minding the spiritual things. Whenever you have some leisure time, consider the things of the Spirit such as: what is the dealing of the flesh? what is the dealing of the self? what is the difference between the dealing of the self and the dealing of the flesh? and why in the Bible does it sometimes say that our old man has been crucified and other times say that our flesh has been crucified? If you think on these things, you will become well-versed and skillful within. When the time for ministering the Word comes, spontaneously you will have the inner, instant utterance because for a long time you have been building up spiritual riches which you can use at any time. Hence, train your mind so that it is always set on the spiritual things.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)