III. THE TERMINATION OF THE CROSS
One who knows how to pray and can pray is always one who has been both redeemed under the blood and terminated on the cross. In going before God to pray, first you need to ask whether or not you have been terminated. Suppose you wish to pray concerning the gospel, your family, the giving of material things, or about the matter of marriage. In each case, you need to ask if you have been terminated in that particular matter. You must ask whether you are praying with any self-interest. Whatever you pray for, you need to have a termination in that matter.
Always keep in mind that the fire that burns on the offering altar is the same fire that burns incense on the incense altar. Only the fire that burns the sacrifice into ashes can be the fire that burns the incense. If, without having burned the sacrifice into ashes, the fire is brought to the incense altar to burn the incense, that is called strange fire. You can realize the seriousness of this matter by the fate of Nadab and Abihu. If you have not been terminated in a certain matter, yet you bring that matter into the presence of God in prayer, it is a great offense to God.
Strictly speaking, if one has not been terminated by the cross in a certain matter, it is really not possible for him to pray for that matter. If you have not been terminated by the cross concerning your husband or wife, then, frankly speaking, you are not qualified to pray for your husband or wife. Why is it that many times the Lord does not hear our prayers for our own families? The answer is that we have not become ashes. Those prayers were merely natural prayers, prayers of strange fire. Many times when we pray for the church of God and for the work of the Lord, the Lord does not answer. You pray for the Lord’s blessings, yet you do not see the blessings. You have been praying for years, asking the Lord to make the church grow, but the church still has no growth. Your prayers have not been answered because they are prayers of strange fire, natural prayers.
We always have the concept that God will surely hear our prayers because He is merciful and gracious to us. This concept is erroneous. God often does not hear men’s prayers. The reason He does not hear is that we, the praying ones, have not passed through the altar. Some bring with them only the blood of the altar, but not the fire. They pass through the redemption, but not through the termination of the altar.
Please remember, whenever man goes to burn incense at the incense altar, he must fulfill two basic conditions. He must experience the blood which tells us that all those who come there to pray have been redeemed and cleansed. He must also experience the fire which tells us that all those who come there to pray have been consumed and have become ashes.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, if the light of the Lord shines on you strongly, immediately you will not be able to pray for a great number of things. The decrease in the number of your prayers proves that you are being purified. If you recognize that many prayers are prayers of strange fire, you will see that those prayers are neither necessary nor right. You will not dare pray those prayers which are for yourself and not for God’s sake because they are initiated by you, not by God. After you have been terminated by the cross there is a great purification of your prayer.
Some may ask, “As we have thus been terminated, why do we need to even consider praying? Since we have become ashes that neither speak nor think, everything has been terminated. What more, then, do we need to pray about?” Ashes do mean that everything has been terminated. Do not forget, however, that the fire that burns the ashes is still there to burn the incense before God. When we studied the Old Testament types we became clear that the incense refers to the Lord’s resurrection and the fragrance of the Lord in His resurrection. Where the Lord is, there is resurrection. Wherever you and I have been terminated, there is the manifestation of Christ. We first pass through the redemption of the cross before God, accept the termination of the cross, and truly become ashes before God. Then, immediately, Christ becomes the incense which we burn before God.
Strictly speaking, therefore, prayer is both Christ Himself and the expression of Christ. A prayer that is good, right, proper, true, and acceptable to God is the expression of Christ. If you are terminated on the cross, Christ will live out of such a termination. In the case of prayer, Christ is lived out in the prayer. In the case of living, the resurrected Christ is the living. In the ministry, the resurrected Christ is the ministry. Only such a prayer can be acceptable before God and be considered a prayer of sweet-smelling savor. This is a prayer of one who has passed through the cleansing of the blood and the termination of the fire, thus allowing Christ to come forth from within.
Hence, brothers, if you really have a vision of this, you will prostrate yourself before God, confessing your filthiness and your naturalness. You will not be able initially to utter any other prayer. You will see the need to be cleansed by the blood and consumed by the fire. You will say to God, “I am an unclean person, and I am also a natural man. To this day I am still in my natural self. I need Your blood to cleanse me and Your fire to consume me. I need the cross to redeem and also to terminate me.” Brothers, when you thus allow the cross to terminate you, you can, in a practical way, experience Christ coming forth from you. It is this resurrected Christ Who becomes your prayer, the incense which you burn before God. You may not pray many prayers, but those that you do pray will be answered by God.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 13, by Witness Lee)