III. THIS LIFE ABSOLUTELY HATES SINS
Since the life of prayer within us is also a life that hates sins, one who wishes to learn how to pray must also thoroughly deal with sins. This life within man has a characteristic that hates sins and also an ability that enables man to deal with sins. If you are even slightly defiled by sins, or love the world a little, immediately there is the consciousness within that you do not correspond to the characteristic of this life. Not only sins and the world, but even a little pride, criticism, despising others, introspection, self-boasting, or presumptuous thought will make you unable to pray. Any dishonesty, unfaithfulness, unrighteousness, or injustice will quench the life of prayer.
There is nothing that causes a man to be dealt with before God more severely than prayer. A proper man of prayer is always being dealt with before God when he prays. Some have learned such a strict lesson that often out of twenty minutes of prayer, fifteen minutes are spent being dealt with by God, while only the remaining five minutes are used to ask something of God. Unfortunately, others are not like this. They always ignore the demands and the condemnations of the life within. They go before God in a very light way and, without being dealt with, immediately open their mouth to pray. Such prayer is just beating the air, is unreal, and is not readily answered by God.
If you do not deal with sins properly, they will create a distance between you and God. The more the sins, the greater the distance will be, making you unable to pray to God. Therefore, in order to eliminate the distance, you need to first deal with sins. In your prayer you need to confess your sins one by one according to the inner consciousness of life. With each confession you make, you advance one step. After you have confessed all your sins thoroughly, the distance is gone, and when you open your mouth to pray, you will definitely be able to touch God. Your words are not beating the air; rather, every word is able to touch God.
Herein the faith of prayer also issues forth. Whenever you go before God to pray, the life in you hates sins and has the consciousness of them. You must confess your sins one by one according to what it condemns. Then this life releases you within and justifies you. Now you are one who is before God, having no distance or barrier between you and Him. At this time, as there is neither condemnation nor a leak in your conscience, every word penetrates to God. After such prayer, spontaneously you have the assurance, and you are able to believe that God has heard your prayer.
If you allow your sins to remain and you pray without dealing with them, there will surely be a distance between you and God, and your conscience will definitely condemn you. If there is a hole or a leak in your conscience, it is difficult to have faith after you pray. If one’s conscience has a hole, his faith will leak out. In other words, one whose conscience is impure and has a leak cannot easily have faith. Though he may pray, he does not have the assurance, for his prayer does not lay hold of God. Please remember, to have the assurance that your prayer touches God, you must deal with your sins according to the demands issuing from the sin-hating nature that is within you. This is a great principle in the Bible.
Consider the story of the Samaritan woman in John, chapter four. When she found that the Lord Jesus had living water to quench her thirst, she asked of Him immediately, saying, “Sir, give me this water.” She wanted the living water. But the Lord Jesus replied by touching the matter of her sins. The Lord said, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” Whenever we go before God to pray, the Lord touches the matter of our sins. Also, He will touch whatever failings we have in our intentions, motives, actions, or attitudes.
Brothers and sisters, when the Lord touches our failings, are we willing to receive His correction? This is a big problem. Take for example, a brother who has obviously offended his wife. When he prays, the sin-hating life gives him a feeling that he must not only confess his sin before God, but also ask forgiveness from his wife. Being a proud man, he would not ask forgiveness from his wife and consequently, because of his unwillingness to deal with this matter, he would not be able to pray anymore. This continues for a long period of time, until one day God so compels him that he has to go before his wife and bow his head, saying, “I was wrong in that matter on that day, please forgive me.” Wondrously, when he thus confesses, the life in him immediately releases him and he is able to pray again.
Here is another example. Suppose that during the Lord’s table meeting you become disgusted with a brother’s prayer, and because of your disgust, when you go home you cannot pray. In order for you to pray, you have to first confess this sin. At that time, you have to go according to the sense of condemnation in you and say to the Lord, “O Lord, at the Lord’s table I despised that brother’s prayer. Do forgive me.” You must confess your sin or you cannot pray, and you will always feel that there is a distance between you and God. Unless you confess your sins, your prayers cannot touch God. All these principles are related to the life within us.
Therefore, the best way to cause a man to hate sins, condemn sins, reject sins, and stay far away from sins is for him to come before God in prayer. If you have not prayed even once in three days, it is useless to reckon yourself dead daily; the sins are still upon you and you cannot overcome them. But if you regularly go before God to pray and to deal with sins according to the inner sense of life, eventually you will be free from your sins, your inner being will be quickened, and you will love to pray and will be able to pray, for the life of prayer is a life that hates sins.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)