4 Principles of Prayer to God
Ever since we started believing in the Lord, we knew that praying to God and communing with God is indispensable to our spiritual life. Because God’s word says, “Prayer is one of the ways in which man cooperates with God, it is a means by which man calls upon God, and it is the process by which man is moved by God’s Spirit. It can be said that those without prayer are dead people who are devoid of spirit, which proves that they lack the faculty to be moved by God. Without prayer, it would be impossible to lead a normal spiritual life, much less keep up with the work of the Holy Spirit. To be without prayer is to break off one’s relationship with God, and it would be impossible to win God’s praise. As a believer in God, the more one prays, that is, the more one is moved by God, the more one will be filled with resolution and the better able one will be to receive new enlightenment from God. As a result, this kind of person can very quickly be made perfect by the Holy Spirit.” Here it is mentioned that a person without prayer is not someone living before God; anyone who does not pray has no spirit and vice versa. Prayer is the need in our spiritual life. When we read God’s word, praying can help us gain the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, understand God’s will, and find the way of practice from God’s word; when we encounter dangers and adversities, it is through our prayer that God gives us true faith and courage. So to speak, the more we pray before God, the stronger our faith in God becomes, the more plentiful our understanding of the truth is, and the greater our resolve to love God is. Since prayer can produce such results, some people may ask: For our prayer to be in conformity with God’s will and achieve these results, what principles should we grasp? Now, I’d like to share fellowship on this specifically.
Firstly, the true significance of prayer to God is to understand the truth and attain obedience to God and to worship God. We must not, under any circumstances, engage in religious ceremony.
Praying is one way to worship God. If our prayers are to be effective, firstly, we must find the way within God’s word and understand the true significance of prayer. God’s word says, “Prayer is not a case of just going through the motions, following procedure, or reciting the words of God. That is to say, praying is not parroting certain words and it is not imitating others. In prayer, one must reach the state where one’s heart can be given to God, laying open one’s heart so that it may be moved by God.” “If you know how to pray and do so often, with frequent prayers that are submissive to God and sensible, then your inner state will more often than not be quite normal. If, on the other hand, your prayers consist often of only a few slogans, and you take no burden on yourself, and do not ponder what would or would not be sensible to say in prayer, nor what would not be truly worshipful to say, and never take these matters seriously, then you will never find success in your praying, and your inner state will always be abnormal. You will never get deeper into the lesson of, nor deepen your entry into, what normal sense, true submission, true worship, and the perspective with which one should pray are. These are all subtle things.” From God’s word we understand. When we pray, we must harbor right intentions, take an attitude of piety, and have a seeking and obedient heart. Only in this way can our prayers gain God’s approval and conform with God’s will. If we do not pray with seriousness and a quiet heart before God, but pray speaking a few words casually and insincerely, and even unreasonably demanding that God do this or that, then such prayers are not that obeying or worshiping God, but that conducting a religious ceremony and going through the motions. God never accepts such prayers.
Then what is the true significance of prayer? One’s prayer is not for the sake of his own fleshly interests, but rather it is to understand God’s word, to practice the truth according to God’s word, and to act in accordance with God’s will. The Lord Jesus said, “But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Mat 6:33). Here we see that praying ought to be for the purpose of God’s work, for satisfying God, and for doing His will. Take Peter’s prayer as an example. No matter what things he encountered, he would pray with a submissive heart to seek out God’s will. He ceased to be his own master even in food, clothing, and shelter; instead, he strictly required himself to practice in accordance with the Lord’s word. So all his prayers were in concert with God’s will and all that he did could glorify God. Eventually, he was perfected by God, and became a person who was truly obedient to God and who had real worship of God. But the Pharisees’ prayers were completely different. Their prayers were entirely for the sake of maintaining their status and livelihood, for establishing and exalting themselves. Moreover, in order to deceive those ignorant common people into worshiping and obeying them, they purposely stood in the synagogues and at crossroads to engage in long prayers. Therefore, the Lord Jesus criticized them by saying, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore you shall receive the greater damnation” (Mat 23:14). Through the word of the Lord Jesus, we can see that the Pharisees’ prayers were hypocritical and religious. God does not approve of but despises such prayers.
Secondly, we must draw upon our practical difficulties and problems when praying to God. We must not depart from reality and speak empty words, or talk of letters and doctrines.
In our real life, we always encounter all kinds of difficulties. At this time, how should we pray to God? God says, “The minimum that God requires of man is that man be able to open his heart to Him. If man gives his true heart to God and speaks what is truly in his heart, then God is willing to work in him. What God desires is not the twisted heart of man, but a pure and honest heart. If man does not speak from his heart to God, then God will not move his heart or work in him. Therefore, the crux of prayer is to speak to God from your heart, telling Him your shortcomings or rebellious disposition, laying yourself completely open before Him; only then will God be interested in your prayers, or else He will hide His face from you.” God’s word points out a way of practice to us. When we face practical difficulties, we must pray before God with an attitude of godliness, and open up our heart to Him: Speak the words of our heart with honesty; do not speak empty or fake words or lie to deceive Him. But if we shut our hearts to God, and just say some high- and nice-sounding words to deceive God, then God cannot see our honest hearts, and so He will not approve of such prayers. For example, some people pray to God, “Oh God! I am willing to dedicate my whole self to You. I am willing to devote all that I have to You!”, but afterward they do nothing for God. Some people say, “Oh God! I’d like to expend for You and to offer my heart to You. I’d like to serve You and be loyal to You,” but after saying that, they still rebel against God as they did before, is this not deceiving God? Some people pray to God, saying: “Oh, God! I am willing to forsake everything to follow You,” but having prayed, they give nothing up. Some people say to God, “Oh, God, I will love You my whole life long,” but actually, they never love God in their life—what they love are themselves, their flesh, their children, and their money. Look at these prayers. They are all empty words deceptive to God. This is sufficient to prove that we are too impious before God, and that we do not have a God-revering heart at all. God doesn’t listen to our prayers like this, so they are fruitless. If we do not repent but continue praying in this way, we will be detested by God.
Thirdly, we must frequently pray to God about the problems of performing our duty and entering into life, seeking to understand the truth and enter reality.
When expending for God in fulfilling our duty, many brothers and sisters believe that as long as we confess our sins and repent more in our prayer before the Lord, spread the gospel for the Lord more, do more work and preach more sermons, then we will conform with God’s will and be praised by God. But in fact, this is not true. Such practice is wrong. Because in fulfilling our duty, there are still lots of problems and situations to be resolved. God’s word says, “When fulfilling your duty or working on something, you should always think: How should I fulfill this duty? What is God’s will? It is for you to draw close to God through what you do, and, in doing so, to seek the principles and truth behind your actions as well as God’s will, and not stray from God in anything that you do. Only such a person truly believes in God. These days, whenever people come across things, regardless of what the actual situation is, they think they can do this and that, so they do not have God in their hearts, and they do it according to their own will. Regardless of whether their course of action is suitable or not, or whether it is in accordance with the truth or not, they just stubbornly press on, and act according to their personal intentions. It might usually seem that God is in their hearts, but when they do things, God is not in their hearts. Some people say, ‘I can’t draw close to God in the things I do. In the past, I was accustomed to performing religious ceremonies, and I tried to draw close to God, but it was to no effect. I could not draw near to Him.’ Such people do not have God in their hearts; they only have themselves in their hearts, and they simply cannot put truth into practice in anything they do. Not acting in accordance with truth means doing things according to their own will, and doing things according to their own will means leaving God; that is, they do not have God in their hearts. Human ideas usually look good and right to people, and they appear as though they would not violate the truth very much. People feel that doing things in such a manner would be putting truth into practice; they feel that doing things that way would be submitting to God. Actually, they are not truly seeking God or praying to God about it, and they are not striving to do it well, in accordance with God’s requirements, in order to satisfy His will. They do not possess this true state, nor do they have such a desire. This is the greatest mistake people make in their practice. You believe in God, but you do not keep God in your heart. How is this not a sin? Are you not deceiving yourself? What sort of effects can you reap if you keep believing that way? Moreover, how can the significance of belief be manifested?” From God’s word we can understand that the fulfillment of the duty is a path by which our life may grow. Duty is entrusted to us by God, and we should develop a true burden for it. When we fulfill our duty, it is not the case that as long as we accomplish things that God has entrusted to us, then we are satisfying God. If we do not seek to solve the difficulties and problems in our duty, can we satisfy God? Therefore, we should ask and pray more before God, find a way to practice in His word, and fulfill our duty according to His requirements. We also should at all times reflect on whether we have our own thoughts adulterated in the fulfillment of our duty or whether we are doing something that betrays the truth and principles, and after we find them, we should turn around quickly. If we can seriously treat everything God entrusts to us like this, then our life will grow in the course of fulfilling our duty, and our corrupt disposition will gradually be cleansed and changed. In fact, not only should we focus on practicing God’s word in fulfilling our duty, but we should live by God’s word in our work and daily life. Only when we always practice in this way can we understand the truth and enter into its reality, change our life disposition, and become a person that is commended by God.
Fourthly, there must be reverence for God in our prayers, and we must be reasonable. We must not make demands of God, coerce God, or take advantage of God, much less may we make trades with God.
God’s word says, “One should pray with a seeking, submissive heart. When something has befallen you, for instance, and you are not sure how to handle it, you might say, ‘God! I do not know what to do about this. I wish to satisfy You in this matter, and to seek Your will. May Your will be done. I wish only to do as You will, not as I will. You know that all human will is contrary to Yours, and resists You, and does not accord with the truth. I ask that You enlighten me, give me guidance in this matter, and let me not offend You….’ That is the appropriate tone for a prayer. If you merely say, ‘God, I ask that You help me, guide me, furnish me with the right environment and the right people, and let me do my work well…,’ then, after your prayer, you will still not have grasped God’s will, as you will have been asking God to act according to your own will.” God’s word gives us a way to practice praying to God. When we pray, we should stand in the right position and be reasonable; we should not make demands of God, or coerce God into doing this or that. No matter what kind of difficulties we meet, or whether we understand God’s will, we must pray with reverence for God, standing in the position of a creature and keeping a heart of obedience to God. Take the Lord’s prayer as an example. Before the crucifixion, the Lord Jesus prostrated Himself on the ground and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as you will” (Mat 26:39). From this we can see that even when the incarnate God prayed to the heavenly Father, He still maintained an obedient heart, completely acted according to the will of God the Father, and had no choice of His own. But in real life, our prayers are not reasonable. We often demand God do this or that to achieve our own aims without the slightest reverence for God. We force our own desires upon God and ask Him to do things in accordance with our ideas, and we demand things from God with the intention of conducting transactions with God. For example, in the face of difficulties, many people do not care about God’s will, but only pester Him with incessant prayers that include assistance for solving their problems; when some people encounter sickness, they do not seek to understand God’s will, but only ask God to give them a quick cure, and take away the torment of their sickness; moreover, there are also some people who always ask God to bless their families, their relatives, their everything, and so forth. All of these prayers are unreasonable, without submission, and do not conform with God’s will.
Mentioned above are the four principles of praying to God and imploring God. So long as we grasp them, practice and apply them in our real life, we shall obtain enlightenment and illumination from God, understand God’s will, and receive God’s guidance and leadership.
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