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The Tragedy of Religious Prayers

One day, I came back home from the church meeting, my legs aching. I sat on my bed, patting my two legs and humming a hymn quietly, “We have to praise Jehovah, because all things are out of Him. He is the Ruler of the heavens and earth and all things. There is no other God like Him …” Just as I was singing, my husband opened the door and came in. Seeing him back, I was very excited and asked, “You have finally come back. How come you were out so long this time? It’s been nearly two years.”

My husband put the things with him on the table, explaining, “I’ve been busy these days with the affairs of the church and I couldn’t get away.” Then he came to the bedside and asked me with concern, “Why are you massaging your legs?”

I said, “I received a notice from the upper-level co-workers and had a meeting for a few days. I came home a little while ago. My legs are aching badly. I just massage them to stimulate circulation.”

My husband said with a smile, “Did you kneel to pray for a long time in the meeting?”

I said gruffly, “That’s right. The two co-workers prayed for more than one hour and called on the name of the Lord for over twenty minutes. In the end, they again prayed for more than one hour. It was almost three hours in all. In fact, after praying for forty minutes, I felt my legs were numb and my calves were swollen. I wanted to stand up to relax my legs and reduce soreness, but at the thought that this suffering was approved by God, I had to kneel there and continued praying. Later, when the prayer was finished, I could hardly stand up. I felt tired and painful. I really couldn’t bear it.”

My husband said seriously, “The Lord Jesus has ever said: ‘God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). Prayer is the most direct way for us to worship God. We need to use our heart to pray to the Lord and speak intimate words with Him. That is, we should talk to God about our true state and actual difficulties, rather than show off our eloquence and exhibit ourselves in praying. In the past, when I prayed with brothers and sisters during my sermon, many times I listed verses and said a bunch of nice sounding words. I didn’t pray with my heart. Instead, I wanted to win others’ favor for admiration and let others look up to me. Now, I am very fed up with the way I prayed.”

I said in puzzlement, “Yeah, the Lord Jesus asked us to use our heart and integrity to worship Him. Hearing what you said, I find I also have the viewpoint that if I pray with many words, list many scriptures and pray for a long time, I will be spiritual and others will not look down upon me. Actually, we co-workers also list verses to compare ourselves to each other. That’s the reason why each of us prayed longer than the next.”

My husband said, “In reality, God pays no mind to our half-hearted prayers. In Matthew 6:5-7, it recorded what the Lord Jesus has taught His disciples, ‘And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Truly I say to you, They have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly. But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.’ From these words, we can see that the Lord Jesus loathes the prayers of the hypocrites. But we think that the more words of our prayers are, the happier the Lord will be. In fact, it is not. Our prayers are to flaunt ourselves on purpose and to show off, so that others will mistake our outward practices for our devotion to the Lord. How can such behaviors deceive the Lord?”

After hearing his words, I nodded and said, “What you said is truly so. Well, I find you have had much progress. Where did you get so much light? I have never heard before.”

He said with a smile, “Such understanding was from some words a net friend sent to me the other day. I felt he had his own unique insights about prayer, so I wrote down some of the important passages in my notebook. When I am free, I can ponder them. Let me share them with you.” Saying these words, my husband stood up and walked to the table. He took out his notebook, and began to read, “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.” Then he said, “You see how these words are in accordance with the Lord’s requirements for us. That is to say, prayer is not going through the formalities or following procedure or reciting God’s words. In prayer, we should give our heart to God and speak from our heart to Him.”

Looking at these words, I said, “In this light, our former prayers were mainly reciting verses, parroting words and following procedures, but not giving our hearts to God.”

My husband said, “Hmm” and continued “Well, let me read another passage about what a true prayer is, ‘What is true prayer? It is telling God what is in your heart, communing with God as you grasp His will, communicating with God through His words, feeling especially close to God, sensing He is there before you, and believing you have something to say to Him. Your heart feels filled with light and you feel how lovable God is. You feel especially inspired, and listening to you brings gratification to your brothers and sisters. They will feel that the words you speak are the words within their hearts, the words they wish to say, as though your words were a substitute for their own. This is what true prayer is. After you have engaged in true prayer, your heart will be at peace and will know gratification. The strength to love God can rise up, and you will feel that there is nothing of greater value or significance in life than loving God. All this proves that your prayers have been effective.’ From these words, we can see: The result achieved by true prayers is to draw our heart closer to God, to make us feel God’s dearness and loveliness. Besides, it can make us enjoy the peace and joy God bestows upon us, and obtain deeper knowledge of God’s words. If we always recite the Bible verses to God every day, just as a Buddhist monk chants scriptures, how can the Lord accept and listen to our prayers? Should this continue, we will become further and further from God and even be despised by God. Just like a child who always says the same thing to his parents repeatedly since his childhood, are his parents willing to listen?”

I was silent for a moment with my head bent, and then I said, “It seems that our former way of prayer is really not in line with the Lord’s will. No wonder even when I pray every day, my spiritual condition can’t be invigorated, and I cannot feel the Lord’s presence. Can it be said that it has a direct relationship with our prayer?” My husband looked at me with approval.

Then, I asked again in puzzlement, “We pray twice at a specific time every day, the morning prayer at 5 a.m. and the evening prayer; we deacons and others who have burdens must pray for the brothers or sisters who need help as well as all the other people in the church, asking the Lord to keep these families peace in the Lord; then we pray for the unbelievers, from families to countries, and even pray for the world peace. I don’t know whether such kind of prayer will be listened to by the Lord.”

My husband said with a bitter smile, “Compared to the facts, we will know whether God has listened or not. We pray for the world peace every day, but from the world situation we can see that wars become more and more intense, to the extent of breaking out at any moment. Every country united with each other in military exercises to show his own country’s power. We prayed to God asking Him to forgive man’s sins and remove man’s disasters, but we can see from the TV reports that there are more and more disasters and the scope which they involved is broader and broader. All kinds of phenomena indicate that our prayer has not reached God’s ears, and God doesn’t approve our prayer at all.”

I said, “According to the reality, your words are really true. Though we kneel before the Lord to pray for such a long time every day, the Lord doesn’t seem to listen to our prayers.”

Then he said seriously, “The facts are the best answer. Let me read another passage to you, ‘Like people in the Three-Self Church, who limit themselves to practices such as attending morning services every day, offering evening prayers and prayers of gratitude before meals, and giving thanks in all things—however much they do and for however long they do it, they will not have the work of the Holy Spirit. When people live amidst rules and have their hearts fixed on methods of practice, the Holy Spirit cannot work, because their hearts are occupied by rules and human notions. Thus, God is unable to intervene and work on them, and they can only continue living under the control of laws. Such people are forever incapable of receiving God’s praise. A normal spiritual life is a life lived before God. When praying, one can quiet one’s heart before God, and through prayer, one can seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, know God’s words, and understand God’s will’ (“Regarding a Normal Spiritual Life”). From these words, we can see: If we live within the rituals of religion and rules, all we do will not be approved by the Lord, much less can we receive the Holy Spirit’s work. Moreover, sometimes when we don’t know God’s will, we stubbornly require God to do this or do that, as if we were God’s advisers. We ask God to act in accordance with our thoughts in all things, but don’t quiet our hearts before God to seek His meaning or speak intimately to Him to seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and guidance. We should bear the burden for our own lives, seek and pray often for the truths we don’t understand, and pray for the growth of our spiritual life. Only such prayers are in concert with God’s intentions and will be approved by God.”

I said with excitement, “Thank God for His guidance. In the past, I always thought that if we prayed to or knelt before God for a long time, it showed that we were devout to the Lord; if we could adhere to all kinds of religious rituals, it showed we were loyal to the Lord. In fact, our hearts didn’t quiet before God and we did not have heart-to-heart talks with God. It appears that no matter how long these outward behaviors last, it’s no use; and we cannot receive the Holy Spirit’s work, either. I must quickly share this new light with brothers and sisters in the next meeting, so that they can change their ways of praying which are not in line with God’s will.”

My husband said delightedly, “Let’s leave this here. I am very hungry. Please make some food for me. Then I will fellowship with you about some light regarding another aspect of the truth.”

I said happily, “All right, I will do that at once.”

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