I served as a worker in a rural church in China for over twenty years, after I became a Christian. One day, in the winter of 2007, my distant relative Xiaozhao paid a visit to me with another sister by the name of Yu. Because we all believed in and served God for years, we communicated with each other about the things concerning belief in the Lord. In the conversation, I found that Sister Yu’s knowledge was full of the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and edified me a lot. By the time the discussion was over, it was already noon, so I asked the two sisters to stay and have lunch in my home. Before the meal, my wife and I made a prayer at table, but I found they didn’t. After the meal, we continued a casual chat. Sister Yu said, “Brother, everyone who believes in the Lord knows our daily food and necessities are bestowed by the Lord. As a devout Christian, we ought to offer up thanks and praises to the Lord. But consider this: We say the same things at every prayer before every meal; will the Lord really hear such prayers of ours? Will He be pleased with them? In my opinion, the Lord won’t listen to such prayers, nor will He like them.” After I heard her words, my face darkened, and I said, “I was just wondering why you didn’t pray before the meal. I don’t agree with what you said. Our daily food and necessities are bestowed by the Lord; will He dislike it when we offer up thanksgiving prayers to Him for that? I’ve practiced it for over twenty years, and I’ve never heard such a saying that the Lord will disapprove of such prayers.” Noticing that I was a little displeased, Sister Zhao continued, “Brother, we don’t mean that it is wrong to pray, but that we should tell what’s on our mind to the Lord sincerely when we pray, rather than do it as a mere outward regulation. The Lord Jesus said, ‘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.’ (Matthew 6: 6-7) The Lord already told us what His will was: He searches everyone’s heart and knows what we think within. He is waiting for us to open our hearts to Him and speak whatever is in our hearts, and He doesn’t want us to make prayers like a regulation. And the Lord also dislikes our repeating the same words every day. This is like our talk. Even we men will be bored when someone says the same words to us over and over again. Will God listen if we pray like that?” I answered back recalcitrantly, “Everyone in every denomination and sect prays in this way, and no one has ever raised any objection about it. It’s the first time I’ve heard such a saying.”
After hearing it, Sister Yu fellowshipped, “As we all know, whether our prayers are heard is not determined by us men, but by God. We as believers of God should do everything to God’s will and should not impose our own ideas and will on God. Take prayer for example. Previously, I thanked God before meals as you did. But after practicing it for a long time, I felt it was pretty boring and tedious. And such prayers made me feel more and more depressed in my heart, and I always felt it was a burden. Repeating the same words in my prayers for one or two hours was so meaningless. But because I had nothing new to say to God in prayers and always asked the Lord for something, I prayed like this in the meetings, ‘O Lord! May You arrange for messengers to enclose a yard with a fence and care for our meeting spots.’ Other brothers and sisters also prayed for their own benefits, such as a peaceful family, a successful career, and the bright futures of their children. Those who had no child prayed to God for a child. Those who didn’t get married prayed to God for giving them a good marriage. Women prayed for a good husband, and men for a virtuous wife. Even in the trivialities that their chickens were ill and oxen stopping eating, and so on, they always asked God to do this or that for them. We regarded the Lord as our ever-present help, our only means of support, and the Savior who granted whatever was asked. Do you think such prayers are after the Lord’s heart? Man’s prayer is all for their own interests and selfish desires. And they have never sought what the Lord’s will is, nor do they pray for the Lord’s commission being carried out on earth. I used to pray like that. But later, I began to understand: Actually, whether it is a true prayer doesn’t depend on how or where you pray. A true prayer means that one has a true association with God with a quiet heart before God. In addition, we should say our prayers with sense and should not simply request the Lord to do this or that for us, for the Lord will never listen to such prayers at all.
Seeing me listen to her carefully, the sister continued, “Brother! Let’s see how the Lord Jesus prayed in the Gethsemane. The Lord Jesus prayed to the heavenly Father from the position of a creature of God, and He prayed in a consultative tone, ‘if it were possible, please take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will.’ He prayed with an obedient heart instead of saying ‘please do for me’ constantly. At the last prayer, He finally touched God’s will and said, ‘May God’s will be accomplished.’ The Lord Jesus could be completely obedient without any personal choices or requirements, which shows that His obedience to God was absolute. Even when He fully knew that being crucified on the cross was very painful, He could still make that obedient prayer. By these deeds, isn’t the Lord telling us to emulate Him? The Lord has served as an exemplar to man and pointed out the way to draw close to Him and seek His will: We should pray to God reasonably and with a heart of obedience to God, and should not insist on our own will and ideas or blindly ask God to do things in a so-and-so way. So, the Lord required us, ‘…when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.’ (John 4:23-24) From the above verses, we know that we should tell what’s on our mind in our prayer and worship God with a true heart, and should not do it as a rigid regulation every day. Prayers like traditional Benedicite before meals every day the Lord won’t hear, for such a practice isn’t after the Lord’s heart.”
The fellowship of Sister Yu left me into a deep meditation: Yes. I have observed all kinds of prayers for over twenty years, but I have never considered carefully whether such prayers are after God’s heart or whether the Lord truly accepts or hears our prayers. Hearing the sister’s fellowship, I realized that I should seek carefully. Thinking of this, I said to Sister Yu, “Sister, though I’ve never heard such a fellowship, I think it is really in line with the truth. I agree with what you said just now: Such a prayer is keeping a regulation, without sense. Although I pray every day outwardly, I feel in my innermost heart that it is a pressure and burden. I don’t know the reason why I do this. But in my opinion, if I don’t do so, I’m not a believer of God. Actually, I indeed regard prayer as a regulation. But if I didn’t practice it, I’m afraid the Lord would blame me for that. In addition, I have nothing to say to the Lord except asking for grace. Can you tell me how to pray to the Lord so that He will be pleased?” Sister Yu nodded and said, “Brother, we all know that the prayer is a way for us to associate with God, a way for man to call to God, and a course of being moved by God’s Spirit as well. Without sincere prayers, one will break off the relationship with God and can’t gain the approval of God. Then, how shall we pray to God to His will? Almighty God says, ‘When you pray, you can quiet your heart before God. Through praying, you seek the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit and know God’s word, so that you can understand God’s will. …your purpose is not to say some nice words or to have a good cry before God to show your indebtedness, but to exercise and use your spirit, to quiet your heart before God and exercise to seek guidance in everything, so that your heart can be attracted by fresh light every day and you will not be passive or lazy and can enter the right track of practicing God’s word. Now most people focus on the practices, and their purpose is not to pursue the truth so that they can grow in life. This is their deviation.’ (from The Word Appears in the Flesh) In other words, when we pray, we should not go through the formality or go through the motions, or just say some pleasant words to thank and praise God, or have a good cry before God to show our indebtedness, but should exercise to quiet our hearts before God and associate with God to receive God’s moving and exercise to seek guidance in everything. When we quiet our hearts before God and seek the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment and illumination through prayers, we’ll know God’s word and understand God’s will.” After hearing this, I asked Sister Yu surprisingly, “How do you know so much? This is the first time I’ve heard such a high message. What you said is the enlightenment and light of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t I have such seeing or understanding? No wonder that no matter how I pray now, I can’t feel the presence of the Lord and my spirit hasn’t been moved for a long time. For that reason, I even doubt whether my heart is numb. Today, I feel energized again after your fellowship.” Sister Yu said happily, “Thank God! It’s the grace of God. If God hadn’t opened up mysteries, no one would have known that by the mind of man.”
Later, they came to my home for another several times to fellowship with me, and I gained a lot every time. When they left, I said to my wife, “Frankly speaking, Sister Yu’s preaching is very high, fresh, and lively. I feel this way originates from the Holy Spirit. But I still have some misgivings within.” My wife asked me, “Is her preaching in line with the Lord’s word? Does it stray from the Lord’s way?” Thank the Lord! My wife’s words awakened me, and I believed that it was the Lord who told me through my wife that since it is a good way and also originates from the Holy Spirit, I should listen to their sermons more. Now there is not any light in our preaching. Every meeting is stagnant, and we can’t feel the presence of the Lord. The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) It was not easy for me to hear such good messages, so I decided not to give it up but continue listening to their sermons, and moreover I intended to ask the brothers and sisters of our church to come and listen to it so that they would also receive the spiritual supply. When the sisters came again, I said to them, “From these fellowships, I understand a lot. I want to take you to my leader’s home, for preaching to him and letting him listen to your sermons. In this way, brothers and sisters could all listen to the good way. Would you like to go?” Hearing that, Sister Yu said, “Thank the Lord! It is the Lord who moves our hearts, opens our spiritual eyes, and lets us understand His will. It is God’s will that brothers and sisters can share His word together and receive His unending supply.” So, we made an appointment to go to the leader’s home for preaching the next evening.
Source: Rainbow Covenant
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