The Key to Prayerby Watchman Nee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Prayer is a matter of great importance in the spiritual life of a Christian. Every true Christian realizes this and prays. However, even though some of the Lord's children spend time praying over many matters, they do not seem to get through in prayer. It seems as if they have not found the way to pray. This is because they have not discovered the key.
In whatever we do, we must first have the key, the secret. If we want to enter a room and the door is locked, we will not find the way in unless we possess the key. Suppose we need two people to carry a table through a door. Some may do it without a problem; but others may do it awkwardly, bumping and banging it in a vain effort to get it through the door. The size of the table and the width of the door is the same; the only difference is with the people who are carrying the table. Some have the key to carrying the table, while others do not. People who have found the key do things well; they are able workers. Once a person gets the key, he can do things twice as fast as others do, while those who do not have the key labor in vain. The same principle applies to prayer. Matthew 7 speaks of principles relating to prayer, one of which is, "He who seeks finds" (v. 8). Seeking requires effort. Anyone who looks in a half-hearted, leisurely manner will probably not find anything. Seeking involves patience and perseverance, and unless we are thorough, we will not find what we seek. If God does not answer our prayers, we must exercise patience and diligently seek the key to prayer. God answered the prayers of many of the saints in the past because they had the key to prayer. By reading the biography of George Müller, the one who founded a number of orphanages, we can see that he was a man of prayer; throughout his entire life, he was always receiving answers to prayer. George Müller had discovered the key. Many earnest Christians pray at great length; they pray wordy prayers, but they do not receive answers from God. In prayer, words are essential, but our words must be to the point; they should be words that touch the heart of God and move Him so that He has no alternative but to grant our requests. Words that are to the point are the key to prayer. These kinds of words match God's will, and He cannot but respond to them. Let us find the key to prayer from a few scriptural illustrations.
When God made known to Abraham that He was about to execute judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, Abraham waited before God. Then he began to pray for Sodom. He did not just open his mouth and say, "O God, have mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah!" He did not beseech God with great intensity, saying, "Oh, forbid that Sodom and Gomorrah should be destroyed!" Abraham laid hold of the fact that God is a righteous God (Gen. 18:25); this was the key to his prayer. In deep humility and with great earnestness, he proceeded to ask God one question after another. His questions were his prayers. As he proceeded in prayer, he stood steadfastly on the ground of God's righteousness. At length he said, "Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there" (v. 32). Following this he did not ask or make any more requests. After God answered, we are told that "the Lord went his way" (v. 33). Abraham did not try to hold on to God; he did not try to go on praying. He returned to his place. Some people may think that Abraham should have continued beseeching God and that he should not have stopped with just ten people. However, the Scriptures show that Abraham knew God, and he knew the key to prayer. He heard the Lord say, "The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and...their sin is very grievous...the cry of it...is come unto me" (vv. 20-21). If there were not even ten righteous people in a city, what kind of a city was it? The Lord loves righteousness and hates lawlessness (Heb. 1:9). He cannot cover sin and refrain from judgment. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was the awful consequence of their sin, and it was the manifestation of God's righteousness. When He overthrew those cities, He did no injustice to a single righteous person; He "rescued righteous Lot, who had been oppressed by the licentious manner of life of the lawless" (2 Pet. 2:7). Abraham's prayer was to the point, and it was answered. There was no unrighteousness with God. He did not "slay the righteous with the wicked" (Gen. 18:25). We worship and we praise Him.
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