On the Three Stages of Prayer
The Three Stages of Prayer
During God’s work in the last days, from when people begin having faith in God to when they have achieved salvation and been perfected by God, the prayers people have may fall into three stages, which are: the searching stage, the entering stage, and the obeying stage. The searching stage of prayer primarily occurs from when people begin having faith to when they enter onto the right track of having faith in God. This stage typically lasts for two to three years. During this stage, people are unclear about what salvation is, how to pursue the truth, and what it is to obey God because early in their faith, they do not understand the truth; so their faith in God is in the searching stage. This is a stage that we have all experienced, and it is in the first two to three years of early faith where people do not know how they should pray to God, or what they should say when they pray. Every time they come before God they may feel a bit tongue-tied, not know what they should seek or what they should fellowship about. Even if they wish to fellowship about something, they do not know the right things to say, so their prayers in this stage are all searching prayers. For example, some have said: “I also want to obey God, but how should I pray if I want to do that?” There are also others who have said: “I also want to pursue salvation, but I don’t know how to pray to God.” These are things said by people in the searching stage who do not know how to pray. Now people who are in the first or second year of their early faith may feel they don’t have much to say during prayer. Those who are more active in their pursuit may have more to say when fellowshiping with others and they might have a better knowledge of what to fellowship about, but, when it comes to praying to God, they feel very tongue-tied and don’t know what to say. This is sufficient to show that during the stage of the first two to three years of having faith, people have read too little of God’s word and understand too little about God’s word and so they have little to say during prayer, which truly shows that they are in the searching stage. The second stage is the entering stage. The entering stage refers to the stage which begins when people, after having believed in God for two to three years, have come to understand the truth of having faith in God and the truth of achieving salvation and begun to enter onto the right track of having faith in God. This continues on until they have truly achieved salvation when believing in God, which generally lasts for three to five years. During this stage, people have begun to enter into the reality of life in their prayers because they have come to understand some truths, they know why people must have faith in God, they know the path to salvation and how to enter into it, and they know how to pursue salvation. During this time, because people have understood some truths when believing in God, they are able to seek the truth during prayer and pray according to God’s word, and they are able to fellowship with God through prayer about what they have understood in His words, as well as what they need to enter into. So at this stage, their prayers are beginning to enter onto the right track. There are currently some people who have tasted the sweetness of having entered onto the right track. They feel that after having entered onto the right track, they have things to say during prayer, they have ways to practice, and they have a goal to pursue and they are no longer searching. They feel that faith in God is very practical and realistic and it comes easy to them, so in this stage they don’t feel that prayer is too difficult; they know what to pray about, they know what their prayers should be centered around and they know how to pray so that it suits God’s will. For these reasons, this stage is the entering stage of prayer. I now see that there are some who have already begun to enter the right track, so their prayers have also begun to progress on the right track. During this stage, when people come before God to pray they feel that they have something to say and deep in their hearts they know how they should pray in accordance with God’s will; they know what things they should pray for and what they shouldn’t, and they know what truths their prayers should be centered around. There are some truth pursuers who are even able to pray for the sake of obeying God, satisfying God, and being considerate of God’s will. These are the results achieved by people who pursue the truth more actively. Prayers during this entering stage are ones which lay the foundation and during this phase people have begun to enter into all of the truth; they have begun to know and understand God’s word, their heart becomes full of light and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. After people have entered into this phase, they will no longer feel their faith in God to be difficult and they will have fully entered onto the right track. The third stage is the obeying stage. This stage refers to the stage in which people have understood many truths, and their viewpoints on things have undergone fundamental changes, they have true obedience to God, and they are able to pay the price to pursue the truth, able to be dedicated to expending themselves for God, and willing to accept being perfected by God. So it is called the obeying stage. During this stage, a person’s stature has begun to grow and they know to expend themselves for God and be considerate of God’s burden; they are willing to perform some duties for the sake of God’s chosen people as well as willing to help and serve them. This stage usually begins from when a person begins to dedicate themselves to expending for God to when they have been perfected by God, which usually lasts for more than five years. All who have entered into this stage are able to essentially make prayers after God’s heart, they are basically able to center their prayers around God’s burdens, around their entry into life, and around the truths they should seek and enter into. This stage is a critical time period for people to receive God’s salvation and be perfected by Him. All those who have entered into the obeying stage of prayer are pursuers of the truth and they are all pursuing perfection by God. Generally speaking, the prayers of those who have entered the obeying stage all possess their knowledge of and obedience to God as well as the characteristic of bearing testimony to God. Furthermore, at most times when people in the obeying stage pray, their primary concern is having a deeper knowledge of themselves as well as a knowledge of their corrupt substance. They often examine the disobedience, resistance, and corruptions deep within their heart. They are able to know themselves to a very detailed degree, and are even able to discover the disobedience and corruptions within their very bones and within the depths of their heart. Therefore, prayers during this stage are prayers that allow one to have profound entry into life and are prayers that can allow one to be fully cleansed. It may be said that every prayer of the obeying stage can only be from people who are beginning to accept being perfected by God. Because there are relatively few who can enter the obeying stage, the majority are people who serve God, church leaders, and those who have taken on a considerable amount of burden for the life of God’s chosen people; these are the only people who can enter into this stage. Every person who has taken on a burden for God’s chosen people and who is willing to give of themselves and expend for God—assuming they have come to possess some truths, have some obedience to God and some true knowledge of Him—then they can achieve the result that they enter into this stage of prayer. The prayers of people in the obeying stage are their fellowship with God originating from the depths of their heart, and are their true communion with God based on their true knowledge of Him that they have gained through experiencing various trials and refinements. We have seen that after Peter had the experience and testimony of knowing God, some of his prayers were prayers that may be classified as being in the obeying stage. We can see from prayers in this stage that people obviously express their genuine will to obey God and how true their love is for God. The testimony of Job may also be classified as being a prayer of the obeying stage, where Job said: “Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah.” This sentence represents Job’s knowledge of God and faith in Him. For this reason, every prayer in the obeying stage will have the characteristics of knowing God and obeying God, while also praising God. Therefore, this type of prayer is classified as a testimony to God and is a prayer that best meets God’s will. It may be said that every prayer like this is made by someone who has stood their testimony to God through the trials they endured. Later on, when God formally chastises the great red dragon, all of God’s chosen people will enter the final trial and at that time many people will issue forth prayers that show knowledge of, submission to, and praise to God, just like Job’s and Peter’s prayers. There will be many prayers like that during that time period, but now there are only a few who could pray like that. These are the three stages of prayer and which stage someone who believes in God is at can be seen based on their own stature and can be confirmed basically from how long they have believed in God.
A Few Results That Can Be Achieved Through Prayer
In the past we often said that God is Spirit and God’s divine substance is Spirit, and that even when God is incarnated, His divine substance is still Spirit. It is only through his spirit that one may contact God’s Spirit, so the only way for mankind to contact God is by praying to God with their heart and spirit. But what results can be achieved by prayers? When we pray to God with our heart and spirit, we will feel that God is with us, we will feel that we are truly speaking to God, that we are fellowshiping with Him, and moreover we are able to enjoy the peace and joy that the Holy Spirit bestows upon us. After we pray, we will feel particularly enriched, steady, and a very special feeling of enjoyment in our spirit. This is because when man prays to God, they are able to feel the enjoyment of being with God as well as feel peace and happiness in their spirit. This is the first result that can be achieved by prayer, where one is able to feel that God truly exists and one can feel the enjoyment that the Holy Spirit’s work brings to them. This brings man closer to God and brings man’s heart closer to God as well. The more we pray, the more we feel that God is worthy for mankind to rely on and trust in Him, so when we live in the presence of God and communicate with Him we feel peace, steadiness, and we feel that we can rely on God; this is the first result of prayer that can be confirmed by anyone who prays. … The first feeling prayer can bring is that we feel we come closer to God through prayer, and that through prayer we are able to truly enjoy the peace and happiness in our spirit and the presence of God. Through prayer, we feel how tremendously reliable and worthy of our trust God is. Therefore, no matter what situation we face or what calamity arises, if we pray with our hearts to God, we will receive immediate peace and steadiness in our hearts, and we will know that we can rely on God and will be free from fear. This is the first feeling. Secondly, it is through prayer and seeking that we unconsciously come to understand God’s word, unconsciously become enlightened when pondering God’s word and the truth, unconsciously come to have an increasing knowledge of the truth, and also unconsciously develop a knowledge of God. This is precisely the result that can be achieved through prayer and serves to prove that prayer—especially prayer that meets God’s will—is the necessary path to gain the work of the Holy Spirit. If you did not pray, not even a little, the effects from your reading of God’s word and your pondering of it would be greatly reduced. Oftentimes, when you have finished praying, you might not feel that you immediately understand the truth or that you immediately understand God’s word or that you are instantly enlightened or illuminated, but after some time, you will feel that you have an unconscious understanding of the truth and God’s word; you will unconsciously have knowledge of these things. Is this “unconscious understanding” not from the work of the Holy Spirit? So, no one knows when or how the Holy Spirit works, but after some time, you will get what you pray for, for God will fulfill your prayer and bring you satisfaction. This is the result that is achieved through prayer. If you do not have prayers like this then you will not unconsciously achieve any of these effects. There are also many people who are terribly lacking when it comes to prayer and they don’t say anything to God or pray to Him. The result is that they have very little understanding of God’s word and the truth, so it isn’t good to pray too little. For man to be able to understand the truth and achieve salvation and be perfected by God, it is crucial that man relies on prayer to obtain the work of the Holy Spirit. For people who pray too little, it is certain that they receive too little the Holy Spirit’s work, and thus it is certain that they also understand far too little of the truth. Furthermore, there is a third result achieved through prayer. There are many times when you might aspire to practice the truth and obey God but you just don’t have the energy, or when you encounter a difficult or an adverse environment and you might wish to satisfy God but you lack the strength to do so or are otherwise powerless to do so. You might feel puzzled and think, “Why doesn’t my flesh have the strength for this? I want to satisfy God and obey Him but I have no energy, and I have no strength to practice the truth.” If people do things that do not accord with God’s will or things of the flesh—things that are for themselves or for their flesh, they seem to have plenty of strength for that. Yet when they do things for the truth, for the kingdom, or for God, they just don’t have the energy; this is something everyone has experienced. However, after praying a few times, you might not feel the same. After the prayers, people will find the strength to obey God and the energy to practice the truth, and their resolve to satisfy God becomes firm. Think for a moment: Where does that strength come from? Does it come from your flesh? No, this is something that is gained through prayer and it is through prayer that we gain the work of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gives us strength. If you do not have prayers like this, you won’t gain strength from the Holy Spirit; and if you don’t have strength from the Holy Spirit, how can you practice the truth, enter into God’s word, or expend yourself for God? It is especially true now when the oppression and persecution of the great red dragon are most frantic: If you don’t rely on prayer, can you have proper belief in God? Can you follow God all the way? If you don’t rely on prayer, can you fulfill your duty properly? All these things depend on the strength that God gives us. Therefore, if you do not pray, you will have no way to obey God and you will have no way to submit to His work and no way to do His will. Prayer is so crucial for us believers in God to pursue the truth and be perfected by God. Prayer opens the road for us and guides us along the way and finally, it is through prayer that we receive from God the strength to practice the truth, fulfill our duties properly, and satisfy God. For this reason, prayer serves a crucial function in our experience of life.
Principles of Practice for Prayer While Undergoing God’s Trials
When you have been in various situations, do you know how to pray in accordance with God’s will? How should you pray in certain situations and what words should you use during prayer? There are also minor details in this. For example, if you had been in the situation Job was in, how would you have prayed? If you were subject to persecution and tribulations, how would you pray then? If you were forsaken by someone, how would you pray? These are all things that involve the truth. You must first have a thorough understanding of things that involve the truth, you must know them in your heart, and you must first think about them and analyze these things with your understanding of the truth. When you have analyzed and understood these things, you will have a solution for how to pray to God and what you should say to Him. You must first use the truth and use God’s word to analyze these things, this is crucial. Think about the trial Job underwent. When Job had just learned from his messengers what was happening, tell me, was Job able to pray straight away? What immediate prayer could he make? If he did, he only had a sentence he could say in prayer on such short notice, such as: “Oh Lord, all my property has been robbed, what shall I do?” Job could only say such a sentence in prayer, right? If he had given it some consideration in his mind, he might have thought: “Why did they rob my things? Where did these robbers come from? Who have I offended? Why did they want to take my things?” Job had to first think about the situation before he understood it, and then he thought: “Oh! God allowed this to happen. If God had not allowed it, would the robbers have been able to rob me?” Job was certain of a fact: God had allowed this to happen. You see, once Job was certain of this fact, what he said in his prayer would be much better, he would have something to say and could submit to God, right? When Job prayed at this moment he would certainly make such a prayer: “Oh God, these people robbed me of my things, and now I understand that You have allowed this. Had You not, this never would have befallen me.” You see, this was the kind of prayer that he could make. If Job had further analyzed and considered the situation, he might have pondered: “Where did my property come from? Is it mine or was it given to me by God? If it was given to me by God, then God can take it away, so should I even complain to God about this?” This is how he thought it over, and he understood the situation this way: “That’s right, since these things were given to me by God and God then allowed the robbers to take them away, I shouldn’t complain to God about this. I have nothing to say and can only submit to Him. Because God gives and God takes away. Can I complain to God about that? I will not complain to God on this matter.” Job had gained further understanding about this and when he prayed he had something to say, right? Therefore, no matter what befalls you, you must use your understanding of the truth to analyze it; thoroughly understand the situation and look deeply into it to see whether or not it was because of God. If it is from God, we should treat it one way; if it’s not from God, we should treat it differently and find out exactly how to meet God’s intentions and what exactly we should do to satisfy God. Sometimes, you might run into a situation and not be able to figure it out in a day’s time. If you can’t see it clearly, don’t be anxious; you might need a night’s sleep and then the next day you might see things more clearly. You should seek God through prayer and say, “Oh God, this situation has befallen me and even now I still don’t understand it, I just can’t see it clearly and I don’t know how I should pray to You. I ask that You enlighten me so that I may understand.” After you seek the answer from God, wait a day or so and you may have some knowledge of the situation. If you then fellowship with someone, you will gain basic knowledge. After that, you can know what you should do to meet God’s will and to stand witness. You will also understand what kind of practice goes against God, resists God, and make you lose the ability to stand witness. After becoming clear on these you will know how to pray to God, and what to do; this is a lesson we must all learn for every situation. From analyzing a situation to achieving understanding, submission, and practicing in accordance with God’s will; from beginning to end all of these things are achieved through prayer and prayer cannot be excluded. Therefore, no matter what befalls you—especially in serious matters—prayer must absolutely play a part. For every situation one must pray at least several times for several days—at least twice per day—until you have a grasp of what is happening, until you know how to submit to God, how to satisfy God and how to do the right thing. This is the way to fully achieve results. This is a method of practice that ‘everyone must have in their experience of God’s work, and it is how prayer should be applied in every situation to understand God’s intentions and to satisfy God.
Opening Your Heart to God is Very Crucial in Prayer
Whether or not a believer, in God’s presence, can achieve salvation depends upon how that person prays to God. Prayer is indeed very crucial! If you do not pray correctly, or the manner in which you pray is not correct, or if your prayers harbor wrong intentions and you do not open your heart and don’t give yourself to God or lay your heart bare for Him, then you won’t receive the work of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t receive the work of the Holy Spirit, then your faith in God is completely empty. Therefore, whether or not you are truly able to gain the work of the Holy Spirit depends on how you pray. How you pray to God relies on whether or not your heart is correct. What kind of heart you have determines what type of prayer you make. If your heart is correct then your prayer will be correct. If your heart is wrong, then your prayers will also be wrong. For this reason, prayer depends on whether someone’s heart is correct. We often say that we should carry ourselves as dignified and upright people, but what is the basis for the expression of dignity and uprightness? The basis is one’s heart. If a person’s heart is dignified and upright, then they themselves will certainly be the same. If someone’s heart is not good and lacks dignity and uprightness, then they as a person will show the same defects. From the heart flows the springs of life—there is nothing untrue about this—a person’s conduct and deeds come completely from their heart. Therefore, when you pray before God it is crucial to see what is in your heart. Some people have wondered: “So if one’s heart is not correct, then one’s prayers will forever be incorrect?” That depends on how you have prayed. Even if your heart is incorrect and your heart harbors certain intentions and carries contrariness, nonetheless, if you have a heart that pursues the truth and thirsts for God and you give yourself to God and give your heart to God, then the work of the Holy Spirit will move you such that you can see what kind of heart you have. The Holy Spirit will illuminate you and enlighten you so that you will know what things in your heart should be discarded. If you achieve this result and gain the work of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will then gradually change what is in your heart; this is why how you pray is crucial. If in your heart you still cling to the ways of the world, and cling to money and vanity, what kind of prayer should you make? Your prayer should probably go something like: “Oh Almighty God, I have discovered that in my own heart I do not love the truth and I still cling to things like money. I want to let that go but I cannot. I especially cling to vanity, which I want to put behind me but I cannot. I ask that Your Spirit do work on me and I am willing to give my heart to You. I ask that You cleanse my heart and I ask that You change my heart.” This is the type of prayer you should have. After you have prayed many times, you will slowly discover: Wow! The Holy Spirit has enlightened you, which will allow you to see what things in your heart are incorrect. At that time, you can pray to God again and the Holy Spirit will show you something. Then you may take what the Holy Spirit has shown you and pray to God about it thusly: “Oh God, I now see. I have discovered the problems that are in my heart and I have discovered that my heart clings to money and dwells on vanity. I have seen how my heart does not love the truth, but I want You to change that in my heart. I ask that You punish me and discipline me.” When you have prayed this way several times, you will unconsciously be able to set aside your clinging to money and you will no longer have interest in vanity. Instead, you will gain more and more interest in the truth. Isn’t this change? this is having your heart changed by God. There will be many times where we will not feel how the Holy Spirit works, but in our lives and in our thoughts and in our dispositions we will nevertheless undergo change, unbeknownst to us. This is the wonderful works of God; because your prayer was correct, your prayer brought you salvation and your prayer changed you. Therefore, no matter how much contrariness you have in you or how corrupt you are or how much you have been poisoned by Satan, if you have a heart that loves God, a heart that submits to God, belief in Almighty God, belief that God can save you and if you can give yourself to God and open your heart to Him, then you will definitely be able to obtain the work of the Holy Spirit. It can be said that praying like that is incredibly valuable. If we entrust ourselves to God, entrust our hearts to God, seek God’s punishment and discipline for us, and seek out more of God’s word which will judge and chastise us, then surely the work of the Holy Spirit will be done upon us. This is how we can use prayer to save ourselves and use prayer to change our conditions. If you never truly pray to God, or you pray with rigid religiosity or pray with a deceitful nature to God, then your life disposition will never be changed; no matter how many years you have attended the meetings, you will never see any changes to your life’s disposition. Why is that? It’s because you don’t have a heart that pursues the truth and you have essentially never truly prayed before God, so God will not work on you.