I’ve found an extremely profound and useful sharing on prayer by Watchman Nee in his book, A Living Sacrifice (Basic Lessons Vol. 1). I’ll like to crystallise some of his insights to enhance your prayer lives.
Conditions for Answered Prayer
Christians should learn how to pray specifically, not generally. (Jas. 4:2; Lk. 11:9-10)
2. Do not ask amiss
Men may ask God for their needs, but they are not supposed to ask unreasonably or beyond their measure. Ask God to supply your needs, not your wants or lusts. (Jas. 4:3)
3. Sin must be dealt with
If anyone has a known sin in his heart and his heart clings to it, his prayer will not be heard by God. (Ps. 66:18) You must confess your sin first (Prov. 28:13).
Pray: “Here is a sin which my heart does regard and finds hard to give up, but now I ask for your forgiveness. I am willing to forsake it; I ask you to deliver me from it that it may not remain with me. I do not want it and I resist it.”
4. Must Believe
One must believe when he is praying, because if he believes then he shall receive. What is faith? Faith is believing that he receives what he prays for. (Mk. 11:12-24)
We have a wrong concept of faith. We pray in faith so we “shall receive” rather than believing we “have receive”. Watchman relates an incident where a woman was praying for healing. She prayed in faith that God “will heal” rather than praying that God “has healed” her. This is not faith, it is hope. She tried to get out of bed in order that God would heal her and Watchman urgently warned her against it because: “First faith, then work. Such work is living. If work precedes faith, it is dead. This is a basic principle. If you believe that you are healed, then your getting out of bed is living; otherwise it is dead.”
The next day, she died.
Faith is when you are brought to the place whereby you can claim God has already heard your prayer. Somehow you know that God has heard you and more prayer is not necessary.
Prayer is divided into two parts: In the first part, praying till promise is given. In the second part, praising God till the realisation of the promise. The diagram below illustrates this concept:
Watchman describes it in another way. Normal prayer has two focal points: Praying for something and then receiving it. However, true prayer has three focal points that lies in between both: Faith, this confidence that you’ve received what you prayed for already in the Spirit.
Thus it can be illustrated as 1) No Faith to Faith, 2) Praising from Faith to actual possession. It is crucial that we praise in the second part and not pray. Watchman solemnly warns that further prayer could destroy faith.
How can one maintain faith? By praising the Lord: “O Lord, I praise You, for You have heard my prayer. You heard me a month ago.”
5. Keep on Praying
He cites the parable of the persistent widow who wore out the judge to give in to her requests as our example (Lk. 18:1). We must keep praying till faith comes, as it were, troubling God till he has to hear you.
Get a Prayer Book
This is crucial to record what you’ve prayed for and how God has answered you. Over the years, this forms a confidence that God is faithful to answer. If our prayers are not heard, something is wrong. I love this quote by him:
Unless the way to God is clear, the way to men is blocked. He who is powerless before God is powerless before men. Men ought to seek to have power in prayer before God; otherwise they will be useless persons.
Make a book as such:
What should you pray for? He lists 4 items:
a. Pray that all people of the world to be saved
b. Pray for the full restoration of Israel.
c. Pray for God to give grace, gifts, light and life to the church.
d. Pray for your country that Christians may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim 2:2).
Prayer Has Two Ends
Prayer has two ends: one end is in the person who prays and the other end is the thing or person prayed for. Oftentimes the first end needs to undergo transformation before the other end can be changed. Ask the Lord if you need to be changed first. Deal with your sins.