I Finally Know How to Pray to Be Heard by God
- Editor’s Note:
Ever since she was little, she observed the various prayers of religious ritual with her parents. However, all along, she wasn’t able to feel the Lord’s presence, but felt bound instead. Later, she understands what trueis, and finds the way to pray to be heard by God.
I was born into a Catholic family, and since I was young, I observed all kinds of religious rituals with my parents, among which, various prayers impressed me most. Rosary was the most basic one we Catholics had to observe. Every night we would pray the Rosary. First, we made the sign of the cross with the crucifix on our fingers and prayed the Apostles’ Creed; next, we prayed the Our Father, ten Hail Marys, the Glory Be, and prayed mysteries for each of the five sections of the rosary, and then prayed the Hail Holy Queen. The prayers were very long, and it was really not easy to finish all of them.
Novena prayer is another kind of prayer in Catholicism, which means praying for the same intention for nine days in a row so as to gain the Lord’s favor and help. We also had a prayer book, in which there are different prayers for different intentions. Before praying, we would intensively meditate on our intentions; then we would read the related words in the book; after finishing these words, we would say Our Father, Hail Mary, the Glory Be, then meditate, and say the closing prayer at the end. It was really not easy to finish this prayer either, and at that time I thought it a godly manner. But as time went on, I found that many of my intentions failed to come true. I couldn’t help but start to wonder: “Isn’t it said that as long as we pray for the same intention for 9 days in a row then it will come true? Why haven’t my intentions been realized? If such prayer cannot help us realize our intentions, then why do we keep praying in such a way?” Thus I became somewhat unwilling to do this prayer, but seeing everyone else in the church did so, I had no choice but to keep on acting this way.
Apart from the prayers above, there was also walking and praying the Rosary. Each time we did it, we would get up at 3 a.m., carry the statue of the Blessed Mother to a room, kneel in prayer and repeat the prayers over and over for an hour, and then move to another room and repeat the process. Actually, I really didn’t want to attend this ritual, because I was so tired and sleepy when doing it. I was also a little confused: “Why don’t we pray directly to the Lord, but pray to the Blessed Mother instead?” But I often heard my parents say: “Theis the Holy Son, and Mary is His Blessed Mother. If we want to ask something from the Lord Jesus, we should pray to the Blessed Mother first. Through her intercession, our prayers will certainly be answered.” Though I thought such an interpretation was a bit far-fetched, I didn’t want to be condemned by the Lord for breaking the rule of Catholicism. So I still persisted in attending this ceremony, following the crowd. This continued until one day when an accident happened during our prayer …
Early that morning, some of my church friends carried the statue of Mary into a church friend’s house as we always did, then they prayed the Rosary inside the house while the rest of us prayed outside. This was when the accident happened. The 2-story house suddenly collapsed. The ceiling fell and hurt the owner of the house and the other people downstairs. I was standing outside the front gate then so I escaped unscathed. Having witnessed the dangerous situation, I felt afraid as well as confused, thinking: “We were serving the Lord, and praying to Him, so why did He allow this thing to happen? Does our prayer not please Him?” Fearing occurrences of similar accidents, I stopped attending this kind of ceremony and prayed the Rosary on my own instead.
One day, during my devotions, I saw several verses of scripture, “And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens. For they think that in their much speaking they may be heard” (Matthew 6:5–7). I pondered carefully: The Lord told us that we shall not be like the hypocrites, who prayed on purpose for man to hear, but rather we should pray to the Lord with a true heart, and that saying more words in prayer might not necessarily please Him. I recalled that all these years in my prayers, though every time I would pray for a long period of time, I did nothing but say the same old words, just like reciting a lesson. I also thought of the tragedy which happened during our walking and praying. I thought: Maybe God hated what we did; if not, why didn’t He protect us when we were praying? Maybe I had been led onto the wrong path. Thinking of this, I decided not to repeatedly pray the Rosary in the future, but only to pray the Our Father, ten Hail Marys and ten Holy Marys, and then pray in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Despite this, I still could not be moved by the Lord, and felt very far away from Him. Once, when I was practicing spiritual devotion, I saw the scriptures mention fasting and praying. So I started to fast to show my reverence for God and in the meantime asked Him to help me find a better job. However, every time after that, there was nothing but hunger and headache left with me. Several months later, I still wasn’t moved by the Lord, and my job wasn’t changed either. Moreover, my health got worse and worse and I got sick frequently, so I stopped fasting. I felt confused: “I’ve paid such a great price, so why does the Lord still not listen to my prayer? Has the Lord really cast me away?” My heart got increasingly empty and dark, and my confidence became weaker by the day.
In 2017, I got to know brothers and sisters of The Church of Almighty God on Facebook. They told me: “The Lord Jesus has returned, coming in the flesh as Almighty God, and He has expressed many truths and is performing a new stage of His work. Only by praying in the name of Almighty God can we receive the work of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, no matter how hard we pray, it will be in vain. It’s just like when the Lord Jesus came to do His work, regardless of how hard people prayed to Jehovah God, He didn’t listen to them and they couldn’t attain the enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit. Only those who accepted the Lord Jesus’ work and prayed in His name could feel His presence and enjoy His blessing and grace.”
After hearing their fellowship, I came to understand: It’s because the Lord had returned with a new name but I still prayed in the name of the Lord Jesus, that I couldn’t attain the Holy Spirit’s work. But still I didn’t know what other aspects of my prayers were not after. Until one day, I saw the following words of God: “Most people believe that a normal spiritual life necessarily involves praying, singing hymns, eating and drinking the words of God or pondering His words, regardless of whether such practices actually have any effect or lead to true understanding. These people focus on following superficial procedures without any thought to their results; they are people who live in religious rituals, not people who live within the church, and much less are they people of the kingdom. Their prayers, hymn singing, and eating and drinking of God’s words are all just rule-following, done out of compulsion and to keep up with trends, not out of willingness nor from the heart. However much these people pray or sing, their efforts will bear no fruit, for what they practice is just the rules and rituals of religion; they are not actually practicing God’s words. They focus only on making a fuss over how they practice, and they treat God’s words as rules to follow. Such people are not putting God’s words into practice; they are just gratifying the flesh, and performing for other people to see. These religious rules and rituals are all human in origin; they do not come from God. God does not follow rules, nor is He subject to any law. Rather, He does new things every day, accomplishing practical work. 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.”
After reading God’s words, I understood that any prayer which is ineffective and merely a case of going through the motions is a religious rule and ritual, which is unbeloved by God. I recalled my prayers before, such as Rosary prayer, Novena prayer, walking and praying, and fasting and praying—I just paid attention to outward practices and performed ceremonies but didn’t focus on whether there was any result or not. Later, though I was confused about these ceremonies and unwilling to observe them, seeing that others in the church all prayed that way and believed it was beloved by the Lord, I had no choice but to follow them. However, having kept the ceremonies all these years, not only did I not have peace and joy in my heart, but I became ever more tired, and my relationship with the Lord grew more and more remote. Only now did I have a real awakening: God didn’t like such religious prayers, and thus no matter how much we prayed, we couldn’t gain the work of the Holy Spirit. I felt that I had been so ignorant before.
Afterward, I read another two passages of God’s words regarding prayer. Almighty God says, “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.” “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.”
God’s words state very clearly that prayer is not to go through processes, go through the motions, or recite God’s words by heart, but rather to gain more enlightenment and illumination of the Holy Spirit and understand God’s will and requirement. I thought of how I had always observed various rituals of Catholicism in prayer. Every time I prayed, I just repeated the same words, and I wasn’t moved by God at all; after my prayer I only felt my legs were tired and in pain. Sometimes when I just started praying, I wanted to end it quickly. In every prayer I just went through the process. I remembered the words the Lord said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God doesn’t care how much we say or how long we pray. Instead, He requests us to pray to Him with a sincere heart so that we can understand His words. At the thought of this, I saw even more clearly that my prayers in the past weren’t in line with God’s will.
I later read these words from God: “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.” “When praying, you must have a heart that is quiet before God, and you must have a sincere heart. You are truly communing and praying with God—you must not try to wheedle God with nice-sounding words. Prayer should center upon that which God wishes to accomplish right now. Ask God to grant you greater enlightenment and illumination, bring your actual states and your troubles into His presence when you pray, including the resolution that you made before God. Prayer is not about following procedure; it is about seeking God with a sincere heart. Ask that God protect your heart, so that your heart may often be quiet before Him; that in the environment in which He has placed you, you would know yourself, despise yourself, and forsake yourself, thus allowing you to have a normal relationship with God and truly become someone who loves God.”
From God’s words I understood that true prayer means opening wide our hearts to God and speaking to Him the words within our hearts and the difficulties we encounter, and asking for His enlightenment, illumination, and guidance so that we can recognize our own corruption. Only then will God enlighten us to understand His will. Thinking back to how I prayed in the past, I felt even more ashamed: Every time when praying I just recited certain words by heart instead of speaking the words within my heart to God; moreover, my prayers were not reasonable—all that I asked from God were grace, such as a better life, and so on. I only prayed for my own interests, but never for gaining God’s enlightenment or breaking away from sin. I thought of the words that the Lord Jesus said, “Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31–33). The Lord Jesus taught us that we should take no thought of what we shall eat or how we shall be clothed, because He will prepare and arrange all these things for us. But I always prayed for my fleshly life and never prayed for my spiritual life, which was really not in line with God’s will. Besides, I also deceived God with some pleasant-sounding words. When I committed sins, for fear of being spurned by God, I prayed to Him for forgiveness and guaranteed not to sin next time. Actually, I knew that being of small stature, I couldn’t triumph over sin and would commit sins again, but I didn’t say the words in my heart to God. Now I realized that my prayers were not done from the heart; they were false. I should pray to tell God about my difficulties in triumphing over sin, and ask Him to guide me to know my sins and cast off the bonds and constraints of sin.
Next, I started to practice in accordance with God’s words. In my daily life, no matter what I encounter, I will pray to God in my heart to seek His will. I never again feel bored in prayer; instead, every time I pray, I feel that I have something to say to God and after praying, I feel at ease and at peace in my heart. The old religious prayers were tiring and boring, but now praying in the new way has brought me much enjoyment. When praying, I’m able to quiet my heart before God, no longer feeling exhausted or bored again. What’s more, no matter what problems or difficulties I encounter, when I seek God’s God’s will and obey His orchestrations and arrangements, I can see His guidance and leadership, and understand more and more about His will. I’m grateful to God for allowing me to understand what true prayer means, and break free from the bondage of religious rituals and rules of prayer. Now I am able to pray to God with a true heart, so I can be enlightened and moved by the Holy Spirit and grow closer to God. Thanks be to God!