THE GOSPELPrint This Page.
There is a big misconception among the brothers and sisters about the gospel-preaching meeting. I ask you to pardon me for bringing this up. Brothers often call and ask whether there is a gospel meeting in the morning or afternoon. What they mean is that if there is a gospel meeting, they will not come, because they are saved. This is wrong. Whether or not it is a gospel meeting is not the question. The question is whether or not you should go to the meeting to strengthen the hand of the brothers so that the brothers will not have to fight alone. Helping the brothers and coming to the meeting are not for our personal gain. Please remember that even though there is not an exciting and new gospel for one to listen to in the meeting, the gospel that is preached every time is a glorious gospel. A saved person should never feel tired of hearing the gospel. As long as you are sitting in the meeting, you are helping and strengthening the hand of the preaching one. If you have never had the experience of preaching, you will not realize the importance of this matter. If you have ever preached before, you will realize the comfort of seeing a brother sitting there. Therefore, in the gospel meetings, we do not expect to hear exciting, new truths. You may be familiar and well acquainted with many truths, but your presence helps and strengthens your brother. You are rendering help to the meeting and working together with God.
Once I met a brother who asked me whether or not there would be a gospel meeting in the afternoon. I said, “Yes.” Immediately he said, “Ah!” That “ah” tells us a great deal. In the gospel meeting, the main thing is not to satisfy ourselves; it is not for us to receive the benefit. The main thing is for the brothers and sisters to receive the benefit and for the meeting to advance.
What is the expression on the faces of many brothers and sisters when they come to the gospel meeting? If there is some new truth concerning the gospel, their countenance is lifted up as they listen. But if there is nothing new, they may not say anything with their mouth, but they seem to be saying in their heart that they regret coming to the meeting, and their countenance is down. I am amazed that such a problem could exist in our gospel meeting. If it is God’s gospel, we should feel that it is new even after hearing it the hundredth time. It is precious every time we mention God and His salvation! We should forever praise the gospel story.
Some brothers and sisters never show any expression on their faces. They are quiet; they neither laugh nor smile, and they are always cool and quiet. This kind of attitude does not render any help to the preaching brothers. On the contrary, it makes them feel very ill at ease. They do not know whether they have said something wrong to make the other brothers feel this way. If you have ever preached before, you will feel all these things. Many times, when brothers come to the meetings, they just sit and spread death. Even the expression on their faces makes the meeting cold. When you come to the meeting, it will not hurt if you say “amen” once in a while to show your sympathy. You may also nod your head or smile a little to indicate that you have received help from the word. If you do this, you are rendering the speaker some spiritual help. You will make him feel that the brothers are holding up his hands, keeping them from becoming tired, and that he is not standing alone. These are very important matters. The kind of attitude you have while sitting in the meeting directly affects the one who is speaking. Presently, the situation among us has much improved.
When some word from the preaching one touches you, it is most appropriate to say an “amen.” I will not object to an even louder response. It is not just human beings who are saying “amen” within the house; the angels are saying “amen” also. This is similar to what is described in Acts 2 when Peter stood up to preach. I like that portion of the Scripture because it not only shows Peter standing to preach to the crowd; it also shows the eleven apostles standing with him. Even though only Peter opened his mouth, the eleven stood with him and were one with him. Therefore, in the gospel meeting, it is not a question of whether one lives a good personal life but whether his meeting life is proper. Please remember that we should not consider whether we have received anything or whether we are good or bad. If our meeting life is proper, our personal life will also be proper.
THE PRAYER MEETING
The number attending our prayer meeting is not very many. Of course, we have to do our best to forgive the brothers and sisters. Some live far away, and some are busy with other things. We can forgive them for not coming. But if we want to accomplish anything, and if we want to have the maximum power, the prayer meeting is where we can receive considerable help. The prayer meeting is the best test of our spiritual power. I hope that many brothers and sisters would attend this meeting and have the burden to pray.
The first thing we should take care of in the prayer meeting is to be punctual. The meeting life is a help to the spiritual life of a Christian; it is also an expression of the Body life of a Christian. If we do not pay attention to the meetings and do not care for the corporate life, we will surely fail.
In the prayer meeting, the things that are in need of prayer should be explained in simple and short words. One should not say too many words. This has been a failure of ours in the past. Every time we want to bring up a matter for prayer, we should ask ourselves whether or not we have prayed over the same matter at home. If we have not prayed over the matter at home, there is no need to bring it up in the meeting and deceive the brothers. If you have never prayed for something in your home, the need is not there, and there is no value in praying over it. This is a principle and even a law. Anything that has not been prayed over by you does not need to be prayed over at all. If you have prayed over a matter, yet feel inadequate when praying over it alone, it is worth mentioning in the prayer meeting; it is then a meaningful subject for prayer.
The prayers that God answers the most are the prayers that are offered at the prayer meetings. The prayers that God ignores the most are also the prayers that are offered at the prayer meetings. God often hears the prayers of individuals. As to the prayers in the prayer meeting, God hears them to a small degree as well as to a great degree. Men often use words in the prayer meeting which they do not use in their own room. They express sentiments which they do not express in their own room. One often does not have much to say or many things to cover. But when he comes to the prayer meeting, these words and things come. This is quite inappropriate. Anything that he does not have a burden to pray about in his room should not be brought up in the prayer meeting. All burdenless prayers are unnecessary prayers. All burdenless prayers are prayers that God never answers. If a prayer touches you, it touches God. If a prayer is accompanied by a burden within you, there is certainly a burden with God. If there is oneness and burden in our prayer during the prayer meeting, the power is surely greater than that of our individual prayers. Otherwise, there is no need for public prayer. All prayers that are unhindered, in oneness, and without barriers are effective prayers. God will surely listen to these prayers. This is why we call prayer a kind of work.
Prayers do not have to be long or numerous. We have to build a net in our prayers, but one person alone does not have to build the net. If you feel that something has not been covered in the prayers, you should privately ask God to raise up others to pray and cast the net. When I was in England, one brother told me one story about a prayer meeting. One brother was burdened to pray for many things. He felt that his prayer was too long and that he ought to stop. Yet he felt that there were still many things that he had not prayed for. If he stopped, he was afraid that no one would follow after him to pray. If he went on praying, he was afraid that he would take up too much time. Being considerate of others, he felt that he should allow some other brothers to pray. As a result, he prayed, “I have prayed too long by myself. Please raise up another one to continue with my prayer.” After he prayed, another person continued on with his prayer and uttered all the things that needed to be prayed about. Therefore, even if your mind is very strong, active, and sound, you should still ask God to raise up others to pray. God answers this prayer because He is a living God. In the prayer meeting, we should allow others to have a chance to pray. If we do this, there will be living prayers and prayers offered in one accord.
Sometimes God will use one of us to speak for the brothers and sisters. All those who are experienced in prayer know how difficult it is to find suitable utterance to express the needs. Although five or eight brothers pray for the same thing, the burden may not be released. Therefore, we have to ask the Lord to grant us the words to pray and express the thoughts in our burden. We should pray that God would raise up some to express His thoughts. Sometimes there can be as many as ten brothers praying for something, and all ten prayers can be good and up to standard, yet there is still the feeling that none of the prayers has hit the point, and the burden is not released. All of a sudden a brother may start praying and, as soon as he opens his mouth, the burden is released. Everyone feels right and says amen to it. This is a prayer in the Holy Spirit. In a prayer meeting, if no one expresses the inner need on behalf of everyone, that meeting is a failure. If we pray from 7:00 to 7:30 and successfully hit the point, we can go home; there is no need to go on praying, because we have reached the goal. The utterance of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit’s expression of God’s desire through man’s prayer. Only this kind of prayer can be considered a thorough prayer.
In the prayer meeting, there should be some brothers who act as the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes five or six people may be praying for a certain matter, and they still cannot get through. But when someone opens his mouth, he touches the point. Then everyone feels that he has touched something real, and the blockage is gone. This is what we should pay attention to in the prayer meetings.
In 1926, I was seriously ill in Foochow. My whole body turned purple. Three brothers and a sister came to my room to pray for me. The first one prayed in tears, but I did not feel that he had hit the point. The second one also prayed earnestly for me, but I did not feel anything. The third one was supposedly famous for his prayers, but his prayer was still ineffective. The fourth one was the sister. When she opened her mouth, she said, “O God, no one can praise You in Hades. You have no pleasure in men praising You in Hades.” Immediately I felt that something had broken through. I did not have to wait for the prayer to be finished before I felt that the sickness was gone. When the burden was lifted, I knew the sickness was gone. In the afternoon, I rose from my bed, and the next day I went to Ma-wei. From there I traveled to Amoy for my work. We have to ask God to use us to be a mouthpiece in the prayer meeting so that the burden and need of the brothers and sisters can be uttered through us with the language of the Holy Spirit.
Let me mention something concerning our last conference. Our conference was scheduled to begin on the Lord’s Day, January 20. On Thursday evening, the seventeenth, we prayed during the prayer meeting for the needs of the conference. Many brothers did their best to pray for many things, and I did my best to say amen. Still there was a feeling that some kind of need or burden was not yet covered. Later one brother opened his mouth and said, “God, give us good weather which is not too cold, and do not let it snow or rain so that we can meet peaceably.” Everyone there felt that his prayer received more amens than all the other prayers. The weather was not too good during those few days. The day when we had the prayer meeting, it was snowing. But by Friday, both the rain and snow stopped. It did not start raining again until the Thursday after the conference. During the whole period of the conference, there was no rain. Furthermore, in Wen-teh Lane, where we were meeting, another household was having a funeral. The Saturday before the conference began, the funeral ceremony was creating considerable noise and commotion. Yet the next day, it stopped. When the conference ended, the noise of chanting and music began again. If that had happened during the conference, we would not have been able to meet peaceably.
In the prayer meeting, there is the need for someone to be the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. If someone can be the mouthpiece, all problems will be gone. Our problem is that we do not know the needs. But God knows. Therefore, every brother and sister should strive to be the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit. Whenever the prayers are thorough, the burden is released, and we know that there is no further need to pray.