The Principle of Mind Aiding
The Spiritual Man, CFP, Vol. 2, Part 6 WALKING AFTER THE SPIRIT, Ch. 3, by Watchman Nee
IF HE IS TO WALK after the spirit the Christian must understand its every law. Without this fund of knowledge he will not be able to apprehend all the meanings of the different spiritual senses and naturally will be unable to do everything required of him. The demands of the spirit are all expressed through the motions of the spirit. To disregard spiritual movements is to ignore spiritual demands. It is this which establishes the priority of knowing the laws of the spirit in oneís spiritual life.
But there is something else of no less importance for anyone wishing to walk after the spirit: the principle of the mind aiding or assisting it. This principle is to be applied constantly. Many defeats in spiritual life can be traced to ignorance of it, even though the laws of the spirit are indeed known. And why? Because these laws can only explain to us the meaning of the spiritís stirring and supply us with ways to satisfy their particular demands. Whenever the spirit senses anything, we are equipped by the knowledge of these laws to fulfill the requirement called for; if the condition is normal, we walk accordingly; and if abnormal, we can correct it. But a problem arises here; which is, that we do not always enjoy such spiritual stirrings. The spirit simply may not speak. Many have experienced an utter silence for quite a few days. It appears as though it is sleeping. Is this to say that during those days when our spirit is inactive we should do nothing? Must we quietly sit for a number of days, neither praying nor reading the Bible nor performing any work? Our spiritual common sense vigorously replies: no, by no means should we waste the time. But if we do anything during that period will it not mean that we labor in the power of the flesh and not according to the spirit?
Now this is just the moment when we should apply the principle of the mind supporting the spirit. But how? When the spirit is sleeping, our mind must come in to do the work of the spirit. And before long we shall see the latter itself joining in the work. The mind and the spirit are closely knit: they are to help each other. Many times the spirit senses something which the mind is made to understand, and then action is taken; while on other occasions the spirit is unmoved and needs to be aroused by the activity of the believerís mind. If the spirit is inactive the mind can induce it to move. And once moved, the believer should follow it. Such inducement of the spirit by the mind is what we here term as the principle or law of the mind aiding the spirit. There is a principle in spiritual life which holds that in the beginning we should exercise our spiritual sense to apprehend God-given knowledge, but that afterwards we must keep and use this knowledge by means of the mind. For example, you notice a great need somewhere. According to the knowledge you have received from God, you realize you should pray and petition Him for supply. But at the time you see the need your spirit does not feel at all like praying. What should you do? You should pray with your mind instead of waiting for the spirit to move. Every need is a call to prayer. Although at the start you pray despite silence in your spirit, as you pray on you will soon be conscious of something rising within you. It signifies your spirit has joined in at last in this work of prayer.
Occasionally our inner man is so oppressed by Satan or so disturbed by the natural life that we can hardly discern it. It has sunk so low that it seems to have lost its consciousness. We continue to feel the presence of our soul and body, but the spirit appears to be absent. If we should wait for it to stir before we pray, we shall probably never do so, nor shall it regain its freedom. What we must do is pray with what the mind remembers to be the truth we once received and in that prayer resist the power of darkness. If ever we do not sense the spirit we should pray with our mind. Such mental activity eventually will incite our spirit to move.
ďPray (ing) with the mindĒ (1 Cor. 14.15) can activate the spirit. Although at the outset we may appear to be praying with empty words, divested of any meaning, nevertheless as we pray along with our mind and resist with prayer our spirit soon will ascend. Whereupon the spirit and the mind will work together. And as soon as it comes in, prayer becomes meaningful and quite free. The cooperation between these two elements delineates the normal state of spiritual life.
Should a believer in spiritual warfare neglect the law of spirit and mind working together, he will be waiting continually for Godís burden instead of warring constantly against the enemy. Because he presently has no sense of war the believer concludes he must delay until he has that sense, and that only then can he begin to pray against the enemy. He does not perceive that if he starts to pray with his mind his spirit shall immediately sense the war. Since we know how wicked the evil spirit is and how he molests the children of the Lord as well as the children of man, and since we should realize also that we must pray against him in order to send him as early as possible to the bottomless pit, how dare we tarry to pray until our spirit acknowledges the urgency? Even though we still lack the consciousness of war, we must pray anyhow. Begin to pray with the mind: curse the evil spirit with the words we have learned already: and our spirit shall soon be activated and shall add its .power behind those words of curse. To illustrate. Suppose the Holy Spirit in the early morning anoints you mightily so that you can curse the enemy with your spirit, but at noon you seem to have lost this spirit. What should you do? You should do by your mind now what your spirit had done in the morning. The spiritual principle is that whatever is obtained in the spirit must be preserved and employed by the mind.
This law of the mindís assistance can be applied as well to the matter of faith concerning ďthe rapture.Ē At the beginning you enjoy the ďspirit of rapture,Ē but later on you feel as though it is drained of its awareness of the nearness of the Lordís return and the reality of your rapture. In that hour you should recall the law of the mind coming to the aid of the spirit. You ought to pray with the mind even while your spiritual sense is empty. If you merely wait to have your spirit refilled with the sense of rapture, you will never possess it again; but by exercising your mind to think and to pray, you shall shortly be filled with the spiritual awareness you once had.
For the preaching of the truth this principle is vital. Those truths learned in the past are now stored in our brain. Communicating to others what is in our mind simply by our mind can produce no spiritual results whatever. No doubt at first we knew those truths in our spirit, but currently the spirit seems to have receded and all which is left are memories. How, then, can our spirit be replenished with these truths so that we may communicate them by the spirit to others? By exercising our mind. We should re-meditate on those truths before God and pray over them once again; that is, we should take those truths as centers and pray around them. Shortly thereafter we shall discover our spirit being permeated once more with those truths which had been there before. These initially are possessed in the spirit, later are stored in the believerís mind, and now re-enter his spirit by praying with the mind. Thus are we qualified to preach the truths we once before had known in our spirit.
We all appreciate the importance of intercession. Yet often when we have time to spend in intercession our spirit is inactive and fails to supply us with subjects for intercessory prayer. This does not mean we need not pray on that occasion or that we can utilize the time for other matters. On the contrary, it serves as a hint for us to intercede in prayer with the mind and to hope and expect the spirit will be activated into participating. You should accordingly exercise your mind to remember your friends, relatives, and fellow. workers to determine if they are in need. As you remember each one so shall you in turn intercede for them. If in interceding on their behalf your spirit remains cold and dry, then you know you are not to pray for them. But supposing at that same time you recall a special lack in your local church or a number of temptations the church is facing or certain hindrances to the Lordís work in a particular area or some distinctive truths which Godís children ought to know today. In that event you should intercede for each of them as they come to your attention. If after praying awhile over these matters your spirit still fails to respond as you are yet praying with your mind, then you realize once again that these are not what the Lord desires you to pray for today. But supposing as you touch upon certain matters in your prayer you feel as though the Holy Spirit is anointing you and your spirit seems to respond: it is at this singular moment that you recognize you are at last interceding for what is on the Lordís heart. Hence the principle calls for the exercise of the mind to help the spirit locate its trend.
Frequently a slight exercise of the mind effects the spirit 7s response, but on other occasionsódue to our narrow-mindedness or our mental dullnessówe may be forced to consume considerable time before the spirit cooperates. For example, God would like to enlarge the scope of our prayer to include the nations in order to defeat all the behind-the-scene works of Satan. Or He may want us to intercede for all sinners worldwide or for the entire church. Your mind, however, is fixed upon the immediate. It will require some time before our mind is ready to consider these all-embracing issues and begin to pray the prayer of the Holy Spirit. Yet as soon as our spirit joins in, we can and must discharge all the burdens which it has concerning this particular matter. We ought to pray carefully and thoroughly over each and every facet of this matter till our spirit is lightened of its burden. Only thereafter can we turn to intercede for other concerns.
This is indeed an important principle in our spiritual life. Whenever God gives us new prayers they usually are received in our spirit, but afterwards we cannot expect God to refill our spirit with those prayers. Instead, we should exercise our mind to pray continuously over them until our spirit once more regains its burdens.
Knowing Gods Will
Godís guidance does not always come to us directly; it is sometimes indirect. In direct guidance the Spirit of God moves in our spirit and so enables us to know His will. If our mind is attentive to the movement in the spirit we shall easily understand the will of God. But in the various affairs of life God does not necessarily tell us many things directly. There may be many needs of which we as men are aware. What should we do about these conscious needs? We may be invited to work somewhere or something else may suddenly happen. Such matters as these obviously are not sponsored directly by our spirit, for they come to us from other people. Our mind sees the urgency of solving these problems, yet our spirit is unresponsive. How may we experience the guidance of God in such a situation? Well, when we encounter something of this kind, we must with our mind ask God to lead us in the spirit. By so doing we are experiencing the indirect guidance of God. This is the moment the mind must assist the spirit. When one notices his spirit is inactive he should exercise his mind. It is not necessary for it to assist if the spirit is exuding its thought incessantly: only as the spirit remains silent must the mind fill the gap for it.
In such circumstances the believer should exercise his mind by pondering this unsolved matter before God. Although such prayer and consideration emerge from his mind, before long his spirit will collaborate in the prayer and consideration. His spirit which he did not sense before he now begins to sense, and soon the Holy Spirit will be found leading him in his spirit. We should never sit back because of a lack of early movement therein. Rather should we use the mind to ďscoop upĒ our spirit and activate it to help us know whether or not this matter is of God.
The Principle Governing the Activity of the Spirit
In our spiritual experience the operation of the mind is indispensable. Unlike the ocean tide, the spirit is not filled by spontaneous comings and goings. For it to be filled we must comply with the conditions for its filling. This is where the mind assumes its responsibility: to set in motion what the spirit will soon carry forward by itself. If we endlessly wait for the permeation of the spirit we shall be disappointed. On the other hand we should not too highly esteem the work of the mind. By this time we ought to know that unless our action comes from the spirit it serves no useful purpose. We must not walk after the mind. Why then do we engage the mind? We exercise it not for its sake but for the sake of inducing the spirit to work. Hence we continue to esteem the spirit as most important. Now if after our mind has been functioning for some time the spirit still fails to respond, as though there is no anointing, we must cease exercising it. Should we detect in spiritual warfare a prolonged emptiness deep within and our spirit continues to sense nothing, we ought to halt the working of the mind. We should not, however, stop its working because of the unwillingness of the flesh. Occasionally we feel tired and yet we know we must proceed. At other times we know we must cease. There is no fixed law over spiritual matters.
The mind supporting the spirit can be likened to operating a hand water pump. In some pumps it is essential to pour into it a cup of water just to provide suction for the machine while pumping. The relation of our mind to the spirit is similar to that between the cup of water and the water pump. If you do not use this cup of water as a starter you shall be powerless to pump up water from the well. Even so, our spirit will not rise up unless we exercise the mind first. Not to start praying with the mind for the sake of the spirit is like a man who neglects to pour in that cup of water first and concludes after pumping twice that there is not any water in the well.
How varied are the works of the spirit. Oftentimes it is like a lion full of strength; whereas at other times it is like a babe possessing no will of its own. When it is weak and helpless the mind must act as its nurse. The mind is never a subsitute for the spirit; the mind merely helps us to activate it. Should the spirit cease to assert its ruling position, the believer must use the power of his mind in prayer to provoke its reassertion. If the spirit has sunk through oppression he should employ his mind to survey the situation and to pray earnestly until it rises up and regains its freedom. A spiritual mind can maintain the spirit in a steady position. It can restrain the spirit from being overly active; it can also uplift the spirit from its fallen state.
Let us elaborate a bit further. As has been said, the spirit can be replenished only with the ministration of the spiritual mind. The principle is that all matters in which the spirit formerly took a hand should now be done by the mind. If the Holy Spirit grants anointing later on, He is attesting to you that you are doing this particular thing in the spirit In the beginning there was nothing of a spiritual sensing about it but currently the sense in the inner man assures you that this is what it intended in the first place. The spirit was impotent to do it then because it was too weak; now, however, through the help of the mind, it can express what it could not express at the first. We can secure whatever we need in the spirit if we ponder and pray with the mind. This will cause us to be filled again in our spirit.
Another point needs to be observed. In spiritual conflict spirit struggles against spirit. But all the powers of manís entire being should join his spirit in wrestling against the enemy. Of these the mind is the most important. The spirit and the mind join forces in battle. Should the former become oppressed and begin to lose its power to resist, the latter must carry the fight forward on its behalf. As the mind contends and resists in prayer the spirit is thereby replenished and once more rises to the occasion.
The Condition of the Mind
Inferior though it be to the spirit, the mind nonetheless can assist it. Besides bolstering a weak spirit, it should be able to read and search out the spiritís thought as well. How necessary, therefore, that the mind be kept in its normal state. just as the movements of the spirit have their laws, so the activity of the mind is governed by its particular laws. The mind that can work freely is one which is light and lively. If it be expanded too far, like overstretching a bow, it shall sacrifice its effectiveness to work. The enemy well knows how we need our mind to attend the spirit so that we may walk by the spirit. Thus he frequently induces us to overuse it that it may be rendered unfit to function normally and hence be powerless to reinforce the spirit in time of weakness.
Our mind is much more than an organ of assistance to the spirit; it also is the place where we obtain light. The Spirit of God dispenses light to the mind through the spirit. If the mind is overexerted it relinquishes the power of receiving His light. The enemy understands that if our mind is darkened our whole being enters into darkness; he consequently strives with all his effort to provoke us to think so very much that we are unable to work quietly. To walk after the spirit a believer must inhibit his mind from revolving endlessly. If it turns too long around one topic, worries or grieves too much over matters, and ponders too intensively to know Godís will, it may become unbearable and hamper its normal operation. The mind needs to be kept in a steady and secure state.
Since the mind occupies such a signal position, the Christian, when working together with others, must be careful not to break into his brotherís thought. Such action creates much suffering for that oneís mind. When his thoughts are being guided and led on by the Spirit, the believer is terribly apprehensive of interference. Any such act will terminate his thought and set his mind to stretch beyond its proper measure, rendering it unfit to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, not only must we keep our own mind free but we additionally must respect our brotherís mind. We first must find out the trend of our brotherís thought before we can respond to him; otherwise, we shall cause that brother to suffer unduly.