Wang Sungu was one of Confucius's disciples in the Kingdom of Wei. Even though he was a high ranking government official, Wang still called Confucius his teacher. One day Wang asked Confucius a question, "There is an old saying, 'It's smarter to please the God Au than to please the God Zao.' What do you think?"
The God Au is located in the southwestern corner of a house. It is the most prestigious location for people to worship, but there is no specific god in that location. The God Zao is a specific god but with a lower position. Wang intended to point out that, through Wang's efforts, Confucius could get a timely government post but that Confucius could end up nowhere if he waited for a direct appointment by the emperor.
Confucius told Wang seriously, "Anyone who acts against the will of the gods ends up nowhere, no matter how diligently he prays."
Confucius added, "A disciplined person would follow decent rules. He would not flatter the God Au, nor would he flatter the God Zao."
Confucius was once seriously ill. A disciple, Zi Lu, took care of Confucius for over a month without ever leaving his side. Zi Lu was very worried because Confucius began to lose weight and showed no signs of getting better. He felt that he could only pray to the gods since no one else would be able to save his teacher's life.
Therefore, Zi Lu asked Confucius's permission to pray for him. Confucius asked him, "Is there a law that patients can get well by praying to the gods?"
Zi Lu responded, "Yes, 'I pray to the gods for you' was quoted in the ancient book of wisdom Zhou Li." Confucius then said, "Then you don't need to pray for me since I have prayed for myself for a long time."
Seeing Zi Lu astonished, Confucius added, "A real prayer must come out of a pure heart and comply with the principles of heaven. In other words, one must respect and obey the principles of heaven without breaking them. That's why I said that I had prayed for a long time."
The next day, Confucius miraculously recovered from his illness.