Book Review: “The Necessity of Prayer” by E.M. Bounds (1929)

From the outset of E.M. Bounds The Necessity of Prayer, one might be inclined to conclude that the foundation of all prayer is faith. In fact, he writes as much in his first two chapters on faith when he says, “Faith in Christ is the basis…of all praying” (Bounds, 6), and “Faith gives birth to prayer” (9). The remainder of his text, however, seems to go against this idea that faith is the basis for prayer. This post will illuminate Bounds’ alternative option to what is the foundation of prayer.

By quoting Romans 10:17 on page 55, Bounds brings in an alternative idea that God’s Word, not faith, is the actual basis of all prayer: God’s Word brings hearing, and hearing brings faith. Further, Bounds writes that the reading of and meditating upon God’s Word coupled with prayer grows faith (11). Faith fully grown is trust (14) which, again, grows only through prayer (15). Therefore, one must conclude that the reading of God’s Word, not faith, is the basis of prayer (54).

Coming to such a conclusion is important to correctly understand prayer, because it is only when one loves God’s Word that he can rightly come boldly to the throne of grace in prayer, as Bounds succinctly writes: “No man loves the Bible, who does not love to pray. No man loves to pray, who does not delight in the law of the Lord” (62). This claim can only be proven when one recognizes the truths of John 15:10, “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” As Bounds writes, “Obedience follows love and prayer follows obedience” and “an obedient life…speeds prayer to the throne” (44).

This conclusion, too, makes clearer the true objectives of prayer, objectives Bounds notes throughout his book: to see, know and live for God (23); to purge one’s character and rectify his conduct (38); and, as mentioned above, to grow both faith (12) and trust (15). Bounds writes on so many more aspects of prayer in his book, but his focus on the Word of God, perhaps unintentional at time, evidences his true feelings on the matter.

Reading God’s Word and prayer are the most essential elements to one’s growth as a believer (62). But to say that a person can implicitly find joy in either is a bit naïve. Just as one, on occasion, must pray for the desire (19) and fervency (25) to pray, he must also pray for the desire and fervency to read God’s Word. God’s Word gives life to prayer (61); and, as a supplement to the Sword of the Spirit as well as to the rest of the spiritual armor (51), prayer brings a love for God’s Word (60).

In conclusion, the whole of Bounds’ The Necessity of Prayer points to the fact that a love for and obedience to God’s Word is the starting point for an active, healthy and meaningful prayer life. Certainly, one could argue that only with faith in God can one truly love and obey His Word, but such an argument just brings the whole issue back to the beginning. Preferring God’s Word over one’s human faith has to be the better option anyways.

RESOURCE

Bounds, Edward M. The Necessity of Prayer. Grand Rapids, Mich: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2000.

© E.T. 2010

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