Our one great business is prayer, and we will never do it well without we fasten to it by all binding force. We will never do it well without arranging the best conditions of doing it well. Satan has suffered so much by good praying that all his wily, shrewd and ensnaring devices will be used to cripple its performances. We must, by all the fastenings we can find, cable ourselves to prayer. To be loose in time and place is to open the door to Satan. To be exact, prompt, unswerving, and careful in even the little things, is to buttress ourselves against the Evil One. (E.M. Bounds, The Reality of Prayer, 6)
This is my third E.M. Bounds book to read and review, and I found this one to be refreshingly less flowery in its language and more focused on what the Bible teaches about prayer than merely his impressions. While I’ve enjoyed his passionate love songs to prayer in the past, filled with highly quotable phrases about the joys of conversing with God, I recognized that in many of his works, he emphasizes the ideal of prayer to which many readers aspire, but few will ever attain. He’s certainly a master of the art, and he writes well about his successes, yet in this book he finally emphasizes the road to victory in prayer and not simply the destination.
Beginning in Chapter 4 “God Has Everything to Do with Prayer,” Bounds begins to emphasize the absolute connection man can have with God, spending the next eight chapters describing Jesus’ own life of prayer and the final two chapters describing the Holy Spirit’s role. While each of these chapters could ignite a whole series of messages, they are in this book merely brief glances at Christ’s exemplary prayer life from which we can learn a multitude of things, for example:
Prayer is a solemn service due to God, an adoration, a worship, an approach to God for some request, the presenting of some desire, the expression of some need to Him, who supplies all need, and who satisfies all desires; who, as a Father, finds His greatest pleasure in relieving the wants and granting the desires of His children. Prayer is the child’s request, not to the winds nor to the world, but to the Father. Prayer is the outstretched arms of the child for the Father’s help. Prayer is the child’s cry calling to the Father’s ear, the Father’s heart, and to the Father’s ability, which the Father is to hear, the Father is to feel, and which the Father is to relieve. Prayer is the seeking of God’s great and greatest good, which will not come if we do not pray. (10)
He is not the best prayer who has the greatest fluency, the most brilliant imagination, the richest gifts, and the most fiery ardour, but he who has imbibed most of the spirit of Christ. It is he whose character is the nearest to a facsimile of Christ. (51)
Submission may be one with God in the end. Conformity is one with God in the beginning, and the end. Jesus had conformity, absolute and perfect, to God’s will, and by that He prayed (73)…We succumb to difficulties, and call it submission to God’s will. A world of beggarly faith, of spiritual laziness, and of half-heartedness in prayer, are covered under the high and pious name of submission. (75)
One particular takeaway I got from this book had to do with the secret nature of prayer. During the days in which I read The Reality of Prayer, I was also witnessing a particularly rough patch for the Church I attend. I had asked a number of people back home for advice and prayer, and one dear lady responded to my requests that I had sounded in my e-mails “quite emotional and possibly angry” at the people involved. She recommended that the one thing I needed more than anything else was to be “shut in with God.” She told me to take a day or a week away from people and distractions and to simply pray, pray, pray. She told me to commune with God not in terms of petitioning and supplication, but in worship, adoration and thanksgiving. Only when I accomplish this in secret and before the face of God can I be ready to intercede for others and to make my petitions known. As Bounds writes:
He sends men to their closets. Prayer must be a holy exercise, untainted by vanity, or pride. It must be in secret. The disciple must live in secret. God lives there, is sought there and is found there. The command of Christ as to prayer is that pride and publicity should be shunned. Prayer is to be in private. “But thou when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father in secret. And thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” (30-31)
This was a powerful lesson for me that I have always known but seldom practiced. I praise the Lord for the advice from my dear friend and for the confirmation I received from Bounds that same day. God works wonders which we can’t blame on “coincidence,” and that makes prayers of thanksgiving and adoration all the more natural to offer.