Saturday, August 06, 2011

REVIEW: The Necessity of Prayer

Bounds, E. M. The Necessity of Prayer. Baker Book House (1976), ISBN 0-8010-0659-7. Digitized by Harry Platinga, 1994.


Elwell and Comfort define prayer as the addressing and petitioning of God and describe it as a feature of many, if not all religions.[1] E. M. Bounds[2] was very much in tune with this and very carefully argues the case for the necessity of prayer in the life of the Christian with meticulous attention to detail. Bounds was a man of prayer and his commitment to prayer is well documented in the books he authored. The Necessity of Prayer begins with two chapters focused on prayer and faith. Bounds brings to our attention the fact that one must have faith in the existence of the Unseen before it is possible to attempt to reach out to Him in prayer. This reaching out must also be done on a daily basis. Bounds goes on in a logical progression spending extended periods on faith, obedience, importunity, and the Word of God in his treatment of the necessity of prayer. As he makes each point, Bounds is careful to support his views with Scripture and examples which serve to explain each point being made.

Of particular note is his brief treatment of character and conduct (chapter 8) in his book. Though the chapter only comprises about six percent of the work, Bounds powerfully makes the point that an active, vibrant prayer life greatly influences the character and conduct of the Christian. Citing Titus 2:14, Bounds makes the case that inward spiritual character is demanded of the Christian by God. Bounds also make the case for consistency of the Christian’s prayer life and claims that this will be evident.

Throughout his treatment of the necessity of prayer, it is evident that the author has at the very center of his life the notion of the supreme importance of prayer in the lives of God’s people. The urgency with which the author writes is also evident as Bounds successfully points out numerous key points that Christians should already be aware of. It is this urgency that leads this reviewer to believe that Bounds, at the time of his writing, was not persuaded that his readers were aware of these arguments. One might also conclude that Bounds may have thought that the Christians of the day were aware of the need for prayer but lacked the understanding of the importance of prayer in the life of the Christian. In either case as I have already mentioned, Bounds writes with a clear urgency to his readers.

Bounds work is obviously well thought out, well written, and relevant to the Christian community today. I would have preferred to have seen Scripture references included as a footnote or even in the body of the work itself though I do recognize that more formalized writing styles such as those employed by LBTS were not in use at the time of writing or publication. Still, the author certainly seems to have taken for granted that his readers knew their Bibles well enough to recognize the Scriptures being cited or to find them in the index which appeared to be limited.[3] Though the thought about a lack of a chapter addressing the structure certainly came to mind, this was quickly dismissed as Bounds work under consideration is not intended to be a how-to manual but rather a passionate attempt to convey to his readers the importance of prayer, real prayer. In this task, I commend Bounds on his success.

[1] Elwell, Walter A., and Comfort, Philip Wesley. Tyndale Bible Dictionary, (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 1068.

[2] Edward McKendree Bounds (August 15, 1835 – August 24, 1913) was a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church South and author of eleven books, nine of which focused on the subject of prayer. Throughout his life, Bounds was known as a man of prayer, what we might today refer to as a prayer warrior, a title of which I believe he would approve.

[3] The limited index in the online version may simply be a feature of that version and not indicative of the print version. This is simply an observation based on the available information at the time of my writing.

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