The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "Many exemplary men have I known, holy in heart and life, 
within my four score years. But one equal to John Fletcher -- one 
so inwardly and outwardly obedient and devoted to God -- I have 
not known."  -- John Wesley.

IT is worthy of note that the praying to which such transcendent 
position is given and from which great results are attributable, 
is not simply the saying of prayers, but holy praying. It is the 
"prayers of the saints," the prayers of the holy men of God. 
Behind such praying, giving to it energy and flame are the men and 
women who are wholly devoted to God, who are entirely separated 
from sin, and fully separated unto God. These are they who always 
give energy, force and strength to praying.
     Our Lord Jesus Christ was preeminent in praying, because He 
was preeminent in saintliness. An entire dedication to God, a full 
surrender, which carries with it the whole being, in a flame of 
holy consecration -- all this gives wings to faith and energy to 
prayer. It opens the door to the throne of grace, and brings 
strong influence to bear on Almighty God.
     The "lifting up of holy hands" is essential to Christly 
praying. It is not, however, a holiness which only dedicates a 
closet to God, which sets apart merely an hour to Him, but a 
consecration which takes hold of the entire man, which dedicates 
the whole life to God.
     Our Lord Jesus Christ, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate 
from sinners," had full liberty of approach and ready access to 
God in prayer. And He had this free and full access because of His 
unquestioning obedience to His Father. Right through His earthly 
life His supreme care and desire was to do the will of His Father. 
And this fact, coupled with another -- the consciousness of having 
so ordered His life -- gave Him confidence and assurance, which 
enabled Him to draw near to the throne of grace with unbounded 
confidence, born of obedience, and promising acceptance, audience, 
and answer.
     Loving obedience puts us where we can "ask anything in His 
name," with the assurance, that "He will do it." Loving obedience 
brings us into the prayer realm, and makes us beneficiaries of the 
wealth of Christ, and of the riches of His grace, through the 
coming of the Holy Spirit who will abide with us, and be in us. 
Cheerful obedience to God, qualifies us to pray effectually.
     This obedience which not only qualifies but fore-runs prayer, 
must be loving, constant, always doing the Father's will, and 
cheerfully following the path of God's commands.
     In the instance of King Hezekiah, it was a potent plea which 
changed God's decree that he should die and not live. The stricken 
ruler called upon God to remember how that he had walked before 
Him in truth, and with a perfect heart. With God, this counted. He 
hearkened to the petition, and, as a result, death found his 
approach to Hezekiah barred for fifteen years.
     Jesus learned obedience in the school of suffering, and, at 
the same time, He learned prayer in the school of obedience. Just 
as it is the prayer of a righteous man which availeth much, so it 
is righteousness which is obedience to God. A righteous man is an 
obedient man, and he it is, who can pray effectually, who can 
accomplish great things when he betakes himself to his knees.
     True praying, be it remembered, is not mere sentiment, nor 
poetry, nor eloquent utterance. Nor does it consist of saying in 
honeyed cadences, "Lord, Lord." Prayer is not a mere form of 
words; it is not just calling upon a Name. Prayer is obedience. It 
is founded on the adamantine rock of obedience to God. Only those 
who obey have the right to pray. Behind the praying must be the 
doing; and it is the constant doing of God's will in daily life 
which gives prayer its potency, as our Lord plainly taught:
     "Not every one which saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter 
into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My 
Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto Me in that day, 
Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name, and in Thy Name have 
cast out devils? And in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And 
then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, 
ye that worketh iniquity."
     No name, however precious and powerful, can protect and give 
efficiency to prayer which is unaccompanied by the doing of God's 
will. Neither can the doing, without the praying, protect from 
Divine disapproval. If the will of God does not master the life, 
the praying will be nothing but sickly sentiment. If prayer do not 
inspire, sanctify and direct our work, then self-will enters, to 
ruin both work and worker.
     How great and manifold are the misconceptions of the true 
elements and functionings of prayer! There are many who earnestly 
desire to obtain an answer to their prayers but who go unrewarded 
and unblest. They fix their minds on some promise of God and then 
endeavour by dint of dogged perseverance, to summon faith 
sufficient to lay hold upon, and claim it. This fixing of the mind 
on some great promise may avail in strengthening faith, but, to 
this holding on to the promise must be added the persistent and 
importunate prayer that expects, and waits till faith grows 
exceedingly. And who is there that is able and competent to do 
such praying save the man who readily, cheerfully and continually, 
obeys God?
     Faith, in its highest form, is the attitude as well as the 
act of a soul surrendered to God, in whom His Word and His Spirit 
dwells. It is true that faith must exist in some form, or another, 
in order to prompt praying; but in its strongest form, and in its 
largest results, faith is the fruit of prayer. That faith 
increases the ability and the efficiency of prayer is true; but it 
is likewise true that prayer increases the ability and efficiency 
of faith. Prayer and faith, work, act and react, one upon the 
     Obedience to God helps faith as no other attribute possibly 
can. When obedience -- implicit recognition of the validity, the 
paramountcy of the Divine commands -- faith ceases to be an almost 
superhuman task. It requires no straining to exercise it. 
Obedience to God makes it easy to believe and trust God. Where the 
spirit of obedience fully impregnates the soul; where the will is 
perfectly surrendered to God; where there is a fixed, unalterable 
purpose to obey God, faith almost believes itself. Faith then 
becomes almost involuntary. After obedience it is, naturally, the 
next step, and it is easily and readily taken. The difficulty in 
prayer is not with faith, but with obedience, which is faith's 
     We must look well to our obedience, to the secret springs of 
action, to the loyalty of our heart to God, if we would pray well, 
and desire to get the most out of our praying. Obedience is the 
groundwork of effectual praying; this it is, which brings us nigh 
to God.
     The lack of obedience in our lives breaks down our praying. 
Quite often, the life is in revolt and this places us where 
praying is almost impossible, except it be for pardoning mercy. 
Disobedient living produces mighty poor praying. Disobedience 
shuts the door of the inner chamber, and bars the way to the Holy 
of holies. No man can pray -- really pray -- who does not obey.
     The will must be surrendered to God as a primary condition of 
all successful praying. Everything about us gets its colouring 
from our inmost character. The secret will makes character and 
controls conduct. The will, therefore, plays an important part in 
all successful praying. There can be no praying in its richest 
implication and truest sense, where the will is not wholly and 
fully surrendered to God. This unswerving loyalty to God is an 
utterly indispensable condition of the best, the truest, the most 
effectual praying. We have "simply got to trust and obey; there's 
no other way, to be happy in Jesus -- but to trust, and obey! "