The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "David Brainerd was pursued by unearthly adversaries, who 
were resolved to rob him of his guerdon. He knew he must never 
quit his armour, but lie down to rest, with his corselet laced. 
The stains that marred the perfection of his lustrous dress, the 
spots of rust on his gleaming shield, are imperceptible to us; but 
they were, to him, the source of much sorrow and ardency of 
yearning." -- Life Of David Brainerd.

THE description of the Christian soldier given by Paul in the 
sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is compact and 
comprehensive. He is depicted as being ever in the conflict, which 
has many fluctuating seasons -- seasons of prosperity and 
adversity, light and darkness, victory and defeat. He is to pray 
at all seasons, and with all prayer, this to be added to the 
armour in which he is to fare forth to battle. At all times, he is 
to have the full panoply of prayer. The Christian soldier, if he 
fight to win, must pray much. By this means, only, is he enabled 
to defeat his inveterate enemy, the devil, together with the Evil 
One's manifold emissaries. "Praying always, with all prayer," is 
the Divine direction given him. This covers all seasons, and 
embraces all manner of praying.
     Christian soldiers, fighting the good fight of faith, have 
access to a place of retreat, to which they continually repair for 
prayer. "Praying always, with all prayer," is a clear statement of 
the imperative need of much praying, and of many kinds of praying, 
by him who, fighting the good fight of faith, would win out, in 
the end, over all his foes.
     The Revised Version puts it this way:
     "With all prayer and supplication, praying at all seasons in 
the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and 
supplications, for all saints, and on my behalf, that utterance 
may be given unto me, in opening my mouth to make known with 
boldness the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am in bonds."
     It cannot be stated too frequently that the life of a 
Christian is a warfare, an intense conflict, a lifelong contest. 
It is a battle, moreover, waged against invisible foes, who are 
ever alert, and ever seeking to entrap, deceive, and ruin the 
souls of men. The life to which Holy Scripture calls men is no 
picnic, or holiday junketing. It is no pastime, no pleasure jaunt. 
It entails effort, wrestling, struggling; it demands the putting 
forth of the full energy of the spirit in order to frustrate the 
foe and to come off, at the last, more than conqueror. It is no 
primrose path, no rose-scented dalliance. From start to finish, it 
is war. From the hour in which he first draws sword, to that in 
which he doffs his harness, the Christian warrior is compelled to 
"endure hardness like a good soldier."
     What a misconception many people have of the Christian life! 
How little the average church member appears to know of the 
character of the conflict, and of its demands upon him! How 
ignorant he seems to be of the enemies he must encounter, if he 
engage to serve God faithfully and so succeed in getting to heaven 
and receive the crown of life! He seems scarcely to realize that 
the world, the flesh and the devil will oppose his onward march, 
and will defeat him utterly, unless he give himself to constant 
vigilance and unceasing prayer.
     The Christian soldier wrestles not against flesh and blood, 
but against spiritual wickedness in high places. Or, as the 
Scriptural margin reads, "wicked spirits in high places." What a 
fearful array of forces are set against him who would make his way 
through the wilderness of this world to the portals of the 
Celestial City! It is no surprise, therefore, to find Paul, who 
understood the character of the Christian life so well, and who 
was so thoroughly informed as to the malignity and number of the 
foes, which the disciple of the Lord must encounter, carefully and 
plainly urging him to "put on the whole armour of God," and "to 
pray with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit." Wise, with a 
great wisdom, would the present generation be if all professors of 
our faith could be induced to realize this all-important and vital 
truth, which is so absolutely indispensable to a successful 
Christian life.
     It is just at this point in much present-day Christian 
profession, that one may find its greatest defect. There is 
little, or nothing, of the soldier element in it. The discipline, 
self-denial, spirit of hardship, determination, so prominent in 
and belonging to the military life, are, one and all, largely 
wanting. Yet the Christian life is warfare, all the way.
     How comprehensive, pointed and striking are all Paul's 
directions to the Christian soldier, who is bent on thwarting the 
devil and saving his soul alive! First of all, he must possess a 
clear idea of the character of the life on which he has entered. 
Then, he must know something of his foes -- the adversaries of his 
immortal soul -- their strength, their skill, their malignity. 
Knowing, therefore, something of the character of the enemy, and 
realizing the need of preparation to overcome them, he is prepared 
to hear the Apostle's decisive conclusion:
     "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in he power 
of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able 
to stand against the wiles of the devil. Wherefore, take unto you 
the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil 
day, and having done all, to stand."
     All these directions end in a climax; and that climax is 
prayer. How can the brave warrior for Christ be made braver still? 
How can the strong soldier be made stronger still? How can the 
victorious battler be made still more victorious? Here are Paul's 
explicit directions to that end:
     "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the 
Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and 
supplication for all saints."
     Prayer, and more prayer, adds to the fighting qualities and 
the more certain victories of God's good fighting-men. The power 
of prayer is most forceful on the battle-field amid the din and 
strife of the conflict. Paul was preeminently a soldier of the 
Cross. For him, life was no flowery bed of ease. He was no dress-
parade, holiday soldier, whose only business was to don a uniform 
on set occasions. His was a life of intense conflict, the facing 
of many adversaries, the exercise of unsleeping vigilance and 
constant effort. And, at its close -- in sight of the end -- we 
hear him chanting his final song of victory, a I have fought a 
good fight," and reading between the lines, we see that he is more 
than conqueror!
     In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul indicates the nature of 
his soldier-life, giving us some views of the kind of praying 
needed for such a career. He writes:
     "Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's 
sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with 
me in your prayers to God for me, that I may be delivered from 
them that do not believe in Judaea."
     Paul had foes in Judaea -- foes who beset and opposed him in 
the form of "unbelieving men" and this, added to other weighty 
reasons, led him to urge the Roman Christians to "strive with him 
in prayer." That word "strive" indicated wrestling, the putting 
forth of great effort. This is the kind of effort, and this the 
sort of spirit, which must possess the Christian soldier.
     Here is a great soldier, a captain-general, in the great 
struggle, faced by malignant forces who seek his ruin. His force 
is well-nigh spent. What reinforcements can he count on? What can 
give help and bring success to a warrior in such a pressing 
emergency? It is a critical moment in the conflict. What force can 
be added to the energy of his own prayers? The answer is -- in the 
prayers of others, even the prayers of his brethren who were at 
Rome. These, he believes, will bring him additional aid, so that 
he can win his fight, overcome his adversaries, and, ultimately, 
     The Christian soldier is to pray at all seasons, and under 
all circumstances. His praying must be arranged so as to cover his 
times of peace as well as his hours of active conflict. It must be 
available in his marching and his fighting. Prayer must diffuse 
all effort, impregnate all ventures, decide all issues. The 
Christian soldier must be as intense in his praying as in his 
fighting, for his victories will depend very much more on his 
praying than on his fighting. Fervent supplication must be added 
to steady resolve, prayer and supplication must supplement the 
armour of God. The Holy Spirit must aid the supplication with His 
own strenuous plea. And the soldier must pray in the Spirit. In 
this, as in other forms of warfare, eternal vigilance is the price 
of victory; and thus, watchfulness and persistent perseverance, 
must mark the every activity of the Christian warrior.
     The soldier-prayer must reflect its profound concern for the 
success and well-being of the whole army. The battle is not 
altogether a personal matter; victory cannot be achieved for self, 
alone. There is a sense, in which the entire army of Christ is 
involved. The cause of God, His saints, their woes and trials, 
their duties and crosses, all should find a voice and a pleader in 
the Christian soldier, when he prays. He dare not limit his 
praying to himself. Nothing dries up spiritual secretions so 
certainly and completely; nothing poisons the fountain of 
spiritual life so effectively; nothing acts in such deadly 
fashion, as selfish praying.
     Note carefully that the Christian's armour will avail him 
nothing, unless prayer be added. This is the pivot, the connecting 
link of the armour of God. This holds it together, and renders it 
effective. God's true soldier plans his campaigns, arranges his 
battle-forces, and conducts his conflicts, with prayer. It is all 
important and absolutely essential to victory, that prayer should 
so impregnate the life that every breath will be a petition, every 
sigh a supplication. The Christian soldier must needs be always 
fighting. He should, of sheer necessity, be always praying.
     The Christian soldier is compelled to constant picket-duty. 
He must always be on his guard. He is faced by a foe who never 
sleeps, who is always alert, and ever prepared to take advantage 
of the fortunes of war. Watchfulness is a cardinal principle with 
Christ's warrior, "watch and pray," forever sounding in his ears. 
He cannot dare to be asleep at his post. Such a lapse brings him 
not only under the displeasure of the Captain of his salvation, 
but exposes him to added danger. Watchfulness, therefore, 
imperatively constitutes the duty of the soldier of the Lord.
     In the New Testament, there are three different words, which 
are translated "watch." The first means "absence of sleep," and 
implies a wakeful frame of mind, as opposed to listlessness; it is 
an enjoinder to keep awake, circumspect, attentive, constant, 
vigilant. The second word means "fully awake," -- a state induced 
by some rousing effort, which faculty excited to attention and 
interest, active, cautious, lest through carelessness or 
indolence, some destructive calamity should suddenly evolve. The 
third word means "to be calm and collected in spirit," 
dispassionate, untouched by slumberous or beclouding influences, a 
wariness against all pitfalls and beguilements.
     All three definitions are used by St. Paul. Two of them are 
employed in connection with prayer. Watchfulness intensified, is a 
requisite for prayer. Watchfulness must guard and cover the whole 
spiritual man, and fit him for prayer. Everything resembling 
unpreparedness or non-vigilance, is death to prayer.
     In Ephesians, Paul gives prominence to the duty of constant 
watchfulness, "Watching thereunto with all perseverance and 
supplication." Watch, he says, watch, WATCH! "And what I say unto 
you, I say unto all, Watch."
     Sleepless wakefulness is the price one must pay for victory 
over his spiritual foes. Rest assured that the devil never falls 
asleep. He is ever "walking about, seeking whom he may devour." 
Just as a shepherd must never be careless and unwatchful lest the 
wolf devour his sheep, so the Christian soldier must ever have his 
eyes wide open, implying his possession of a spirit which neither 
slumbers nor grows careless. The inseparable companions and 
safeguards of prayer are vigilance, watchfulness, and a mounted 
guard. In writing to the Colossians Paul brackets these 
inseparable qualities together: "Continue in prayer," he enjoins, 
"and watch in the same, with thanksgiving."
     When will Christians more thoroughly learn the twofold 
lesson, that they are called to a great warfare, and that in order 
to get the victory they must give themselves to unsleeping 
watchfulness and unceasing prayer?
     "Be sober, be vigilant," says Peter, "because your adversary, 
the devil, walketh about seeking whom he may devour."
     God's Church is a militant host. Its warfare is with unseen 
forces of evil. God's people compose an army fighting to establish 
His kingdom in the earth. Their aim is to destroy the sovereignty 
of Satan, and over its ruins, erect the Kingdom of God, which is 
"righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." This militant 
army is composed of individual soldiers of the Cross, and the 
armour of God is needed for its defence. Prayer must be added as 
that which crowns the whole.

     "Stand then in His great might,
          With all His strength endued;
     But take, to arm you for the fight,
          The panoply of God."

     Prayer is too simple, too evident a duty, to need definition. 
Necessity gives being and shape to prayer. Its importance is so 
absolute, that the Christian soldier's life, in all the breadth 
and intensity of it, should be one of prayer. The entire life of a 
Christian soldier -- its being, intention, implication and action 
-- are all dependent on its being a life of prayer. Without prayer 
-- no matter what else he have -- the Christian soldier's life 
will be feeble, and ineffective, and constitute him an easy prey 
for his spiritual enemies.
     Christian experience will be sapless, and Christian influence 
will be dry and arid, unless prayer has a high place in the life. 
Without prayer the Christian graces will wither and die. Without 
prayer, we may add, preaching is edgeless and a vain thing, and 
the Gospel loses its wings and its loins. Christ is the lawgiver 
of prayer, and Paul is His Apostle of prayer. Both declare its 
primacy and importance, and demonstrate the fact of its 
indispensability. Their prayer-directions cover all places, 
include all times, and comprehend all things. How, then, can the 
Christian soldier hope or dream of victory, unless he be fortified 
by its power? How can he fail, if in addition to putting on the 
armour of God he be, at all times and seasons, "watching unto