The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "How constantly, in the Scriptures, do we encounter such 
words as 'field,' 'seed,' 'sower,' 'reaper,' 'seed-time,' 
'harvest'! Employing such metaphors interprets a fact of nature by 
a parable of grace. The field is the world and the good seed is 
the Word of God .Whether the Word be spoken or written, it is the 
power of God unto salvation. In our work of evangelism, the whole 
world is our field, every creature the object of effort and every 
book and tract, a seed of God." -- David Fant, Jr.

GOD'S Word is a record of prayer -- of praying men and their 
achievements, of the Divine warrant of prayer and of the 
encouragement given to those who pray. No one can read the 
instances, commands, examples, multiform statements which concern 
themselves with prayer, without realizing that the cause of God, 
and the success of His work in this world is committed to prayer; 
that praying men have been God's vicegerents on earth; that 
prayerless men have never been used of Him.
     A reverence for God's holy Name is closely related to a high 
regard for His Word. This hallowing of God's Name; the ability to 
do His will on earth, as it is done in heaven; the establishment 
and glory of God's kingdom, are as much involved in prayer, as 
when Jesus taught men the Universal Prayer. That "men ought always 
to pray and not to faint," is as fundamental to God's cause, 
today, as when Jesus Christ enshrined that great truth in the 
immortal settings of the Parable of the Importunate Widow.
     As God's house is called "the house of prayer," because 
prayer is the most important of its holy offices; so by the same 
token, the Bible may be called the Book of Prayer. Prayer is the 
great theme and content of its message to mankind.
     God's Word is the basis, as it is the directory of the prayer 
of faith. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all 
wisdom," says St. Paul, "teaching and admonishing one another in 
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your 
hearts to the Lord."
     As this word of Christ dwelling in us richly is transmuted 
and assimilated, it issues in praying. Faith is constructed of the 
Word and the Spirit, and faith is the body and substance of 
     In many of its aspects, prayer is dependent upon the Word of 
God. Jesus says:
     "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask 
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
     The Word of God is the fulcrum upon which the lever of prayer 
is placed, and by which things are mightily moved. God has 
committed Himself, His purpose and His promise to prayer. His Word 
becomes the basis, the inspiration of our praying, and there are 
circumstances under which, by importunate prayer, we may obtain an 
addition, or an enlargement of His promises. It is said of the old 
saints that they, "through faith obtained promises." There would 
seem to be in prayer the capacity for going even beyond the Word, 
of getting even beyond His promise, into the very presence of God, 
     Jacob wrestled, not so much with a promise, as with the 
Promiser. We must take hold of the Promiser, lest the promise 
prove nugatory. Prayer may well be defined as that force which 
vitalizes and energizes the Word of God, by taking hold of God, 
Himself. By taking hold of the Promiser, prayer reissues, and 
makes personal the promise. "There is none that stirreth up 
himself to take hold of Me," is God's sad lament. "Let him take 
hold of My strength, that he may make peace with Me," is God's 
recipe for prayer.
     By Scriptural warrant, prayer may be divided into the 
petition of faith and that of submission. The prayer of faith is 
based on the written Word, for "faith cometh by hearing, and 
hearing by the Word of God." It receives its answer, inevitably -- 
the very thing for which it prays.
     The prayer of submission is without a definite word of 
promise, so to speak, but takes hold of God with a lowly and 
contrite spirit, and asks and pleads with Him, for that which the 
soul desires. Abraham had no definite promise that God would spare 
Sodom. Moses had no definite promise that God would spare Israel; 
on the contrary, there was the declaration of His wrath, and of 
His purpose to destroy. But the devoted leader gained his plea 
with God, when he interceded for the Israelites with incessant 
prayers and many tears. Daniel had no definite promise that God 
would reveal to him the meaning of the king's dream, but he prayed 
specifically, and God answered definitely.
     The Word of God is made effectual and operative, by the 
process and practice of prayer. The Word of the Lord came to 
Elijah, "Go show thyself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the 
earth." Elijah showed himself to Ahab; but the answer to his 
prayer did not come, until he had pressed his fiery prayer upon 
the Lord seven times.
     Paul had the definite promise from Christ, that he "would be 
delivered from the people and the Gentiles," but we find him 
exhorting the Romans in the urgent and solemn manner concerning 
this very matter:
     "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, and that my service which I 
have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints."
     The Word of God is a great help in prayer. If it be lodged 
and written in our hearts, it will form an outflowing current of 
prayer, full and irresistible. Promises, stored in the heart, are 
to be the fuel from which prayer receives life and warmth, just as 
the coal, stored in the earth, ministers to our comfort on stormy 
days and wintry nights. The Word of God is the food, by which 
prayer is nourished and made strong. Prayer, like man, cannot live 
by bread alone, "but by every word which proceedeth out of the 
mouth of the Lord."
     Unless the vital forces of prayer are supplied by God's Word, 
prayer, though earnest, even vociferous, in its urgency, is, in 
reality, flabby, and vapid, and void. The absence of vital force 
in praying, can be traced to the absence of a constant supply of 
God's Word, to repair the waste, and renew the life. He who would 
learn to pray well, must first study God's Word, and store it in 
his memory and thought.
     When we consult God's Word, we find that no duty is more 
binding, more exacting, than that of prayer. On the other hand, we 
discover that no privilege is more exalted, no habit more richly 
owned of God. No promises are more radiant, more abounding, more 
explicit, more often reiterated, than those which are attached to 
prayer. "All things, whatsoever" are received by prayer, because 
"all things whatsoever" are promised. There is no limit to the 
provisions, included in the promises to prayer, and no exclusion 
from its promises. "Every one that asketh, receiveth." The word of 
our Lord is to this all-embracing effect: "If ye shall ask 
anything in My Name, I will do it."
     Here are some of the comprehensive, and exhaustive statements 
of the Word of God about prayer, the things to be taken in by 
prayer, the strong promise made in answer to prayer:
     "Pray without ceasing;" "continue in prayer;" "continuing 
instant in prayer;" "in everything by prayer, let your request be 
made known unto God;" "pray always, pray and not faint;" "men 
should pray everywhere;" "praying always, with all prayer and 
     What clear and strong statements are those which are put in 
the Divine record, to furnish us with a sure basis of faith, and 
to urge, constrain and encourage us to pray! How wide the range of 
prayer, as given us, in the Divine Revelation! How these 
Scriptures incite us to seek the God of prayer, with all our 
wants, with all our burdens!
     In addition to these statements left on record for our 
encouragement, the sacred pages teem with facts, examples, 
incidents, and observations, stressing the importance and the 
absolute necessity of prayer, and putting emphasis on its all-
prevailing power.
     The utmost reach and full benefit of the rich promises of the 
Word of God, should humbly be received by us, and put to the test. 
The world will never receive the full benefits of the Gospel until 
this be done. Neither Christian experience nor Christian living 
will be what they ought to be till these Divine promises have been 
fully tested by those who pray. By prayer, we bring these promises 
of God's holy will into the realm of the actual and the real. 
Prayer is the philosopher's stone which transmutes them into gold.
     If it be asked, what is to be done in order to render God's 
promises real, the answer is, that we must pray, until the words 
of the promise are clothed upon with the rich raiment of 
     God's promises are altogether too large to be mastered by 
desultory praying. When we examine ourselves, all too often, we 
discover that our praying does not rise to the demands of the 
situation; is so limited that it is little more than a mere oasis 
amid the waste and desert of the world's sin. Who of us, in our 
praying, measures up to this promise of our Lord:
     "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me, the 
works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these 
shall he do, because I go to My Father."
     How comprehensive, how far reaching, how all-embracing! How 
much is here, for the glory of God, how much for the good of man! 
How much for the manifestation of Christ's enthroned power, how 
much for the reward of abundant faith! And how great and gracious 
are the results which can be made to accrue from the exercise of 
commensurate, believing prayer!
     Look, for a moment, at another of God's great promises, and 
discover how we may be undergirded by the Word as we pray, and on 
what firm ground we may stand on which to make our petitions to 
our God:
     "If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask 
what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
     In these comprehensive words, God turns Himself over to the 
will of His people. When Christ becomes our all-in-all, prayer 
lays God's treasures at our feet. Primitive Christianity had an 
easy and practical solution of the situation, and got all which 
God had to give. That simple and terse solution is recorded in 
John's First Epistle:
     "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His 
commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in His 
     Prayer, coupled with loving obedience, is the way to put God 
to the test, and to make prayer answer all ends and all things. 
Prayer, joined to the Word of God, hallows and makes sacred all 
God's gifts. Prayer is not simply to get things from God, but to 
make those things holy, which already have been received from Him. 
It is not merely to get a blessing, but also to be able to give a 
blessing. Prayer makes common things holy and secular things, 
sacred. It receives things from God with thanksgiving and hallows 
them with thankful hearts, and devoted service.
     In the First Epistle to Timothy, Paul gives us these words:
     "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be 
refused, if it be received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified 
by the word of God and prayer."
     That is a statement which gives a negative to mere 
asceticism. God's good gifts are to be holy, not only by God's 
creative power, but, also, because they are made holy to us by 
prayer. We receive them, appropriate them and sanctify them by 
     Doing God's will, and having His Word abiding in us, is an 
imperative of effectual praying. But, it may be asked, how are we 
to know what God's will is? The answer is, by studying His Word, 
by hiding it in our hearts, and by letting the Word dwell in us 
richly. "The entrance of Thy word, giveth light."
     To know God's will in prayer, we must be filled with God's 
Spirit, who maketh intercession for the saints, and in the saints, 
according to the will of God. To be filled with God's Spirit, to 
be filled with God's Word, is to know God's will. It is to be put 
in such a frame of mind, to be found in such a state of heart, as 
will enable us to read and interpret aright the purposes of the 
Infinite. Such filling of the heart, with the Word and the Spirit, 
gives us an insight into the will of the Father, and enables us to 
rightly discern His will, and puts within us, a disposition of 
mind and heart to make it the guide and compass of our lives.
     Epaphras prayed that the Colossians might stand "perfect and 
complete in all the will of God." This is proof positive that, not 
only may we know the will of God, but that we may know all the 
will of God. And not only may we know all the will of God, but we 
may do all the will of God. We may, moreover, do all the will of 
God, not occasionally, or by a mere impulse, but with a settled 
habit of conduct. Still further, it shows us that we may not only 
do the will of God externally, but from the heart, doing it 
cheerfully, without reluctance, or secret disinclination, or any 
drawing or holding back from the intimate presence of the Lord.