The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "And dear to me the loud 'Amen,'
          Which echoes through the blest abode --
     Which swells, and sinks, then swells again,
          Dies on the walls -- but lives with God! "

PRAYER stands related to places, times, occasions and 
circumstances. It has to do with God and with everything which is 
related to God, and it has an intimate and special relationship to 
His house. A church is a sacred place, set apart from all 
unhallowed and secular uses, for the worship of God. As worship is 
prayer, the house of God is a place set apart for worship. It is 
no common place; it is where God dwells, where He meets with His 
people, and He delights in the worship of His saints.
     Prayer is always in place in the house of God. When prayer is 
a stranger there, then it ceases to be God's house at all. Our 
Lord put peculiar emphasis upon what the Church was when He cast 
out the buyers and sellers in the Temple, repeating the words from 
Isaiah, "It is written, My house shall be called the house of 
prayer." He makes prayer preeminent, that which stands out above 
all else in the house of God. They, who sidetrack prayer or seek 
to minify it, and give it a secondary place, pervert the Church of 
God, and make it something less and other than it is ordained to 
     Prayer is perfectly at home in the house of God. It is no 
stranger, no mere guest; it belongs there. It has a peculiar 
affinity for the place, and has, moreover, a Divine right there, 
being set, therein, by Divine appointment and approval.
     The inner chamber is a sacred place for personal worship. The 
house of God is a holy place for united worship. The prayer-closet 
is for individual prayer. The house of God is for mutual prayer, 
concerted prayer, united prayer. Yet even in the house of God, 
there is the element of private worship, since God's people are to 
worship Him and pray to Him, personally, even in public worship. 
The Church is for the united prayer of kindred, yet individual 
     The life, power and glory of the Church is prayer. The life 
of its members is dependent on prayer and the presence of God is 
secured and retained by prayer. The very place is made sacred by 
its ministry. Without it, the Church is lifeless and powerless. 
Without it, even the building, itself, is nothing, more or other, 
than any other structure. Prayer converts even the bricks, and 
mortar, and lumber, into a sanctuary, a holy of holies, where the 
Shekinah dwells. It separates it, in spirit and in purpose from 
all other edifices. Prayer gives a peculiar sacredness to the 
building, sanctifies it, sets it apart for God, conserves it from 
all common and mundane affairs.
     With prayer, though the house of God might be supposed to 
lack everything else, it becomes a Divine sanctuary. So the 
Tabernacle, moving about from place to place, became the holy of 
holies, because prayer was there. Without prayer the building may 
be costly, perfect in all its appointments, beautiful for 
situation and attractive to the eye, but it comes down to the 
human, with nothing Divine in it, and is on a level with all other 
     Without prayer, a church is like a body without spirit; it is 
a dead, inanimate thing. A church with prayer in it, has God in 
it. When prayer is set aside, God is outlawed. When prayer becomes 
an unfamiliar exercise, then God Himself is a stranger there.
     As God's house is a house of prayer, the Divine intention is 
that people should leave their homes and go to meet Him in His own 
house. The building is set apart for prayer especially, and as God 
has made special promise to meet His people there, it is their 
duty to go there, and for that specific end. Prayer should be the 
chief attraction for all spiritually minded church-goers. While it 
is conceded that the preaching of the Word has an important place 
in the house of God, yet prayer is its predominating, 
distinguishing feature. Not that all other places are sinful, or 
evil, in themselves or in their uses. But they are secular and 
human, having no special conception of God in them. The Church is, 
essentially, religious and Divine. The work belonging to other 
places is done without special reference to God. He is not 
specifically recognized, nor called upon. In the Church, however, 
God is acknowledged, and nothing is done without Him. Prayer is 
the one distinguishing mark of the house of God. As prayer 
distinguishes Christian from unchristian people, so prayer 
distinguishes God's house from all other houses. It is a place 
where faithful believers meet with their Lord.
     As God's house is, preeminently, a house of prayer, prayer 
should enter into and underlie everything that is undertaken 
there. Prayer be longs to every sort of work appertaining to the 
Church of God. As God's house is a house where the business of 
praying is carried on, so is it a place where the business of 
making praying people out of prayerless people is done. The house 
of God is a Divine workshop, and there the work of prayer goes on. 
Or the house of God is a Divine schoolhouse, in which the lesson 
of prayer is taught; where men and women learn to pray, and where 
they are graduated, in the school of prayer.
     Any church calling itself the house of God, and failing to 
magnify prayer; which does not put prayer in the forefront of its 
activities; which does not teach the great lesson of prayer, 
should change its teaching to conform to the Divine pattern or 
change the name of its building to something other than a house of 
     On an earlier page, we made reference to the finding of the 
Book of the Law of the Lord given to Moses. How long that book had 
been there, we do not know. But when tidings of its discovery were 
carried to Josiah, he rent his clothes and was greatly disturbed. 
He lamented the neglect of God's Word and saw, as a natural 
result, the iniquity which abounded throughout the land.
     And then, Josiah thought of God, and commanded Hilkiah, the 
priest, to go and make inquiry of the Lord. Such neglect of the 
Word of the Law was too serious a matter to be treated lightly, 
and God must be enquired of, and repentance shown, by himself, and 
the nation:
     "Go enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in 
Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is 
found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon 
us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do 
after all that is written in this book."
     But that was not all. Josiah was bent on promoting a revival 
of religion in his kingdom, so we find him gathering all the 
elders of Jerusalem and Judah together, for that purpose. When 
they had come together, the king went into the house of the Lord, 
and himself read in all the words of the Book of the Covenant that 
was found in the house of the Lord.
     With this righteous king, God's Word was of great importance. 
He esteemed it at its proper worth, and counted a knowledge of it 
to be of such grave importance, as to demand his consulting God in 
prayer about it, and to warrant the gathering together of the 
notables of his kingdom, so that they, together with himself, 
should be instructed out of God's Book concerning God's Law.
     When Ezra, returned from Babylon, was seeking the 
reconstruction of his nation, the people, themselves, were alive 
to the situation, and, on one occasion, the priests, Levites and 
people assembled themselves together as one man before the water 
     "And they spake unto Ezra the scribe, to bring the book of 
the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra 
the priest brought the law before the congregation, both of men 
and women, and all that could hear with understanding. And he read 
therein before the street that was before the water gate from the 
morning until midday; and the ears of all the people were 
attentive unto the book of the law."
     This was Bible-reading Day in Judah -- a real revival of 
Scripture-study. The leaders read the law before the people, whose 
ears were keen to hear what God had to say to them out of the Book 
of the Law. But it was not only a Bible-reading day. It was a time 
when real preaching was done, as the following passage indicates:
     "So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly and 
gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."
     Here then is the Scriptural definition of preaching. No 
better definition can be given. To read the Word of God distinctly 
-- to read it so that the people could hear and understand the 
words read; not to mumble out the words, nor read it in an 
undertone or with indistinctness, but boldly and clearly -- that 
was the method followed in Jerusalem, on this auspicious day. 
Moreover: the sense of the words was made clear in the meeting 
held before the water gate; the people were treated to a high type 
of expository preaching. That was true preaching -- preaching of a 
sort which is sorely needed, today, in order that God's Word may 
have due effect on the hearts of the people. This meeting in 
Jerusalem surely contains a lesson which all present-day preachers 
should learn and heed.
     No one having any knowledge of the existing facts, will deny 
the comparative lack of expository preaching in the pulpit effort 
of today. And none, we should, at least, imagine, will do other 
than lament the lack. Topical preaching, polemical preaching, 
historical preaching, and other forms of sermonic output have, one 
supposes, their rightful and opportune uses. But expository 
preaching -- the prayerful expounding of the Word of God is 
preaching that is preaching -- pulpit effort par excellence.
     For its successful accomplishment, however, a preacher needs 
must be a man of prayer. For every hour spent in his study-chair, 
he will have to spend two upon his knees. For every hour he 
devotes to wrestling with an obscure passage of Holy Writ, he must 
have two in the which to be found wrestling with God. Prayer and 
preaching: preaching and prayer! They cannot be separated. The 
ancient cry was: "To your tents, O Israel! "The modern cry should 
be: "To your knees, O preachers, to your knees!"