The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "The guests at a certain hotel were being rendered 
uncomfortable by repeated strumming on a piano, done by a little 
girl who possessed no knowledge of music. They complained to the 
proprietor with a view to having the annoyance stopped. 'I am 
sorry you are annoyed,' he said. 'But the girl is the child of one 
of my very best guests. I can scarcely ask her not to touch the 
piano. But her father, who is away for a day or so, will return 
tomorrow. You can then approach him, and have the matter set 
right.' When the father returned, he found his daughter in the 
reception-room and, as usual, thumping on the piano. He walked up 
behind the child and, putting his arms over her shoulders, took 
her hands in his, and produced some most beautiful music. Thus it 
may be with us, and thus it will be, some coming day. Just now, we 
can produce little but clamour and disharmony; but, one day, the 
Lord Jesus will take hold of our hands of faith and prayer, and 
use them to bring forth the music of the skies." -- Anon

GENUINE, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not 
simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being, 
goodness and power of God, but a faith which believes that the 
things which "he saith, shall come to pass." As the faith is 
specific, so the answer likewise will be definite: "He shall have 
whatsoever he saith." Faith and prayer select the things, and God 
commits Himself to do the very things which faith and persevering 
prayer nominate, and petition Him to accomplish.
     The American Revised Version renders the twenty-fourth verse 
of the eleventh chapter of Mark, thus: "Therefore I say unto you, 
All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive 
them, and ye shall have them." Perfect faith has always in its 
keeping what perfect prayer asks for. How large and unqualified is 
the area of operation -- the "All things whatsoever!" How definite 
and specific the promise -- "Ye shall have them!"
     Our chief concern is with our faith, -- the problems of its 
growth, and the activities of its vigorous maturity. A faith which 
grasps and holds in its keeping the very things it asks for, 
without wavering, doubt or fear -- that is the faith we need -- 
faith, such as is a pearl of great price, in the process and 
practise of prayer.
     The statement of our Lord about faith and prayer quoted above 
is of supreme importance. Faith must be definite, specific; an 
unqualified, unmistakable request for the things asked for. It is 
not to be a vague, indefinite, shadowy thing; it must be something 
more than an abstract belief in God's willingness and ability to 
do for us. It is to be a definite, specific, asking for, and 
expecting the things for which we ask. Note the reading of Mark 
     "And shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that 
those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have 
whatever he saith."
     Just so far as the faith and the asking is definite, so also 
will the answer be. The giving is not to be something other than 
the things prayed for, but the actual things sought and named. "He 
shall have whatsoever he saith." It is all imperative, "He shall 
have." The granting is to be unlimited, both in quality and in 
     Faith and prayer select the subjects for petition, thereby 
determining what God is to do. "He shall have whatsoever he 
saith." Christ holds Himself ready to supply exactly, and fully, 
all the demands of faith and prayer. If the order on God be made 
clear, specific and definite, God will fill it, exactly in 
accordance with the presented terms.
     Faith is not an abstract belief in the Word of God, nor a 
mere mental credence, nor a simple assent of the understanding and 
will; nor is it a passive acceptance of facts, however sacred or 
thorough. Faith is an operation of God, a Divine illumination, a 
holy energy implanted by the Word of God and the Spirit in the 
human soul -- a spiritual, Divine principle which takes of the 
Supernatural and makes it a thing apprehendable by the faculties 
of time and sense.
     Faith deals with God, and is conscious of God. It deals with 
the Lord Jesus Christ and sees in Him a Saviour; it deals with 
God's Word, and lays hold of the truth; it deals with the Spirit 
of God, and is energized and inspired by its holy fire. God is the 
great objective of faith; for faith rests its whole weight on His 
Word. Faith is not an aimless act of the soul, but a looking to 
God and a resting upon His promises. Just as love and hope have 
always an objective so, also, has faith. Faith is not believing 
just anything; it is believing God, resting in Him, trusting His 
     Faith gives birth to prayer, and grows stronger, strikes 
deeper, rises higher, in the struggles and wrestlings of mighty 
petitioning. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the 
assurance and realization of the inheritance of the saints. Faith, 
too, is humble and persevering. It can wait and pray; it can stay 
on its knees, or lie in the dust. It is the one great condition of 
prayer; the lack of it lies at the root of all poor praying, 
feeble praying, little praying, unanswered praying.
     The nature and meaning of faith is more demonstrable in what 
it does, than it is by reason of any definition given it. Thus, if 
we turn to the record of faith given us in that great honour roll, 
which constitutes the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we see 
something of the wonderful results of faith. What a glorious list 
it is -- that of these men and women of faith! What marvellous 
achievements are there recorded, and set to the credit of faith! 
The inspired writer, exhausting his resources in cataloguing the 
Old Testament saints, who were such notable examples of wonderful 
faith, finally exclaims:
     "And what shall I more say? For the time would fail me to 
tell of Gideon and Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David 
also, and Samuel, and of the prophets."
     And then the writer of Hebrews goes on again, in a wonderful 
strain, telling of the unrecorded exploits wrought through the 
faith of the men of old, "of whom the world was not worthy." "All 
these," he says, "obtained a good report through faith."
     What an era of glorious achievements would dawn for the 
Church and the world, if only there could be reproduced a race of 
saints of like mighty faith, of like wonderful praying! It is not 
the intellectually great that the Church needs; nor is it men of 
wealth that the times demand. It is not people of great social 
influence that this day requires. Above everybody and everything 
else, it is men of faith, men of mighty prayer, men and women 
after the fashion of the saints and heroes enumerated in Hebrews, 
who "obtained a good report through faith," that the Church and 
the whole wide world of humanity needs.
     Many men, of this day, obtain a good report because of their 
money-giving, their great mental gifts and talents, but few there 
be who obtain a "good report" because of their great faith in God, 
or because of the wonderful things which are being wrought through 
their great praying. Today, as much as at any time, we need men of 
great faith and men who are great in prayer. These are the two 
cardinal virtues which make men great in the eyes of God, the two 
things which create conditions of real spiritual success in the 
life and work of the Church. It is our chief concern to see that 
we maintain a faith of such quality and texture, as counts before 
God; which grasps, and holds in its keeping, the things for which 
it asks, without doubt and without fear.
     Doubt and fear are the twin foes of faith. Sometimes, they 
actually usurp the place of faith, and although we pray, it is a 
restless, disquieted prayer that we offer, uneasy and often 
complaining. Peter failed to walk on Gennesaret because he 
permitted the waves to break over him and swamp the power of his 
faith. Taking his eyes from the Lord and regarding the water all 
about him, he began to sink and had to cry for succour -- "Lord, 
save, or I perish!"
     Doubts should never be cherished, nor fears harboured. Let 
none cherish the delusion that he is a martyr to fear and doubt. 
It is no credit to any man's mental capacity to cherish doubt of 
God, and no comfort can possibly derive from such a thought. Our 
eyes should be taken off self, removed from our own weakness and 
allowed to rest implicitly upon God's strength. "Cast not away 
therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward." 
A simple, confiding faith, living day by day, and casting its 
burden on the Lord, each hour of the day, will dissipate fear, 
drive away misgiving and deliver from doubt:
     "Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by supplication 
and prayer, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known 
unto God."
     That is the Divine cure for all fear, anxiety, and undue 
concern of soul, all of which are closely akin to doubt and 
unbelief. This is the Divine prescription for securing the peace 
which passeth all understanding, and keeps the heart and mind in 
quietness and peace.
     All of us need to mark well and heed the caution given in 
Hebrews: "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil 
heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
     We need, also, to guard against unbelief as we would against 
an enemy. Faith needs to be cultivated. We need to keep on 
praying, "Lord, increase our faith," for faith is susceptible of 
increase. Paul's tribute to the Thessalonians was, that their 
faith grew exceedingly. Faith is increased by exercise, by being 
put into use. It is nourished by sore trials.
     "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than 
of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be 
found unto praise and honour and glow at the appearing of Jesus 
     Faith grows by reading and meditating upon the Word of God. 
Most, and best of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer.
     It would be well, if all of us were to stop, and inquire 
personally of ourselves: "Have I faith in God? Have I real faith, 
-- faith which keeps me in perfect peace, about the things of 
earth and the things of heaven?" This is the most important 
question a man can propound and expect to be answered. And there 
is another question, closely akin to it in significance and 
importance -- "Do I really pray to God so that He hears me and 
answers my prayers? And do I truly pray unto God so that I get 
direct from God the things I ask of Him?"
     It was claimed for Augustus Caesar that he found Rome a city 
of wood, and left it a city of marble. The pastor who succeeds in 
changing his people from a prayerless to a prayerful people, has 
done a greater work than did Augustus in changing a city from wood 
to marble. And after all, this is the prime work of the preacher. 
Primarily, he is dealing with prayerless people -- with people of 
whom it is said, "God is not in all their thoughts." Such people 
he meets everywhere, and all the time. His main business is to 
turn them from being forgetful of God, from being devoid of faith, 
from being prayerless, so that they become people who habitually 
pray, who believe in God, remember Him and do His will. The 
preacher is not sent to merely induce men to join the Church, nor 
merely to get them to do better. It is to get them to pray, to 
trust God, and to keep God ever before their eyes, that they may 
not sin against Him.
     The work of the ministry is to change unbelieving sinners 
into praying and believing saints. The call goes forth by Divine 
authority, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be 
saved." We catch a glimpse of the tremendous importance of faith 
and of the great value God has set upon it, when we remember that 
He has made it the one indispensable condition of being saved. "By 
grace are ye saved, through faith." Thus, when we contemplate the 
great importance of prayer, we find faith standing immediately by 
its side. By faith are we saved, and by faith we stay saved. 
Prayer introduces us to a life of faith. Paul declared that the 
life he lived, he lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved him 
and gave Himself for him -- that he walked by faith and not by 
     Prayer is absolutely dependent upon faith. Virtually, it has 
no existence apart from it, and accomplishes nothing unless it be 
its inseparable companion. Faith makes prayer effectual, and in a 
certain important sense, must precede it.
     "For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that 
He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."
     Before prayer ever starts toward God; before its petition is 
preferred, before its requests are made known -- faith must have 
gone on ahead; must have asserted its belief in the existence of 
God; must have given its assent to the gracious truth that "God is 
a rewarder of those that diligently seek His face." This is the 
primary step in praying. In this regard, while faith does not 
bring the blessing, yet it puts prayer in a position to ask for 
it, and leads to another step toward realization, by aiding the 
petitioner to believe that God is able and willing to bless.
     Faith starts prayer to work -- clears the way to the mercy-
seat. It gives assurance, first of all, that there is a mercy-
seat, and that there the High Priest awaits the pray-ers and the 
prayers. Faith opens the way for prayer to approach God. But it 
does more. It accompanies prayer at every step she takes. It is 
her inseparable companion and when requests are made unto God, it 
is faith which turns the asking into obtaining. And faith follows 
prayer, since the spiritual life into which a believer is led by 
prayer, is a life of faith. The one prominent characteristic of 
the experience into which believers are brought through prayer, is 
not a life of works, but of faith.
     Faith makes prayer strong, and gives it patience to wait on 
God. Faith believes that God is a rewarder. No truth is more 
clearly revealed in the Scriptures than this, while none is more 
encouraging. Even the closet has its promised reward, "He that 
seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly," while the most 
insignificant service rendered to a disciple in the name of the 
Lord, surely receives its reward. And to this precious truth faith 
gives its hearty assent.
     Yet faith is narrowed down to one particular thing -- it does 
not believe that God will reward everybody, nor that He is a 
rewarder of all who pray, but that He is a rewarder of them that 
diligently seek Him. Faith rests its care on diligence in prayer, 
and gives assurance and encouragement to diligent seekers after 
God, for it is they, alone, who are richly rewarded when they 
     We need constantly to be reminded that faith is the one 
inseparable condition of successful praying. There are other 
considerations entering into the exercise, but faith is the final, 
the one indispensable condition of true praying. As it is written 
in a familiar, primary declaration: "Without faith, it is 
impossible to please Him."
     James puts this truth very plainly.
     "If any of you lack wisdom," he says, "let him ask of God, 
that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall 
be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he 
that wavereth (or doubteth) is like a wave of the sea, driven with 
the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall 
receive any thing of the Lord."
     Doubting is always put under the ban, because it stands as a 
foe to faith and hinders effectual praying. In the First Epistle 
to Timothy Paul gives us an invaluable truth relative to the 
conditions of successful praying, which he thus lays down: "I will 
therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without 
wrath and doubting."
     All questioning must be watched against and eschewed. Fear 
and peradventure have no place in true praying. Faith must assert 
itself and bid these foes to prayer depart.
     Too much authority cannot be attributed to faith; but prayer 
is the sceptre by which it signalizes its power. How much of 
spiritual wisdom there is in the following advice written by an 
eminent old divine.
     "Would you be freed from the bondage to corruption?" he asks. 
"Would you grow in grace in general and grow in grace in 
particular? If you would, your way is plain. Ask of God more 
faith. Beg of Him morning, and noon and night, while you walk by 
the way, while you sit in the house, when you lie down and when 
you rise up; beg of Him simply to impress Divine things more 
deeply on your heart, to give you more and more of the substance 
of things hoped for and of the evidence of things not seen."
     Great incentives to pray are furnished in Holy Scriptures, 
and our Lord closes His teaching about prayer, with the assurance 
and promise of heaven. The presence of Jesus Christ in heaven, the 
preparation for His saints which He is making there, and the 
assurance that He will come again to receive them -- how all this 
helps the weariness of praying, strengthens its conflicts, 
sweetens its arduous toil! These things are the star of hope to 
prayer, the wiping away of its tears, the putting of the odour of 
heaven into the bitterness of its cry. The spirit of a pilgrim 
greatly facilitates praying. An earth-bound, earth-satisfied 
spirit cannot pray. In such a heart, the flame of spiritual desire 
is either gone out or smouldering in faintest glow. The wings of 
its faith are clipped, its eyes are filmed, its tongue silenced. 
But they, who in unswerving faith and unceasing prayer, wait 
continually upon the Lord, do renew their strength, do mount up 
with wings as eagles, do run, and are not weary, do walk, and not