The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "St. Teresa rose off her deathbed to finish her work. She 
inspected, with all her quickness of eye and love of order the 
whole of the house in which she had been carried to die. She saw 
everything put into its proper place, and every one answering to 
their proper order, after which she attended the divine offices of 
the day. She then went back to her bed, summoned her daughters 
around her . . . and, with the most penitential of David's 
penitential prayers upon her tongue, Teresa of Jesus went forth to 
meet her Bridegroom." -- Alexander Whyte.

PRAYER, without fervour, stakes nothing on the issue, because it 
has nothing to stake. It comes with empty hands. Hands, too, which 
are listless, as well as empty, which have never learned the 
lesson of clinging to the Cross.
     Fervourless prayer has no heart in it; it is an empty thing, 
an unfit vessel. Heart, soul, and life, must find place in all 
real praying. Heaven must be made to feel the force of this crying 
unto God.
     Paul was a notable example of the man who possessed a fervent 
spirit of prayer. His petitioning was all-consuming, centered 
immovably upon the object of his desire, and the God who was able 
to meet it.
     Prayers must be red hot. It is the fervent prayer that is 
effectual and that availeth. Coldness of spirit hinders praying; 
prayer cannot live in a wintry atmosphere. Chilly surroundings 
freeze out petitioning; and dry up the springs of supplication. It 
takes fire to make prayers go. Warmth of soul creates an 
atmosphere favourable to prayer, because it is favourable to 
fervency. By flame, prayer ascends to heaven. Yet fire is not 
fuss, nor heat, noise. Heat is intensity -- something that glows 
and burns. Heaven is a mighty poor market for ice.
     God wants warm-hearted servants. The Holy Spirit comes as a 
fire, to dwell in us; we are to be baptized, with the Holy Ghost 
and with fire. Fervency is warmth of soul. A phlegmatic 
temperament is abhorrent to vital experience. If our religion does 
not set us on fire, it is because we have frozen hearts. God 
dwells in a flame; the Holy Ghost descends in fire. To be absorbed 
in God's will, to be so greatly in earnest about doing it that our 
whole being takes fire, is the qualifying condition of the man who 
would engage in effectual prayer.
     Our Lord warns us against feeble praying. "Men ought always 
to pray," He declares, "and not to faint." That means, that we are 
to possess sufficient fervency to carry us through the severe and 
long periods of pleading prayer. Fire makes one alert and 
vigilant, and brings him off, more than conqueror. The atmosphere 
about us is too heavily charged with resisting forces for limp or 
languid prayers to make headway. It takes heat, and fervency and 
meteoric fire, to push through, to the upper heavens, where God 
dwells with His saints, in light.
     Many of the great Bible characters were notable examples of 
fervency of spirit when seeking God. The Psalmist declares with 
great earnestness:
     "My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy 
judgments at all times."
     What strong desires of heart are here! What earnest soul 
longings for the Word of the living God!
     An even greater fervency is expressed by him in another 
     "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my 
soul after Thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living 
God: when shall I come and appear before God?"
     That is the word of a man who lived in a state of grace, 
which had been deeply and supernaturally wrought in his soul.
     Fervency before God counts in the hour of prayer, and finds a 
speedy and rich reward at His hands. The Psalmist gives us this 
statement of what God had done for the king, as his heart turned 
toward his Lord:
     "Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not 
withholden the request of his lips."
     At another time, he thus expresses himself directly to God in 
preferring his request:
     "Lord, all my desire is before Thee; and my groaning is not 
hid from Thee."
     What a cheering thought! Our inward groanings, our secret 
desires, our heart-longings, are not hidden from the eyes of Him 
with whom we have to deal in prayer.
     The incentive to fervency of spirit before God, is precisely 
the same as it is for continued and earnest prayer. While fervency 
is not prayer, yet it derives from an earnest soul, and is 
precious in the sight of God. Fervency in prayer is the precursor 
of what God will do by way of answer. God stands pledged to give 
us the desire of our hearts in proportion to the fervency of 
spirit we exhibit, when seeking His face in prayer.
     Fervency has its seat in the heart, not in the brain, nor in 
the intellectual faculties of the mind. Fervency therefore, is not 
an expression of the intellect. Fervency of spirit is something 
far transcending poetical fancy or sentimental imagery. It is 
something else besides mere preference, the contrasting of like 
with dislike. Fervency is the throb and gesture of the emotional 
     It is not in our power, perhaps, to create fervency of spirit 
at will, but we can pray God to implant it. It is ours, then, to 
nourish and cherish it, to guard it against extinction, to prevent 
its abatement or decline. The process of personal salvation is not 
only to pray, to express our desires to God, but to acquire a 
fervent spirit and seek, by all proper means, to cultivate it. It 
is never out of place to pray God to beget within us, and to keep 
alive the spirit of fervent prayer.
     Fervency has to do with God, just as prayer has to do with 
Him. Desire has always an objective. If we desire at all, we 
desire something. The degree of fervency with which we fashion our 
spiritual desires, will always serve to determine the earnestness 
of our praying. In this relation, Adoniram Judson says:
     "A travailing spirit, the throes of a great burdened desire, 
belongs to prayer. A fervency strong enough to drive away sleep, 
which devotes and inflames the spirit, and which retires all 
earthly ties, all this belongs to wrestling, prevailing prayer. 
The Spirit, the power, the air, and food of prayer is in such a 
     Prayer must be clothed with fervency, strength and power. It 
is the force which, centered on God, determines the outlay of 
Himself for earthly good. Men who are fervent in spirit are bent 
on attaining to righteousness, truth, grace, and all other sublime 
and powerful graces which adorn the character of the authentic, 
unquestioned child of God.
     God once declared, by the mouth of a brave prophet, to a king 
who, at one time, had been true to God, but, by the incoming of 
success and material prosperity, had lost his faith, the following 
     "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole 
earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is 
perfect toward Him. Herein hast thou done foolishly; therefore, 
from henceforth thou shalt have wars."
     God had heard Asa's prayer in early life, but disaster came 
and trouble was sent, because he had given up the life of prayer 
and simple faith.
     In Romans 15:30, we have the word, "strive," occurring, in 
the request which Paul made for prayerful cooperation.
     In Colossians 4:12, we have the same word, but translated 
differently: "Epaphras always labouring fervently for you in 
prayer." Paul charged the Romans to "strive together with him in 
prayer," that is, to help him in his struggle of prayer. The word 
means to enter into a contest, to fight against adversaries. It 
means, moreover, to engage with fervent zeal to endeavour to 
     These recorded instances of the exercise and reward of faith, 
give us easily to see that, in almost every instance, faith was 
blended with trust until it is not too much to say that the former 
was swallowed up in the latter. It is hard to properly distinguish 
the specific activities of these two qualities, faith and trust. 
But there is a point, beyond all peradventure, at which faith is 
relieved of its burden, so to speak; where trust comes along and 
says: "You have done your part, the rest is mine!"
     In the incident of the barren fig tree, our Lord transfers 
the marvellous power of faith to His disciples. To their 
exclamation, "How soon is the fig tree withered alway!" He said:
     "If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this 
which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this 
mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall 
be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, 
believing, ye shall receive."
     When a Christian believer attains to faith of such 
magnificent proportions as these, he steps into the realm of 
implicit trust. He stands without a tremor on the apex of his 
spiritual outreaching. He has attained faith's veritable top stone 
which is unswerving, unalterable, unalienable trust in the power 
of the living God.