The Necessity of Prayer
by E.M. Bounds


     "Two-thirds of the praying we do, is for that which would 
give us the greatest possible pleasure to receive. It is a sort of 
spiritual self-indulgence in which we engage, and as a consequence 
is the exact opposite of self-discipline. God knows all this, and 
keeps His children asking. In process of time -- His time -- our 
petitions take on another aspect, and we, another spiritual 
approach. God keeps us praying until, in His wisdom, He deigns to 
answer. And no matter how long it may be before He speaks, it is, 
even then, far earlier than we have a right to expect or hope to 
deserve." -- Anon.

THE tenor of Christ's teachings, is to declare that men are to 
pray earnestly -- to pray with an earnestness that cannot be 
denied. Heaven has harkening ears only for the whole-hearted, and 
the deeply-earnest. Energy, courage, and persistent perseverance 
must back the prayers which heaven respects, and God hears. All 
these qualities of soul, so essential to effectual praying, are 
brought out in the parable of the man who went to his friend for 
bread, at midnight. This man entered on his errand with 
confidence. Friendship promised him success. His plea was 
pressing: of a truth, he could not go back empty-handed. The flat 
refusal chagrined and surprised him. Here even friendship failed! 
But there was something to be tried yet -- stern resolution, set, 
fixed determination. He would stay and press his demand until the 
door was opened, and the request granted. This he proceeded to do, 
and by dint of importunity secured what ordinary solicitation had 
failed to obtain.
     The success of this man, achieved in the face of a flat 
denial, was used by the Saviour to illustrate the necessity for 
insistence in supplicating the throne of heavenly grace. When the 
answer is not immediately given, the praying Christian must gather 
courage at each delay, and advance in urgency till the answer 
comes which is assured, if he have but the faith to press his 
petition with vigorous faith.
     Laxity, faint-heartedness, impatience, timidity will be fatal 
to our prayers. Awaiting the onset of our importunity and 
insistence, is the Father's heart, the Father's hand, the Father's 
infinite power, the Father's infinite willingness to hear and give 
to His children.
     Importunate praying is the earnest, inward movement of the 
heart toward God. It is the throwing of the entire force of the 
spiritual man into the exercise of prayer. Isaiah lamented that no 
one stirred himself, to take hold of God. Much praying was done in 
Isaiah's time, but it was too easy, indifferent and complacent. 
There were no mighty movements of souls toward God. There was no 
array of sanctified energies bent on reaching and grappling with 
God, to draw from Him the treasures of His grace. Forceless 
prayers have no power to overcome difficulties, no power to win 
marked results, or to gain complete victories. We must win God, 
ere we can win our plea.
     Isaiah looked forward with hopeful eyes to the day when 
religion would flourish, when there would be times of real 
praying. When those times came, the watchmen would not abate their 
vigilance, but cry day and night, and those, who were the Lord's 
remembrancers, would give Him no rest. Their urgent, persistent 
efforts would keep all spiritual interests engaged, and make 
increasing drafts on God's exhaustless treasures.
     Importunate praying never faints nor grows weary; it is never 
discouraged; it never yields to cowardice, but is buoyed up and 
sustained by a hope that knows no despair, and a faith which will 
not let go. Importunate praying has patience to wait and strength 
to continue. It never prepares itself to quit praying, and 
declines to rise from its knees until an answer is received.
     The familiar, yet heartening words of that great missionary, 
Adoniram Judson, is the testimony of a man who was importunate at 
prayer. He says:
     "I was never deeply interested in any object, never prayed 
sincerely and earnestly for it, but that it came at some time, no 
matter how distant the day. Somehow, in some shape, probably the 
last I would have devised, it came."
     "Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, 
and it shall be opened unto you." These are the ringing challenges 
of our Lord in regard to prayer, and His intimation that true 
praying must stay, and advance in effort and urgency, till the 
prayer is answered, and the blessing sought, received.
     In the three words ask, seek, knock, in the order in which He 
places them, Jesus urges the necessity of importunity in prayer. 
Asking, seeking, knocking, are ascending rounds in the ladder of 
successful prayer. No principle is more definitely enforced by 
Christ than that prevailing prayer must have in it the quality 
which waits and perseveres, the courage that never surrenders, the 
patience which never grows tired, the resolution that never 
     In the parable preceding that of the Friend at Midnight, a 
most significant and instructive lesson in this respect is 
outlined. Indomitable courage, ceaseless pertinacity, fixity of 
purpose, chief among the qualities included in Christ's estimate 
of the highest and most successful form of praying.
     Importunity is made up of intensity, perseverance, patience 
and persistence. The seeming delay in answering prayer is the 
ground and the demand of importunity. In the first recorded 
instance of a miracle being wrought upon one who was blind, as 
given by Matthew, we have an illustration of the way in which our 
Lord appeared not to hearken at once to those who sought Him. But 
the two blind men continue their crying, and follow Him with their 
continual petition, saying, "Thou Son of David, have mercy on us." 
But He answered them not, and passed into the house. Yet the needy 
ones followed Him, and, finally, gained their eyesight and their 
     The case of blind Bartimaeus is a notable one in many ways. 
Especially is it remarkable for the show of persistence which this 
blind man exhibited in appealing to our Lord. If it be -- as it 
seems -- that his first crying was done as Jesus entered into 
Jericho, and that he continued it until Jesus came out of the 
place, it is all the stronger an illustration of the necessity of 
importunate prayer and the success which comes to those who stake 
their all on Christ, and give Him no peace until He grants them 
their hearts' desire.
     Mark puts the whole incident graphically before us. At first, 
Jesus seems not to hear. The crowd rebukes the noisy clamour of 
Bartimaeus. Despite the seeming unconcern of our Lord, however, 
and despite the rebuke of an impatient and quick-tempered crowd, 
the blind beggar still cries, and increases the loudness of his 
cry, until Jesus is impressed and moved. Finally, the crowd, as 
well as Jesus, hearken to the beggar's plea and declare in favour 
of his cause. He gains his case. His importunity avails even in 
the face of apparent neglect on the part of Jesus, and despite 
opposition and rebuke from the surrounding populace. His 
persistence won where half-hearted indifference would surely have 
     Faith has its province, in connection with prayer, and, of 
course, has its inseparable association with importunity. But the 
latter quality drives the prayer to the believing point. A 
persistent spirit brings a man to the place where faith takes 
hold, claims and appropriates the blessing.
     The imperative necessity of importunate prayer is plainly set 
forth in the Word of God, and needs to be stated and re-stated 
today. We are apt to overlook this vital truth. Love of ease, 
spiritual indolence, religious slothfulness, all operate against 
this type of petitioning. Our praying, however, needs to be 
pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency 
which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails.
     We have need, too, to give thought to that mysterious fact of 
prayer -- the certainty that there will be delays, denials, and 
seeming failures, in connection with its exercise. We are to 
prepare for these, to brook them, and cease not in our urgent 
praying. Like a brave soldier, who, as the conflict grows sterner, 
exhibits a superior courage than in the earlier stages of the 
battle; so does the praying Christian, when delay and denial face 
him, increase his earnest asking, and ceases not until prayer 
prevail. Moses furnishes an illustrious example of importunity in 
prayer. Instead of allowing his nearness to God and his intimacy 
with Him to dispense with the necessity for importunity, he 
regards them as the better fitting him for its exercise. When 
Israel set up the golden calf, the wrath of God waxed fierce 
against them, and Jehovah, bent on executing justice, said to 
Moses when divulging what He purposed doing, "Let Me alone!" But 
Moses would not let Him alone. He threw himself down before the 
Lord in an agony of intercession in behalf of the sinning 
Israelites, and for forty days and nights, fasted and prayed. What 
a season of importunate prayer was that!
     Jehovah was wroth with Aaron, also, who had acted as leader 
in this idolatrous business of the golden calf. But Moses prayed 
for Aaron as well as for the Israelites; had he not, both Israel 
and Aaron had perished, under the consuming fire of God's wrath.
     That long season of pleading before God, left its mighty 
impress on Moses. He had been in close relation with God 
aforetime, but never did his character attain the greatness that 
marked it in the days and years following this long season of 
importunate intercession.
     There can be no question but that importunate prayer moves 
God, and heightens human character! If we were more with God in 
this great ordinance of intercession, more brightly would our face 
shine, more richly endowed would life and service be, with the 
qualities which earn the goodwill of humanity, and bring glory to 
the Name of God.