Facts and History of Prayer (Continued)
By E.M. Bounds
From E.M. Bounds book, The Classic Collection on Prayer
“THE NEGLECT OF PRAYER is a grand hindrance to holiness. “We have not because we ask not.”(1) Oh, how meek and gentle, how lowly in heart, how full of love both to God and to man, might you have been at this day, if you had only asked! if you had continued instant in prayer! Ask, that you may thoroughly experience and perfectly practice the whole of that religion which our Lord has so beautifully described in the Sermon on the Mount.”
It is to the closet Paul directs us to go. The unfailing remedy for all troubling, distressing care is prayer. The place where the Lord is at hand is the closet of prayer. There He is always found, and there He is at hand to bless, deliver, and help. The closet of prayer is the one place where the Lord’s presence and power will be more fully realized than any other place.
Paul gives the various terms of prayer, supplication, and giving of thanks as the complement of true praying. The soul must be in all of these spiritual exercises. There must be no half-hearted praying, no reducing its nature, and no lessening its force. Not if we would be freed from this undue anxiety that causes friction and internal distress, and if we would receive the rich fruit of that peace that passes all understanding. The person who prays must be an earnest soul, well-rounded in spiritual attributes.
NOTHING TOO GREAT FOR PRAYER
“In everything by prayer … let your requests be made known unto God.”(2) says Paul. Nothing is too great to be handled in prayer, or to be sought in prayer. Nothing is too small to be weighed in the secret councils of the closet, and nothing is too little for its final arbitration. As care comes from every source, so prayer goes to every source. As there are no small things in prayer, so there are no small things with God. He who counts the hairs on our head, an who is not too lofty and high to notice the little sparrow that falls to the ground, is not too great and high to note everything that concerns the happiness, needs, and safety of His children. Prayer brings God into what people are pleased to term the “little affairs of life.” The lives of people are made up of these small matters, and yet how often do great consequences come from small beginnings?
There is no sorrow, Lord, too light
To bring in prayer to Thee:
There is no anxious care too slight
To wake Thy sympathy.
There is no secret sigh we breathe,
But meets Thine ear Divine,
And every cross grows light beneath
The shadow, Lord, of Thine.
WHATEVER AFFECTS US CONCERNS GOD
As everything by prayer is to be brought to the notice of Almighty God, so we are assured that whatever affects us concerns Him. How all-embracing is this direction about prayer! “In everything by prayer.” There is no distinction here between temporal and spiritual things. Such a distinction is against faith, wisdom, and reverence. God rules everything in nature and in grace. People are affected for time and eternity by things secular as well as by things spiritual. Humanity’s salvation hangs on its business as well as on its prayers — and business hangs on prayers just as it hangs on diligence.
The chief hindrances to piety and the deadliest temptations of the devil are in business — lying alongside the things of time. The heaviest, most confusing, and most stupefying cares lie beside besides secular and worldly matters. So prayer is to be made for everything that comes to us and that concerns us, for everything that we want to come to us, and for everything that we do not want to come to us. Prayer bless all things, brings all things, relieves all things and prevents all things. everything as well as every place and every hour is to be ordered by prayer. Prayer has in it the possibility to affect everything that affects us. Here are the vast possibilities of prayer.
BITTERNESS OF LIFE IS SWEETENED BY PRAYER
How much is the bitterness of life sweetened by prayer! How are the feeble made strong by prayer! Sickness flees before the health of prayer. Doubts, misgivings, and trembling fears retire Before prayer. Wisdom, knowledge, holiness, and heaven are at the command of prayer. Nothing is outside of prayer. It has the power to gain all things in the provision of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul covers all departments and sweeps the entire field of human concerns, conditions, and happenings by saying, “In everything by prayer.”
Supplications and thanksgiving are to be joined with prayer. It is not the dignity of worship, the gorgeousness of ceremonials, the magnificence of its ritual, or the plainness of its sacraments that avail. It is not simply the soul’s hallowed and lowly abasement before God, or the speechless awe that benefits in this prayer service. It is the intensity of supplication, the looking and the lifting of the soul in ardent plea to God for the things desired, and for that which request is made.
The radiance, gratitude, and utterance of thanksgiving must be there. This is not simply the poetry of praise, but the deep-toned words and prose of thanks. There must be hearty thanks that remembers the past, sees God in it, and voices that recognition in sincere thanksgiving. The hidden depths within must have utterance. The lips must speak the music of the soul. A heart enthused of God, a heart illuminated by His presence, a life guided by His right hand, must have something to say for God in gratitude. Such a heart is to recognize God in the events of past life, to exalt God for His goodness, and to honor God who has honored it.
LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN UNTO GOD
The ‘requests'” must be made known unto God. Silence is not prayer. Prayer is asking God for something that we do not have, that we desire, and that He has promised to give in answer to prayer. Prayer is really verbal asking. Words are in prayer. Strong words and true words are found in prayer. Desires in prayer are put into words. Praying ones are pleaders. They urge their prayers by arguments, promises, and needs.
Sometimes loud words are in prayer. The Psalmist said, “Evening, and morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud.”(3) the praying ones want something that they do not have. They want something God has in His possession, and that they can get by praying. They are beggared, bewildered, oppressed, and confused. They are before God in supplication, prayer, and thanksgiving. These are the attitudes, the incense, the paraphernalia, and the fashion of this hour — the court attendance of the soul before God.
ASKING FOR ONE’S SELF
We are in a difficulty. We need something, and we need it badly. Other help has failed. It means a plea for something to be given that has not been done. The request is for the Giver, — not alone His gifts, but Himself. Our requests are to be made known unto God. The requests are to be brought to the knowledge of God. It is then that cares fly away, anxieties disappear, worries depart, and our soul gets at ease. It is then that there steals into the heart “the peace of God that passes all understanding.”
Peace! doubting heart, my God’s I am,
Who formed me man, forbids my fear;
The Lord hath called me by my name;
The Lord protects, forever near;
His blood for me did once atone,
And still He loves and guards His own.
James has another marvelous description of prayer and its possibilities. It has to do with sickness and health, sin and forgiveness, rain and drought. Here’s James’ directions for praying:
Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.(4)
Here is prayer for one’s needs and intercessory prayer for others, prayer for physical needs and spiritual needs, prayer for drought and for rain, prayer for temporal matters and spiritual things. How vast the reach of prayer! How wonderful these words show its possibilities!
REMEDY FOR AFFLICTION AND DEPRESSION
Here is the remedy for affliction and depression of every sort, and here we find the remedy for sickness and for rain in the time of drought. Here is the way to obtain forgiveness of sins. A stroke of prayer paralyzes the energies of nature, stays its clouds, rain, and dew, and blasts field and farm like the simoon.(5) Prayer brings clouds, rain, and fertility to the famished and wasted earth.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” is a general statement of prayer as an energetic force. Two words are used. One signifies power in exercise, operative power, while the other is power as an endowment. Prayer is power and strength — a power and strength that influences God, and is most salutary, widespread, and marvelous in its gracious benefits to humanity. Prayer influences God. The ability of God to do for humanity is the measure of the possibility of prayer.
Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much.
(1) James 4:2
(2) Philippians 4:6
(3) Psalm 55:17
(4) James 5:13-18
(5) A strong, hot, sand-laden wind of the Sahara and Arabian deserts.