What An Old Bloke Taught Me About Prayer

E M Bounds

I was twenty years old when I first met Edward McKendree Bounds. It had been a quiet summer in Lerwick, and I often found myself with time to sit by the sea watching the waves crash on the rocks only a few meters from where I sat. I would sit for ages just watching the power of the sea and I guess there came a point when my thoughts came to an end. I began itching to read a good book!

Lerwick’s Christian Bookshop was the opposite of my perch on the rocks. It was quiet but it was crowded. On the shelves there was a host of books written by men and women long dead. Up to this point in my life, I rarely read a Christian book so I didn’t really know where to begin. Being Scottish, it didn’t take me long to find my tongue and ask for help.

The lady who ran the store was about seventy years old and she loved Jesus and she loved books. She was a most helpful, shining soul and began thumbing along the books, highlighting some that had touched her heart: Tozer, Ryle, Finney, Simpson, Bounds. 

I was drawn to Bounds because her face lit up when she talked about him. She claimed that Bounds knew more about prayer than any other person living or dead, besides Jesus himself. I left the store with “The Necessity of Prayer” by E M Bounds.

The next day I sat on my shoreline rock, the waves frothing and the sun shining on my back, and I opened the book. Reading that day, I thought I’d slipped from time into eternity: time flew past with the turn of every page, but I did not notice. As I read Bounds’ words I became convinced that he was a man who not only wrote a lot about prayer, but who also was a devoted man of prayer.

Bounds entered ministry when he was in his twenties. He was a lawyer before that and he had a keen mind for information. His passion for truth led him into a deep relationship with the Bible. He was convinced that scripture held all the answers we need, a conviction which shows in his writings about prayer.

Bounds based his writings upon years of Bible meditation and reflection and prayer. One of the reasons I liked Bounds from the first meeting (reading his book) was that he loved the Bible and wrote about the Bible. Jesus is at the heart of his writings! I learned from Bounds that if I wanted to know Jesus more, I had to come by the path of prayer, and that if I wanted to learn to pray more fruitfully, I needed to be walking closer to Jesus.

There was one point that Bounds made that transformed my own prayer life. Before Bounds I struggled with prayer (actually, at times I still do). I came to a chapter called “Prayer and Desire”, and in it he wrote, “If you have no, or little, desire to pray, then pray for the desire to pray.”

I really liked that and I began to do it. I saw my desire for praying grow fast. I previously felt I had to pray, but now I was finding that I WANTED to pray; I WANTED to get to know God in the way that Bounds seemed to know God. 

Bounds became a prayer mentor to me at a time when I needed a challenge and encouragement to draw closer to God. This is why I count his writings as some of the best on prayer and the deeper life with God. His writings reflect a man who was consumed in every way with prayer, and with God.

I wish I had met Bounds in person, but he died long before I was born. I only ever met him through his writings, but the imprint he left on my heart burns hotter than the warmest of handshakes. Without Bounds, I would have stayed on the shoreline of shallow prayerlessness, but Bounds taught me not to sit on the shores of God’s grace, but rather to enter into the power of his mighty presence and experience His love, grace and mercy in deeper ways. I can draw close to Jesus in prayer, knowing that he promises to draw close to me.

My hope in writing about my experience of Bounds is that one or two people might seek him out for themselves. There is a pretty accurate biography of Bounds on Wikipedia. I would personally recommend “The Necessity of Prayer” and “Power through Prayer”.

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