Power Through Prayer: E. M. Bounds Power Through Prayer

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Power Through Prayer: E. M. Bounds

Power Through Prayer

Edward M. Bounds, Edward M. (1835-1913)

Public Domain

Table of Contents
1 Men of Prayer Needed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

2 Our Sufficiency Is of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

3 The Letter Kills. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

4 Tendencies to Be Avoided. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

5 Prayer, the Great Essential. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

6 A Praying Ministry Successful. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

7 Much Time Should Be Given to Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

8 Examples of Praying Men. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

9 Begin the Day with Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

10 Prayer and Devotion United. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

11 An Example of Devotion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33

12 Heart Preparation Necessary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

13 Grace from the Heart Rather than the Head. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

14 Unction a Necessity. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

15 Unction, the Mark of True Gospel Preaching. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

16 Much Prayer the Price of Unction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46

17 Prayer Marks Spiritual Leadership. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49

18 Preachers Need the Prayers of the People. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

19 Deliberation Necessary to Largest Results from Prayer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

20 A Praying Pulpit Begets a Praying Pew. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

Power through Prayer has been called "one of the truly great

masterpieces on the theme of prayer." The term classic can

appropriately be applied to this outstanding book.
In twenty provocative and inspiring chapters, each prefaced with

quotations from spiritual giants, Edward M. Bounds stresses the

imperative of vital prayer in the life of a pastor. He says, ". . .

every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life

and ministry is weak as a factor in God's work and is powerless to

project God's cause in this world."

Recreation to a minister must be as whetting is with the mower--that

is, to be used only so far as is necessary for his work. May a

physician in plague-time take any more relaxation or recreation than is

necessary for his life, when so many are expecting his help in a case

of life and death? Will you stand by and see sinners gasping under the

pangs of death, and say: "God doth not require me to make myself a

drudge to save them?" Is this the voice of ministerial or Christian

compassion or rather of sensual laziness and diabolical

cruelty.--Richard Baxter
Misemployment of time is injurious to the mind. In illness I have

looked back with self-reproach on days spent in my study; I was wading

through history and poetry and monthly journals, but I was in my study!

Another man's trifling is notorious to all observers, but what am I

doing? Nothing, perhaps, that has reference to the spiritual good of my

congregation. Be much in retirement and prayer. Study the honor and

glory of your Master.--Richard Cecil

1 Men of Prayer Needed
Study universal holiness of life. Your whole usefulness depends on

this, for your sermons last but an hour or two; your life preaches all

the week. If Satan can only make a covetous minister a lover of praise,

of pleasure, of good eating, he has ruined your ministry. Give yourself

to prayer, and get your texts, your thoughts, your words from God.

Luther spent his best three hours in prayer.--Robert Murray McCheyne

WE are constantly on a stretch, if not on a strain, to devise new

methods, new plans, new organizations to advance the Church and secure

enlargement and efficiency for the gospel. This trend of the day has a

tendency to lose sight of the man or sink the man in the plan or

organization. God's plan is to make much of the man, far more of him

than of anything else. Men are God's method. The Church is looking for

better methods; God is looking for better men. "There was a man sent

from God whose name was John." The dispensation that heralded and

prepared the way for Christ was bound up in that man John. "Unto us a

child is born, unto us a son is given." The world's salvation comes out

of that cradled Son. When Paul appeals to the personal character of the

men who rooted the gospel in the world, he solves the mystery of their

success. The glory and efficiency of the gospel is staked on the men

who proclaim it. When God declares that "the eyes of the Lord run to

and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the

behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him," he declares the

necessity of men and his dependence on them as a channel through which

to exert his power upon the world. This vital, urgent truth is one that

this age of machinery is apt to forget. The forgetting of it is as

baneful on the work of God as would be the striking of the sun from his

sphere. Darkness, confusion, and death would ensue.
What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new

organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost

can use--men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not

flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery,

but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men--men of prayer.
An eminent historian has said that the accidents of personal character

have more to do with the revolutions of nations than either philosophic

historians or democratic politicians will allow. This truth has its

application in full to the gospel of Christ, the character and conduct

of the followers of Christ--Christianize the world, transfigure nations

and individuals. Of the preachers of the gospel it is eminently true.

The character as well as the fortunes of the gospel is committed to the

preacher. He makes or mars the message from God to man. The preacher is

the golden pipe through which the divine oil flows. The pipe must not

only be golden, but open and flawless, that the oil may have a full,

unhindered, unwasted flow.
The man makes the preacher. God must make the man. The messenger is, if

possible, more than the message. The preacher is more than the sermon.

The preacher makes the sermon. As the life-giving milk from the

mother's bosom is but the mother's life, so all the preacher says is

tinctured, impregnated by what the preacher is. The treasure is in

earthen vessels, and the taste of the vessel impregnates and may

discolor. The man, the whole man, lies behind the sermon. Preaching is

not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life. It takes

twenty years to make a sermon, because it takes twenty years to make

the man. The true sermon is a thing of life. The sermon grows because

the man grows. The sermon is forceful because the man is forceful. The

sermon is holy because the man is holy. The sermon is full of the

divine unction because the man is full of the divine unction.
Paul termed it "My gospel;" not that he had degraded it by his personal

eccentricities or diverted it by selfish appropriation, but the gospel

was put into the heart and lifeblood of the man Paul, as a personal

trust to be executed by his Pauline traits, to be set aflame and

empowered by the fiery energy of his fiery soul. Paul's sermons--what

were they? Where are they? Skeletons, scattered fragments, afloat on

the sea of inspiration! But the man Paul, greater than his sermons,

lives forever, in full form, feature and stature, with his molding hand

on the Church. The preaching is but a voice. The voice in silence dies,

the text is forgotten, the sermon fades from memory; the preacher

The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead

men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on

the spiritual character of the preacher. Under the Jewish dispensation

the high priest had inscribed in jeweled letters on a golden frontlet:

"Holiness to the Lord." So every preacher in Christ's ministry must be

molded into and mastered by this same holy motto. It is a crying shame

for the Christian ministry to fall lower in holiness of character and

holiness of aim than the Jewish priesthood. Jonathan Edwards said: "I

went on with my eager pursuit after more holiness and conformity to

Christ. The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness." The gospel of

Christ does not move by popular waves. It has no self-propagating

power. It moves as the men who have charge of it move. The preacher

must impersonate the gospel. Its divine, most distinctive features must

be embodied in him. The constraining power of love must be in the

preacher as a projecting, eccentric, an all-commanding, self-oblivious

force. The energy of self-denial must be his being, his heart and blood

and bones. He must go forth as a man among men, clothed with humility,

abiding in meekness, wise as a serpent, harmless as a dove; the bonds

of a servant with the spirit of a king, a king in high, royal, in

dependent bearing, with the simplicity and sweetness of a child. The

preacher must throw himself, with all the abandon of a perfect,

self-emptying faith and a self-consuming zeal, into his work for the

salvation of men. Hearty, heroic, compassionate, fearless martyrs must

the men be who take hold of and shape a generation for God. If they be

timid time servers, place seekers, if they be men pleasers or men

fearers, if their faith has a weak hold on God or his Word, if their

denial be broken by any phase of self or the world, they cannot take

hold of the Church nor the world for God.

The preacher's sharpest and strongest preaching should be to himself.

His most difficult, delicate, laborious, and thorough work must be with

himself. The training of the twelve was the great, difficult, and

enduring work of Christ. Preachers are not sermon makers, but men

makers and saint makers, and he only is well-trained for this business

who has made himself a man and a saint. It is not great talents nor

great learning nor great preachers that God needs, but men great in

holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for

God--men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives

out of it. These can mold a generation for God.

After this order, the early Christians were formed. Men they were of

solid mold, preachers after the heavenly type--heroic, stalwart,

soldierly, saintly. Preaching with them meant self-denying,

self-crucifying, serious, toilsome, martyr business. They applied

themselves to it in a way that told on their generation, and formed in

its womb a generation yet unborn for God. The preaching man is to be

the praying man. Prayer is the preacher's mightiest weapon. An almighty

force in itself, it gives life and force to all.

The real sermon is made in the closet. The man--God's man--is made in

the closet. His life and his profoundest convictions were born in his

secret communion with God. The burdened and tearful agony of his

spirit, his weightiest and sweetest messages were got when alone with

God. Prayer makes the man; prayer makes the preacher; prayer makes the

The pulpit of this day is weak in praying. The pride of learning is

against the dependent humility of prayer. Prayer is with the pulpit too

often only official--a performance for the routine of service. Prayer

is not to the modern pulpit the mighty force it was in Paul's life or

Paul's ministry. Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty

factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God's work

and is powerless to project God's cause in this world.

2 Our Sufficiency Is of God
But above all he excelled in prayer. The inwardness and weight of his

spirit, the reverence and solemnity of his address and behavior, and

the fewness and fullness of his words have often struck even strangers

with admiration as they used to reach others with consolation. The most

awful, living, reverend frame I ever felt or beheld, I must say, was

his prayer. And truly it was a testimony. He knew and lived nearer to

the Lord than other men, for they that know him most will see most

reason to approach him with reverence and fear.--William Penn of George

THE sweetest graces by a slight perversion may bear the bitterest

fruit. The sun gives life, but sunstrokes are death. Preaching is to

give life; it may kill. The preacher holds the keys; he may lock as

well as unlock. Preaching is God's great institution for the planting

and maturing of spiritual life. When properly executed, its benefits

are untold; when wrongly executed, no evil can exceed its damaging

results. It is an easy matter to destroy the flock if the shepherd be

unwary or the pasture be destroyed, easy to capture the citadel if the

watchmen be asleep or the food and water be poisoned. Invested with

such gracious prerogatives, exposed to so great evils, involving so

many grave responsibilities, it would be a parody on the shrewdness of

the devil and a libel on his character and reputation if he did not

bring his master influences to adulterate the preacher and the

preaching. In face of all this, the exclamatory interrogatory of Paul,

"Who is sufficient for these things?" is never out of order.
Paul says: "Our sufficiency is of God, who also hath made us able

ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit:

for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life." The true ministry

is God-touched, God-enabled, and God-made. The Spirit of God is on the

preacher in anointing power, the fruit of the Spirit is in his heart,

the Spirit of God has vitalized the man and the word; his preaching

gives life, gives life as the spring gives life; gives life as the

resurrection gives life; gives ardent life as the summer gives ardent

life; gives fruitful life as the autumn gives fruitful life. The

life-giving preacher is a man of God, whose heart is ever athirst for

God, whose soul is ever following hard after God, whose eye is single

to God, and in whom by the power of God's Spirit the flesh and the

world have been crucified and his ministry is like the generous flood

of a life-giving river.

The preaching that kills is non-spiritual preaching. The ability of the

preaching is not from God. Lower sources than God have given to it

energy and stimulant. The Spirit is not evident in the preacher nor his

preaching. Many kinds of forces may be projected and stimulated by

preaching that kills, but they are not spiritual forces. They may

resemble spiritual forces, but are only the shadow, the counterfeit;

life they may seem to have, but the life is magnetized. The preaching

that kills is the letter; shapely and orderly it may be, but it is the

letter still, the dry, husky letter, the empty, bald shell. The letter

may have the germ of life in it, but it has no breath of spring to

evoke it; winter seeds they are, as hard as the winter's soil, as icy

as the winter's air, no thawing nor germinating by them. This

letter-preaching has the truth. But even divine truth has no

life-giving energy alone; it must be energized by the Spirit, with all

God's forces at its back. Truth unquickened by God's Spirit deadens as

much as, or more than, error. It may be the truth without admixture;

but without the Spirit its shade and touch are deadly, its truth error,

its light darkness. The letter-preaching is unctionless, neither

mellowed nor oiled by the Spirit. There may be tears, but tears cannot

run God's machinery; tears may be but summer's breath on a snow-covered

iceberg, nothing but surface slush. Feelings and earnestness there may

be, but it is the emotion of the actor and the earnestness of the

attorney. The preacher may feel from the kindling of his own sparks, be

eloquent over his own exegesis, earnest in delivering the product of

his own brain; the professor may usurp the place and imitate the fire

of the apostle; brains and nerves may serve the place and feign the

work of God's Spirit, and by these forces the letter may glow and

sparkle like an illumined text, but the glow and sparkle will be as

barren of life as the field sown with pearls. The death-dealing element

lies back of the words, back of the sermon, back of the occasion, back

of the manner, back of the action. The great hindrance is in the

preacher himself. He has not in himself the mighty life-creating

forces. There may be no discount on his orthodoxy, honesty, cleanness,

or earnestness; but somehow the man, the inner man, in its secret

places has never broken down and surrendered to God, his inner life is

not a great highway for the transmission of God's message, God's power.

Somehow self and not God rules in the holy of holiest. Somewhere, all

unconscious to himself, some spiritual nonconductor has touched his

inner being, and the divine current has been arrested. His inner being

has never felt its thorough spiritual bankruptcy, its utter

powerlessness; he has never learned to cry out with an ineffable cry of

self-despair and self-helplessness till God's power and God's fire

comes in and fills, purifies, empowers. Self-esteem, self-ability in

some pernicious shape has defamed and violated the temple which should

be held sacred for God. Life-giving preaching costs the preacher

much--death to self, crucifixion to the world, the travail of his own

soul. Crucified preaching only can give life. Crucified preaching can

come only from a crucified man.

3 The Letter Kills
During this affliction I was brought to examine my life in relation to

eternity closer than I had done when in the enjoyment of health. In

this examination relative to the discharge of my duties toward my

fellow creatures as a man, a Christian minister, and an officer of the

Church, I stood approved by my own conscience; but in relation to my

Redeemer and Saviour the result was different. My returns of gratitude

and loving obedience bear no proportion to my obligations for

redeeming, preserving, and supporting me through the vicissitudes of

life from infancy to old age. The coldness of my love to Him who first

loved me and has done so much for me overwhelmed and confused me; and

to complete my unworthy character, I had not only neglected to improve

the grace given to the extent of my duty and privilege, but for want of

improvement had, while abounding in perplexing care and labor, declined

from first zeal and love. I was confounded, humbled myself, implored

mercy, and renewed my covenant to strive and devote myself unreservedly

to the Lord.--Bishop McKendree

THE preaching that kills may be, and often is, orthodox--dogmatically,

inviolably orthodox. We love orthodoxy. It is good. It is the best. It

is the clean, clear-cut teaching of God's Word, the trophies won by

truth in its conflict with error, the levees which faith has raised

against the desolating floods of honest or reckless misbelief or

unbelief; but orthodoxy, clear and hard as crystal, suspicious and

militant, may be but the letter well-shaped, well-named, and

well-learned, the letter which kills. Nothing is so dead as a dead

orthodoxy, too dead to speculate, too dead to think, to study, or to

The preaching that kills may have insight and grasp of principles, may

be scholarly and critical in taste, may have every minutia of the

derivation and grammar of the letter, may be able to trim the letter

into its perfect pattern, and illume it as Plato and Cicero may be

illumined, may study it as a lawyer studies his text-books to form his

brief or to defend his case, and yet be like a frost, a killing frost.

Letter-preaching may be eloquent, enameled with poetry and rhetoric,

sprinkled with prayer spiced with sensation, illumined by genius and

yet these be but the massive or chaste, costly mountings, the rare and

beautiful flowers which coffin the corpse. The preaching which kills

may be without scholarship, unmarked by any freshness of thought or

feeling, clothed in tasteless generalities or vapid specialties, with

style irregular, slovenly, savoring neither of closet nor of study,

graced neither by thought, expression, or prayer. Under such preaching

how wide and utter the desolation! how profound the spiritual death!

This letter-preaching deals with the surface and shadow of things, and

not the things themselves. It does not penetrate the inner part. It has

no deep insight into, no strong grasp of, the hidden life of God's

Word. It is true to the outside, but the outside is the hull which must

be broken and penetrated for the kernel. The letter may be dressed so

as to attract and be fashionable, but the attraction is not toward God

nor is the fashion for heaven. The failure is in the preacher. God has

not made him. He has never been in the hands of God like clay in the

hands of the potter. He has been busy about the sermon, its thought and

finish, its drawing and impressive forces; but the deep things of God

have never been sought, studied, fathomed, experienced by him. He has

never stood before "the throne high and lifted up," never heard the

seraphim song, never seen the vision nor felt the rush of that awful

holiness, and cried out in utter abandon and despair under the sense of

weakness and guilt, and had his life renewed, his heart touched,

purged, inflamed by the live coal from God's altar. His ministry may

draw people to him, to the Church, to the form and ceremony; but no

true drawings to God, no sweet, holy, divine communion induced. The

Church has been frescoed but not edified, pleased but not sanctified.

Life is suppressed; a chill is on the summer air; the soil is baked.

The city of our God becomes the city of the dead; the Church a

graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled;

worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching have helped sin, not

holiness; peopled hell, not heaven.

Preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer the

preacher creates death, and not life. The preacher who is feeble in

prayer is feeble in life-giving forces. The preacher who has retired

prayer as a conspicuous and largely prevailing element in his own

character has shorn his preaching of its distinctive life-giving power.

Professional praying there is and will be, but professional praying

helps the preaching to its deadly work. Professional praying chills and

kills both preaching and praying. Much of the lax devotion and lazy,

irreverent attitudes in congregational praying are attributable to

professional praying in the pulpit. Long, discursive, dry, and inane

are the prayers in many pulpits. Without unction or heart, they fall

like a killing frost on all the graces of worship. Death-dealing

prayers they are. Every vestige of devotion has perished under their

breath. The deader they are the longer they grow. A plea for short

praying, live praying, real heart praying, praying by the Holy

Spirit--direct, specific, ardent, simple, unctuous in the pulpit--is in

order. A school to teach preachers how to pray, as God counts praying,

would be more beneficial to true piety, true worship, and true

preaching than all theological schools.
Stop! Pause! Consider! Where are we? What are we doing? Preaching to

kill? Praying to kill? Praying to God! the great God, the Maker of all

worlds, the Judge of all men! What reverence! what simplicity! what

sincerity! what truth in the inward parts is demanded! How real we must

be! How hearty! Prayer to God the noblest exercise, the loftiest effort

of man, the most real thing! Shall we not discard forever accursed

preaching that kills and prayer that kills, and do the real thing, the

mightiest thing--prayerful praying, life-creating preaching, bring the

mightiest force to bear on heaven and earth and draw on God's

exhaustless and open treasure for the need and beggary of man?

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