Last week a friend gifted me with a copy of E.M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer. Each morning I have been reading a new chapter in this book along with my morning Bible readings. These sweet readings have been precious to my soul as I have sensed them stirring me up to a greater devotion and greater longing for prayer. He writes:
“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… 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.”E.M. Bounds. Complete Works on Prayer. Page 35.
Putting aside the sheer beauty of his style of writing, I am drawn to this man’s humble and dependent prayer life. In this quote above we are reminded of the nature of our prayers and what we are invited into. The point that Bounds is making is simply that prayers must have energy and zeal behind them. Prayers must have a sense of energetic desperation, child like clinging, and utter desire for the manifestation of God’s response. As I read more of Bounds I am forced to ask the question of myself whether I truly cling to God in prayer. I’d like to hope that at times my own prayer life is reflective of the type of heat and vivacity that Bounds describes is possible for a person truly filled by the flame of the Spirit, but I know that there are many moments and mornings and seasons where the volcanic heat of prayer described by Bounds seems distant. He goes on to say:
“Fervency has to do with God, just as prayer has to do with him. Desire has always an object. 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.”E.M. Bounds. Complete Works on Prayer. Page 37.
A lack of fervency and desire in prayer is less an issue of mechanics and how to’s, but rather a deeper issue of the way in which we understand God and know God. A consistent luke-warmness of prayer functions as a mirror of the heart revealing an inadequate vision and understanding of the God of our salvation. To know God is to run to him. To know God is to depend on him. To know God is truly believe his promises and strength. To know God is to experience a deep and abiding joy at the thought of your own election and salvation. To know God is to take the posture of a child before a father, or a sheep before a shepherd, and in that posture of dependence and weakness to call on the strength of the Lord.
Over the last eight months I have watched a slow burn of prayer has begun to work its way through our Church. For eight months now we have prayed daily together online, and on Sundays have watched a slowly growing and committed number of members of the Church have gathered to pray before our Sunday gathering. In years past these Sunday morning times of prayer never averaged more than eight folks or so. But after eight months of consistent daily praying, we very regularly have upwards of twenty folks gathering and calling on the Lord. And it is not the number of the crowd that is particularly important (though a Church that truly prays together is vital), but rather it is the consistency, and heat of the prayers that has me begging for more, and wishing the time together would last longer.
In my own journey of sanctification with the Lord, I know that I am dependent on others in the Church to stir me on and deepen my resolve. I have learned so much about prayer and seen my own prayer life grow simply by being around other who pray. The old maxim, “prayer is caught not taught,” has certainly proven true in my own experiences. This post is intended to be both a personal reflection and a simple encouragement to the Church. I don’t want the flame of communal prayer that is beginning to burn brighter in our Church to do anything other than be fanned into a blazing inferno of Holy Spirit filled power.
To the Church where I Pastor, know that we pray daily. Please join us. Commit to this work of prayer if for no other reason than to allow the prayers of others to stir up the pools of luke-warm water into a bubbling pots of fervency again. And perhaps God has bigger plans and purposes still. I am reminded of Dr. Edwin Orr, who is considered by many to be leading scholar on the history of revivals in the Protestant Church. He puts it succinctly when he says that each revival in history began, “with movements of extraordinary prayer by all of God’s People.”
Oh Lord – we are praying for revival. We are believing it will come.