Friday, October 08, 2010

“The Possibilities of Prayer,” by E.M. Bounds

Bounds does not give us a clear definition of what is meant by the term “possibilities,” but the following paragraph may serve the purpose in the overall theme of the book, coupling “possibility” together with “prayer”: “Prayer is a Divine arrangement in the moral government of God, designed for the benefit of men and intended as a means for furthering the interests of His cause on earth, and carrying out His gracious purpose in redemption and providence.” (Ch. IV, “Prayer—It’s Possibilities [part 1]).

The Possibilities of Prayer” is divided into sixteen chapters. Technically, the chapter titles hint that the original publication could easily have been published in serial form. Because of this format, it becomes evident that the progressions of the lessons are requisite on the previous chapters. A revision of the contents could not only easily reduce the number of chapters to a total of nine, but bring more continuity to the present-day reader. The current divisions remain as follows:

  • Chapter 1. The Ministry of Prayer
  • Chapter 2. Prayer and the Promises
  • Chapter 3. Prayer and the Promises (Continued)
  • Chapter 4. Prayer - Its Possibilities
  • Chapter 5. Prayer - Its Possibilities (Continued)
  • Chapter 6. Prayer - Its Possibilities (Continued)
  • Chapter 7. Prayer - Its Wide Range
  • Chapter 8. Prayer - Facts and History
  • Chapter 9. Prayer - Facts and History (Continued)
  • Chapter 10. Answered Prayer
  • Chapter 11. Answered Prayer (Continued)
  • Chapter 12. Answered Prayer (Continued)
  • Chapter 13. Prayer Miracles
  • Chapter 14. Wonders of God Through Prayer
  • Chapter 15. Prayer and Divine Providence
  • Chapter 16. Prayer and Divine Providence (Continued)
Chapter 1, “The Ministry of Prayer,” opens with the foundation of prayer as the distinctive of the believer but stresses how prayer is the activity of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of Jesus, according to the will of God.

Chapters 2 and 3, “Prayer and the Promises,” discuss the operation of prayer as that which makes the promises of God tangible for the believer. The promises of God are the inspiration for prayer, which focuses the personal nature of the promises for individuals and are not lost in vagueness. Promise fulfillment is dependent on submitting to God by means of prayer.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6, “Prayer—Its Possibilities,” develops the biblical theology of prayer and faith, building on the principle already established: prayer moves God because of our submission to Him. Prayer appeals to God, who accomplishes His purposes in enlarged ways because the subject of prayer is God’s very plan and purposes. “Temporal matters are of a lower order thatn then spiritual, but they concern us greatly. . . . Not to pray about temporal matters is to leave God out of the largest sphere of our being. . . . He who does not pray about temporal matters cannot pray with confidence about spiritual matters.”

Chapter 7, “Prayer—Its Wide Range,” closely examines the role of faith in prayer: feeble faith, feeble praying; vigorous faith, vigorous praying. God’s ability to do exceeds man’s ability to ask. Prayer demonstrates faith in God Himself, who is able to do. When He answers, we are turned away from what He has done to the Himself, from the answer to prayer to the prayer-answerer.

Chapters 8 and 9, “Prayer—Facts and History,” Bounds explains that God has a reputation He alone upholds. This is cause for the saint’s rejoicing and ability to express dependence without distraction on Him through prayer. “There are no small things in prayer, so there are no small things with God.” Chapter 9 presents elements of prayer (showing gratitude, making requests, etc.) and kinds of prayer (closet, crying out, etc.).

Chapters 10 through 12 are on the subject of “Answered Prayer,” the only way to know prayer is accomplished. Here is the division between the act of praying and the power of God. Prayer answered brings enjoyment to communion with God, who works to distinguish Himself. We have assurance in God’s unchanging nature that He will always answer prayer.

Chapter 13, “Prayer Miracles,” is perhaps the strongest of all the chapters. The first paragraph not only explains the contents of the chapter, but also provides the deepest insight regarding prayer: “The earthly career of our Lord Jesus Christ was no mere episode, a sort of interlude, in His eternal life. What He was and what He did no earth was neither abnormal nor divergent, but characteristic. What He was and what He did on earth is but the figure and the illustration of what He is what He is doing in heaven. He is ‘the same yesterday and to-day and forever.’ This statement is the Divine summary of the eternal unity and changelessness of His character. His earthly life was made up largely of hearing and answering prayer. His heavenly life is devoted to the same Divine business.”

Chapter 14, “Wonders of God Through Prayer,” acknowledges the aspect of spiritual warfare and that prayer keeps God’s power in the forefront, before the experience of those who pray. Prayer is not a ritual or performance, but a conversation of our helplessness that includes dependent asking and faithful expectation, measure for measure.

Chapters 15 and 16, “Prayer and Divine Providence,” covers the relationship between prayer and the permissive providence of God and the direct providence of God. God, as the all-wise, order and just superintendent over all things, cannot be ruled out of the world. The one who prayers sees and trusts God without explanation by faith.

Bound’s work here does not stand alone but depends on his other works on prayer. Regardless, this nearly forgotten volume deserves to be revisited occasionally, to serve as a reminder for the Christian concerning the living doctrine and practice of prayer.

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