Posts Tagged ‘E.M. Bounds’
John MacArthur recently made comments about E.M. Bounds at his Strange Fire Conference. His attack on Bounds is not defined as MacArthur merely states that he read a book by Bounds while in college that he says “was worse” than the mystics he had been reading on prayer. MacArthur never states the problems he has with Bounds.
I have wrestled with this and I cannot read into MacArthur’s mind as to why he opposes Bounds but I suppose it would be two fold. First, I suppose MacArthur would oppose Bounds because Bounds places much emphasis on prayer. Obviously, MacArthur would reply that we need to be balanced between prayer, evangelism, studying and teaching the Word, etc. Prayer, while important, would not be the most emphasized ministry I suppose that MacArthur would want to push. Again, I am just giving my thoughts here as I don’t know the man.
Secondly, I suppose Bounds’ Arminianism would be a problem for MacArthur. Though Bounds does not talk about Arminianism, we know that he was a Methodist chaplain for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Bounds was captured by the Union and was held in prison in Tennessee until the end of the Civil War. He then returned to Georgia where he preached and prayed until his death. Many of his books today on prayer were not penned by him but came following his death. MacArthur, no doubt, would not appreciate Bounds’ Arminianism.
I for one have loved Bounds for many years. His books on prayer have taught me much about prayer. I have read nearly all of his works. I have also encouraged many other disciples to read and study the prayer books of E.M. Bounds. Bounds, contrary to what MacArthur seems to suggest, is not mystical. Bounds does not present an unbiblical notion about prayer. If Bounds fails, it is that he guilty of praying too much? Bounds was known to have prayed up to nine hours a day before his death. Yes Bounds preached and yes he taught the Word but in has later years, he spent his time in prayer. It was from his times of prayer that his books would be born.
I don’t see how one can downplay prayer. The disciples came to Jesus in Luke 11:1 and didn’t ask how to preach. They didn’t ask Him how to teach theology or how to do miracles. The disciples asked one question and one question only, “Teach us how to pray.” Jesus lived a life of prayer (Luke 5:16). Jesus said that His own disciples would be marked by praying (Matthew 6:5). He told His disciples to ask anything in His name (John 14:12-14). Jesus also taught His disciples to pray always and not lose heart (Luke 18:1). Jesus said that if we pray in true faith, we could move mountains (Mark 11:22-24). The Apostles continued this in the book of Acts (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 6:4) and in the Letters (Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; James 4:2-3; 5:16; etc.). How then can we just place prayer among other duties? Prayer is what should be our focus and it should lead us toward doing greater works for the kingdom.
Ironically MacArthur penned a devotional book on prayer, Alone with God, in which he quotes from Bounds. Why quote from Bounds if he is so bad? To read the works of Bounds on prayer, I suggest this book.
Let me briefly give you some pointers to developing a stronger prayer life. These points have been points that I myself have put into practice in my own prayer life. No doubt we all know that God wants us to pray (Jeremiah 33:3). Jesus said that His disciples would be a people of prayer (Matthew 6:5). It was the prayer life of Jesus (and not His teaching or His miracles) that the disciples wanted to learn about the most (Luke 11:1). Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV) and he told the disciples in Colosse to “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 NKJV). Revelation 5:8 records that the prayers of the saints rise up before the throne of God. How vital then prayer is to the disciple!
How can we then strengthen our prayer lives? Here are some quick points.
1. Meditate on “Prayer” Scriptures.
Meditating upon the Word of God is so important (Psalm 1:1-3). The Word of God is our delight (Psalm 119:162). Jesus said that we were to abide in His teachings (which is His Word) to be His faithful disciples (John 8:31-32; cf. Matthew 7:24-27). The Word of God is the only weapon the disciple is given to combat Satan and the lies of the world (Ephesians 6:17). We are to renew our minds which can only occur in the Word of God (Romans 12:1-2).
I advise taking the “prayer” Scriptures and writing them down where you can read and re-read them to meditate upon them. Passages such as 1 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 6:5-13; 7:7-11; 21:22; Mark 11:22-24; Luke 18:1-8; John 14:13-14; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 4:2; etc. I would urge you to study all the major passages on prayer. A good book on this is the book, The Spirit Helps Us Pray: A Biblical Theology of Prayer.
2. Study the Lives of Great Intercessors.
Study the lives of great prayer warriors such as John Hyde, David Brainerd, Leonard Ravenhill, E.M. Bounds, Andrew Murray, Charles Spurgeon, Rees Howells, David Livingstone, John Wesley, Martin Luther, and many more. John Bunyan was a great man of prayer. William and Catherine Booth, founds of the Salvation Army, were great intercessors. Read and study their lives and imitate their faith in God (Hebrews 13:7).
3. Read Books on Prayer.
A few books that I would highly recommend would be Why Revival Tarries? by Leonard Ravenhill, The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer, Prayer by John Bunyan, A Method of Prayer by Matthew Henry, and The Path of Prayer by Samuel Chadwick.
4. Pray With Other Intercessors.
Find some men of God (if you’re a man or find women if you’re a woman) who seek God earnestly and pray with them. Lay aside your Arminianism or your Calvinism to seek God with your brethren. As long as we are orthodox in our theology over the major issues, seek God with such folks. There is so much to learn from praying with others. I first learned how to pray by praying with some older saints who are now with Jesus. They taught me how to tarry in God’s presence, how to seek God earnestly for who He is not what we can get from Him, to learn to view prayer not as merely asking for things but to know God and love on Him in worship. 1 Timothy 2:8 should guide us here.
To read on prayer or study Scripture on prayer or to meditate on prayer is not the same as praying. Prayer must be practiced. To merely talk about prayer is not the same as praying. I know of churches that faithfully preach the Word of God and can expound on prayer but if they just talk about prayer, what is the point? Prayer must be “worked” out. Prayer must be something that we don’t just study but earnestly do (James 5:16-18). The key difference between us and the early Church is not so much theology but its practice (Acts 2:42-47). Prayer is important and powerfully because of who we are seeking, the sovereign God of the universe. Let us pray!
Mark Noll has written a book by the title of my post. I have not read his work but assume he is speaking of the same subject as my own concerning the theological nature of the American Civil War. The roots of the Civil War lie as far back as the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain in 1776. Even then the seeds were planted for division between the States as some of the founding fathers wanted a strong Federal Government while others wanted a Union among individual and yet equally powerful States. The issue of slavery was not settled with the signing of the Bill of Rights and this moral issue would tear at the nation for nearly 100 years before the Civil War would erupt in 1861 after the election of abolitionist President Lincoln (who actually only favored forbidding slavery in the West and did not wish to end the practice in the South) and the session of South Carolina from the Union in December of 1860.
What goes unnoticed is the theological crisis that culminated with the Civil War. This issue was slavery. For the Church, States’ rights was not the issue. It was the evil practice (according to the abolitionist) of slavery or the fact that the Bible did not forbid slavery from the pro-slavery point of view. There were passionate evangelicals on both sides. For instance, George Whitefield stood before the Georgia State Assembly during his trip to America in the 18th century and asked the Georgia Assembly to continue the practice of slavery. Whitefield justified slavery for two main reasons. First he said that this gave the slaves from Africa the opportunity to hear the gospel and be saved and then secondly, the fact that the Africans could work the harsh lands of Georgia and were use to the heat. John Wesley opposed Whitefield over this issue and Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in his fight to end slavery in England. It would be the last letter Wesley would ever write.
Jonathan Edwards owned slaves. Edwards felt that slavery was not forbidden in Scripture, like Whitefield, and he argued that God could use slavery to save souls (such as the case with Paul in the epistle to Philemon). Edwards also felt that it was the duty of the Christian to not be harsh to slaves, to preach the gospel to them, and to be good to them.
Charles Finney opposed slavery in all forms. He believed it went against the Word of God that says that we are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). How could another human enslave another human made in God’s image?
E.M. Bounds, the great prayer warrior from the state of Georgia, fought along side the Confederates and was their chaplain. He was captured and put in prison in Tennessee. Bounds would there learn to pray for as much as 9 hours a day. Bounds opposed slavery but because he was a Southerner, he supported States’ Rights and believed his duty to serve his country during the War. He returned to his home in Washington, Georgia where he lived out his days in peace, praying and preaching the gospel in Methodist churches.
Henry Ward Beecher was the most famous preacher during this era. Beecher was known for his powerful speaking ability and pastored a church in New York City (one of the largest in America at that time if not the largest). He even was invited to London, England to preach alongside of Charles Spurgeon but Surgeon declined because Beecher was known for his adultery (which he committed several times during his ministry). Beecher was the first “seeker sensitive” preacher as he learned early on not to preach on any subjects his crowds did not enjoy. Beecher was also very outspoken against slavery. His sister wrote the famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and it was Henry Ward Beecher who would preach at the dedication of Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC back to the Federal Government following the end of the Civil War. Beecher was loved and adored by slaves for his passionate preaching against slavery.
Even among the military, there were men on both sides who argued from the Bible. Robert E. Lee, the general of the Confederate military, was deeply religious. He would spend hours reading his Bible and praying. Lee did not favor slavery but he did own slaves whom he released after the start of the Civil War. Lee felt the South would never win the war so long as slavery was not banned in the South. To Lee, it was a moral issue and one that the North would win unless the South followed suit.
General Stonewall Jackson was likewise deeply religious. Jackson was known for his encouragement to his men to pray and read their Bibles. Jackson opposed allowing his soldiers to invite prostitutes into the camp, opposed gambling, opposed drinking. Jackson would spend hours on his knees in his tent before going to battle praying. Jackson, however, loved war. He loved to fight. He found glory in commanding an army and he was a very good commander. Jackson also believed, like Edwards and Whitefield before him, that slavery could be used to further the kingdom of God. How else could the Africans hear the gospel? Who would dare venture into the dark continent of Africa to preach the gospel (that would be the great David Livingston)?
In the North, President Lincoln wrestled with the “African problem” of slavery. Lincoln is hard to pinpoint theologically. He never attended church very much. Never joined a church. He did pray and he did read the Bible. From the time he was a boy he would memorize from the book of Psalms. His second inaugural address is filled with Bible references. Lincoln, at the beginning of the Civil War, did not want to end slavery in the South. He merely wanted to contain it and not allow it in the Western states. The South knew that if this happened, the “free” States would force their rule upon the South and end slavery. They would rather secede then try to fight that battle in Washington. Lincoln realized that the North needed a moral reason to fight. During his re-election campaign in 1864 we begin to see Lincoln’s anti-slavery position begin to take root. Lincoln knew that the North would not want to continue to fight the South unless they could see that their battle was a moral battle and not just a battle for land. This issue, wrote Lincoln of the South’s secession, was not about the Federal Government but whether men would be allowed to be free. Was our Bill of Rights wrong to say that all men are created equal and deserve liberty? How can this be when 4 million African slaves were in bondage? Lincoln believed their fight was a fight to free people from bondage. Their mission was much like Christ’s, to free people from bondage. I am not sure where Lincoln stood regarding salvation but he used the Bible often to back his belief that slavery was wrong.
More thoughts about this issue are coming….
I mentioned in a previous post my disdain for many books that I have read on prayer as of late by modern writers. I want to add that I find it interesting that when you read older books on prayer such as E.M. Bounds, Samuel Chadwick, John Bunyan, or Charles Spurgeon, they rarely use any personal illustrations and in fact don’t rely on many illustrations at all. R.A. Torrey might be the exception to this in his book, How To Pray. Leonard Ravenhill, as far as I have read, never used personal illustrations much in his books other than telling a brief story about purchasing a book by E.M. Bounds on prayer while in college. It seemed the older books on prayer focused entirely on prayer and the Scriptures. I find comfort in that much more than in story after story about the author and their “great faith.” What we really need to hear is not how God provided you with your 100,000 square foot building but what the does the Scriptures teach on prayer.
Just another reason I enjoy older books on prayer.
I am not a big fan of modern books on prayer. I prefer to read E.M. Bounds on prayer or Andrew Murray or A.W. Tozer or Leonard Ravenhill or Samuel Chadwick than to read many modern books on prayer. It seems you get two types of modern books when it comes to prayer. The first is the “exegetical” approach to prayer. I appreciate this more than the latter but I think many of us know many verses of Scripture on prayer but we just don’t pray. We can quote the Lord’s teaching on prayer in Matthew 9:9-13 but we don’t follow His example nor His outline for prayer.
The second group bothers me the most. Many of the modern books on prayer from The Prayer of Jabez to Sun Stand Still offer nothing new on prayer. If anything they try to make prayer all about us and not much about God. Oh God is here and there but He is there for a reason: you! God wants to answer your prayers so that you can be blessed in this life. Few take the first approach and go very deep into the Scriptures on prayer (though they will proof-text their books) and most make you remember more about the author or the author’s scheme then about God or His kingdom. The countless stories that fill modern books on prayer are given, they say, to show us the author’s faith but all we remember are the authors. The books are focused on the authors more so than on the Lord in my opinion. Typical of the modern clergy-laity church where the pastor is the prophet, priest, and king of the house.
That’s why I never recommend modern books on prayer. A few are good such as Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire though this book has a good many personal illustrations in it with some Scriptural teachings. Cymbala’s theology is much sounder than the books listed above. At least Cymbala is not so much focused on prayer pleasing yourself.
Prayer is not about you. Prayer is to be focused on pleasing God. When Jesus said in John 14:13 that we could ask anything in His name, He wasn’t meaning that we could pray for what our covetous desires. John 14:14 makes it clear that the reason for John 14:13 is because of the glory of God. God answers prayer because of His glory and for His honor. Every answered prayer is in accordance with God being exalted. Even healings are done for the glory of God (John 9). The Apostles were clear in the book of Acts that they focused the attention on the Lord and not upon themselves. Modern preachers would not do well in the book of Acts. Modern preachers would never be able to utter the words of Acts 3:12 or Acts 14:14-15. Nor would they be able to utter the words of Acts 26:20-21. Of course, nor would they be able to declare James 5:16-18 when it comes to prayer other than stories that they tell about themselves.
Prayer is all about the glory of God. Prayer is not about “your audacious faith” but the honor of God. Prayer is not about pleasing your pleasures. It is about Jesus and His kingdom (James 4:2-4). Why would God want you to pray a prayer that would violate 1 John 2:15-17? He does not. He is holy and righteous and He will answer prayers that exalt Him as God. God does still answer prayers but He answers them so that His name is praised (1 John 5:14-15). By the way, prayer is not powerful. Only God is. Prayer is powerful because God answers prayer that glorifies His name.
Let me end with this, do you pray as Jesus prayed in John 17? In John 17 Jesus prayed to the glory of God. Jesus begins His prayer with a focus on glorifying God (John 17:1-5). Jesus’ entire focus in His prayer in John 17 is upon the glory of God. Go through John 17 and notice how many times Jesus says “you” and “Father.” Even when praying for the Church in John 17:20-26 His focus is completely upon the glory of God. He wants God the Father to give them unity so that God may be glorified. You will not find the narcissism in Jesus’ praying that you’ll find in many modern books on prayer.
So if you want to study prayer then I encourage you to read the older works on prayer such as The Valley of Vision or the works of E.M. Bounds on prayer. The best book I have ever read on prayer are the works of Leonard Ravenhill and especially his book, Why Revival Tarries? Dead faithful men are faithful men still.