Putting Prayer First—E. M. Bounds (1835 – 1913)

Edward McKendree Bounds was a noted American clergyman of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. He served as a chaplain to the Confederate army during the Civil War and pastored churches throughout the South. Yet Bounds’ most famous work was his writing on prayer. Noted for his personal devotion to Christ, he prayed each morning from four until seven.

This selection, taken from his 1906 book Power through Prayer, argues that beginning the day with prayer reflects passion for God and a willingness to mortify the flesh, and it follows the pattern of eminent saints in Scripture. Of course, Bounds lived in a different time with different scheduling conventions. Today ready access to electricity and telecommunications makes late-night work unavoidable at times, and early appointments have become a reality of life. Plus, many people simply do not feel mentally alert in the pre-dawn hours. Such circumstances combine to make lengthy prayer sessions immediately upon waking impractical for some. Thus, Bounds’ comments should not be received as legalistic prescriptions for when a believer must pray.

Still, whenever Christians choose to pray, they would do well to emulate the zeal for God and the self-discipline that drove Bounds to give his mornings to the Lord.

The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, he will be in the last place the remainder of the day…

A desire for God which cannot break the chains of sleep is a weak thing and will do but little good for God after it has indulged itself fully. The desire for God that keeps so far behind the devil and the world at the beginning of the day will never catch up.

It is not simply the getting up that puts men to the front and makes them captain generals in God’s hosts, but it is the ardent desire which stirs and breaks all self-indulgent chains. But the getting up gives vent, increase, and strength to the desire. If they had lain in bed and indulged themselves, the desire would have been quenched.1

Footnotes:
1 E. M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (1906), available at Christian Classics Etheral Library Website, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bounds/power.IX.html (accessed March 23, 2010)