Sunday, November 12, 2006

Being Watchful In Prayer

In our Sunday School class, we have been reading a book by E.M. Bounds called "The Necessity of Prayer." Bounds wrote this and several other books on prayer about a century ago. The chapter we discussed today is "Prayer and Vigilance."

Bounds reminds us that the true Christian life is one of spiritual warfare. This does not mean warfare in the sense of a Crusade (in the military sense) but recognizing that there are spiritual powers aligned against the purposes of God in Christ. We must recognize them and how to defend against them. It should be noted that Bounds was a chaplain in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He has a special insight on what kind of life is required of a soldier, be that person a soldier in an earthly or a heavenly cause.
Bounds made reference to biblical text familiar to many and learned even by young children:

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints ."
Ephesians 6:10-18 (New American Standard)

Bounds made special reference to the end of the quote in verse 18 regarding praying in the Spirit at all time with all prayer and petition. The Christian, to live as God would have us to live, must think of herself or himself in terms of being a soldier. Bounds wrote:

Watchfulness intensified, is a requisite for prayer. Watchfulness must guard and cover the whole spiritual man, and fit him for prayer. Everything resembling unpreparedness or non-vigilance, is death to prayer.

In terms of the church in American culture, calls to being on watch in prayer seem to be largely absent from our thinking and our devotional practice. This is especially troublesome in an era in which much of Christianity is marketed as if it were a product to sell. How will someone who is coming to faith in Christ in such conditions truly be able to count the actual cost of true faith in Christ if an essential such as watchfulness and vigilance in prayer is neglected as an unpleasant and not palatable for Christian marketing?

Reading masters of the topic of prayer such as E.M. Bounds or Andrew Murray is valuable in our time and place because they are not a product of our time and culture. They do not share in our moral and theological "blind spots" concerning the biblical aspects of prayer. I highly recommend the writings of Edward McKendrie Bounds as his writings on prayer are not merely theoretical but learned over many decades of prayer on his knees.

"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24:42 NIV)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Mr. H. I love your blog. Keep it up!!