Blerkins Unbounded | 1.01b | Prayer = Faith, But... (a caveat)
The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer
Book 1 – The Necessity of Prayer
Chapter 1 – Prayer & Faith
“If Jesus dwells at the fountain of my life; if the currents of his life have displaced and superseded all self-currents; if implicit obedience to him is the inspiration and force of every movement of my life, then he can safely commit the praying to my will, and pledge himself, by an obligation as profound as his own nature, that whatsoever is asked shall be granted.”
Here is a single sentence no schoolchild ever wants to diagram. It is dripping with significance, though. It is not so much a furtherance of the argument of chapter 1 (treated in the previous post in this series), as it is a clarification about the nature of prayer itself. It’s not a premise, it’s an axiom.
Let’s unpack this.
I think this line arises out of a potential problem. A cursory reading of chapter 1 could sound to some like a prosperity gospel. If only we have enough faith, we can name and claim whatever we want and be confident that we deserve it because it was promised and it all happened in the name of Jesus Christ, so amen and hand me the keys, please. But anyone who has a proper fear of God wishes to tread carefully, since God does not present Himself on the pages of Scripture as genie in the lamp, which if we but rub whilst chanting the proper Trinitarian incantation, we will see a manifestation of our desires.
I think perhaps Bounds is aware that those who approach prayer strictly out of selfish gain, or immature Believers who simply don’t know any better, may well misapprehend chapter 1 in just that way. Probably that’s why the quoted sentence appears very near to the end of the chapter, a caveat of sorts, against a misapprehension of first principles.
What is the caveat?
Yes, we are commanded to pray; and we are encouraged to ask for “stuff”; and we are promised that if we ask in a way which aligns with the will of God, and in the name of Jesus Christ, that our requests will be granted. But there is a catch. You have to have faith.
Not faith in the sense of the slick traveling preacher who declares you could not be healed because you didn’t have enough faith – because that is from the devil. Why? Because that is a faith which is all about you. Since you have been made the object of faith in this equation, it is completely logical that your selfish desire for health, wealth, relationship, or whatever will be the object of your prayer.
But this is a false view of both prayer and faith.
Rather, true faith seeks after Christ; wishes to be as Christ; desires to sit as near as possible to Christ; looks to be so intimately connected with Christ that, like an old couple who’s been married for 50 years, you can finish each other’s sentences. Since Christ is the right and proper object of this faith, your prayer grows to be indistinguishable from Christ’s prayer. When the Father hears such a prayer as that, of course He’s going to say yes – it’s exactly the same thing that his Son would ask for.
When people who know me in the “real world” read Blerkins, it is common for them to say something like, “We can almost hear your voice when we read your blog.” My writing and speaking styles, it turns out, are that similar. Those readers can (almost) hear me. Maybe this is the sort of thing Bounds is getting at regarding the way we are supposed to pray – where the distance between ourselves and Christ is so small that our praying sounds nearly the same as Christ's.
That prayer (and that pray-er) doesn’t spend its time asking for job promotions or Powerball winnings or better sex lives. Instead, it prays for what Christ prays for: the unity of all believers, for the Gospel to transform lives, for fulfillment of the Great Commission, for harvest workers, for the salvation of children, for help in the battle against the enemy. These are prayers which are all about Christ, His kingdom, His work, His Church.
This one compound-complex sentence is the fence around the promise of answered prayer preventing us from straying into the prosperity gospel, turning God into a cash cow, and reducing our prayer life to magical incantation.
This is the difference between today’s concepts of manifestation and prayer.