E.M. Bounds was
a Southern preacher in the 19th century, and the chaplain of the Confederate
Army. In his book, The Necessity of Prayer, the fourth chapter,
"Prayer and Desire", has greatly influenced my prayer life. I
have included a selection from the chapter below. Fresh affection for God wells up as I reread this and
thirst again for the deep knowledge of God--the bright and burning fire of his
glory in Christ. Enjoy.
DESIRE is not merely a simple wish; it is a deep seated craving;
an intense longing, for attainment. In the realm of spiritual affairs, it is an
important adjunct to prayer. So important is it, that one might say, almost,
that desire is an absolute essential of prayer. Desire precedes prayer,
accompanies it, is followed by it. Desire goes before prayer, and by it,
created and intensified. Prayer is the oral expression of desire. If prayer is
asking God for something, then prayer must be expressed. Prayer comes out into
the open. Desire is silent. Prayer is heard; desire, unheard. The deeper the
desire, the stronger the prayer. Without desire, prayer is a meaningless mumble
of words. Such perfunctory, formal praying, with no heart, no feeling, no real
desire accompanying it, is to be shunned like a pestilence. Its exercise is a
waste of precious time, and from it, no real blessing accrues.
And yet even if it be discovered that desire is honestly absent,
we should pray, anyway. We ought to pray. The "ought" comes
in, in order that both desire and expression be cultivated. God's Word commands
it. Our judgment tells us we ought to pray -- to pray whether we feel like it
or not -- and not to allow our feelings to determine our habits of prayer. In
such circumstance, we ought to pray for the desire to pray; for such a
desire is God-given and heaven-born. We should pray for desire; then, when
desire has been given, we should pray according to its dictates. Lack of
spiritual desire should grieve us, and lead us to lament its absence, to seek
earnestly for its bestowal, so that our praying, henceforth, should be an
expression of "the soul's sincere desire."
A sense of need creates or should create, earnest desire. The
stronger the sense of need, before God, the greater should be the desire, the
more earnest the praying. The "poor in spirit" are eminently
competent to pray.
Hunger is an active sense of physical need. It prompts the request
for bread. In like manner, the inward consciousness of spiritual need creates
desire, and desire breaks forth in prayer. Desire is an inward longing for
something of which we are not possessed, of which we stand in need -- something
which God has promised, and which may be secured by an earnest supplication of
His throne of grace.
Spiritual desire, carried to a higher degree, is the evidence of
the new birth. It is born in the renewed soul:
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that
ye may grow thereby."
The absence of this holy desire in the heart is presumptive proof,
either of a decline in spiritual
ecstasy, or, that the new birth has never taken place.
"Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after
righteousness: for they shall be filled."
These heaven-given appetites are the proof of a renewed heart, the
evidence of a stirring spiritual life. Physical appetites are the attributes of
a living body, not of a corpse, and spiritual desires belong to a soul made
alive to God. And as the renewed soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness,
these holy inward desires break out into earnest, supplicating prayer.