The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Edward McKendree Bounds was born in 1835 in Shelby County, Missouri. He studied law before entering the ministry at age 24. A Confederate army chaplain during the Civil War, Bounds was taken as a non-combatant prisoner of war in the aftermath of the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee). At the conclusion of the war, Bounds returned to Franklin (more than 6,000 confederate soldiers were killed in the battle) to give his fallen comrades proper burials and to minister to their families.
E.M. Bounds spent most of his life quietly attending to the duties of ministry. From the age of 58 until his death at the age of 77, he immersed himself in a ministry of intercessory prayer and writing. It was said that he prayed daily from 4 A.M. until 7 A.M. before taking up his pen. Of the eight classic works on prayer Bounds wrote, only two were published in his lifetime. Although he didn’t attract large crowds or gain widespread notoriety while he lived, his devotion to prayer and preaching have impacted Christians for generations.
Bounds believed prayer was an indispensable prelude to preaching. He asks the same question repeatedly in his writings, a question that applies to every style of preaching, every method of delivery, and every preacher: “Has the man in the pulpit been with God?”
E.M. Bounds reminds us that in the midst of cultural shifts and technological advancements, prayer-bathed preaching wields the same power today as it did on the Day of Pentecost. And it has no substitute.
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.
The preacher must be preeminently a man of prayer. His heart must graduate in the school of prayer. In the school of prayer only can the heart learn to preach. No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.
The preacher must, by prayer, put God in the sermon. The preacher must, by prayer, move God toward the people before he can move the people to God by his words.
The preacher may speak with all the eloquence of men and of angels; but unless he can pray with a faith which draws all Heaven to his aid, his preaching will be ‘as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal’ for permanent God-honoring, soul-saving uses.
It makes me wonder if we’ve lost some of the power in our preaching today—if we’re depending on best-selling books, Internet sermon outlines, and catchy PowerPoint presentations to move our listeners rather than on preaching that is supported by holy living, disciplined study, and earnest prayer.
Every preacher should follow Peter’s admonition, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God” (1 Peter 4:11). One way to do this is to have spent time with God before delivering his Word.
As E.M. Bounds clearly pointed out, “The preachers who are the mightiest in their closets with God are the mightiest in their pulpits with men.”