Edward McKendree Bounds, most notably known as E.M. Bounds, was an American author, attorney, and member of the clergy of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. He wrote eleven books, nine of which were focused on the subject of prayer. It was said of him that “as breathing is a physical reality to us, so prayer was a reality for Bounds.”
In his book The Necessity of Prayer, Bounds reminds us of David’s words in Psalm 27:4: “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.”
We see this same desire in Jesus, who regularly slipped away from the crowds to be alone with His heavenly Father. It was during an incredibly busy and effective ministry in Capernaum that Jesus slipped away, early in the morning, to spend time in prayer. His disciples came looking for him and told him, “everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37). Jesus’s response was to lead his disciples from there to other villages in Galilee.
Jesus did not allow the demands of ministry to rob him of time with His heavenly Father.
It is an understatement to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for ministry. Many veteran ministers would say this has been the most challenging time in their memory. The good news is that 2020 is coming to a close. However, 2021 does not look to begin any differently from how 2020 will end.
God wants his people to flourish even in tough times. He wants pastors to flourish so they can share the hope of the Gospel. In order for us to flourish, we will need to establish rhythms of work and rest. We will also need to establish patterns for making prayer a priority.
Most of the church calendar is filled for 2021. Plans have been made and even contingency plans have been put in place. That church calendar impacts our personal calendars. It can be so filled with activities that there is no room for prayer.
Take a look at your personal calendar. Is there room for time with our heavenly Father? Is there a daily time to simply connect with him — to be still and know that He is God? This may include time in the Word — not for study, but to be nourished. It will likely include time to unburden your heart.
Is there room in your calendar for some extended times with the Lord — perhaps a day or half a day each month, a couple of days each quarter, and perhaps a longer retreat annually? These times are likely your most important work.
Look at the church calendar again. Are there regular seasons for the body to pray together? If you look at the calendar, does it reflect that prayer is a priority for your church? How will you, through the year, help the people of your church make prayer a personal priority?
Look at the calendar again. Are there some adjustments to be made to make room for prayer to be a priority so that you remain healthy and your church remains healthy?
As we make prayer a priority, personally and corporately, God will refresh and equip us to face what is likely another challenging year, and His people will flourish, and He will use us to make disciples. It begins as prayer becomes as essential as breathing.
THE PRIORITY OF PRAYER