Review: Purpose in Prayer

Rating: ★★★★★

Author: E. M. Bounds (1835-1913) was a clergyman in the Methodist Episcopal Church South and held a pastorate in Franklin, Tennessee. During his time in Tennessee, he led a spiritual revival and eventually began an itinerant ministry. He only published two books during his lifetime, but nine others were arranged from manuscripts and published after his death—most of them on prayer. He spent three hours a day in prayer and emphasizes a life of prayer as the one essential of the Christian life.


Purpose in Prayer (1914) is a compilation of E. M. Bounds’ writings on prayer, with exhortations. If you enjoyed Power Through Prayer, I would recommend this as the next follow-up. Homer Hodge, the editor, calls Purpose in Prayer the companion volume to Power through Prayer. It was published the year after Bounds died.

The theological background in this book is a development on Wesleyan understandings of prayer. The first chapter bears the title, “God Shapes the World by Prayer.” This is a theme that was developed by Wesley himself.

This book contains strong medicine against fatalism and complacency. Bounds, like Wesley, sees our prayer as effecting real change in the history of the world. Some events only become possible through prayer. Prayer is not trivial; it is not just something ordained before an already-ordained event, having no power of decision in it. It creates new possibilities. There is purpose in prayer.

Some reviewers complain that Bounds doesn’t provide enough biblical backing for his assertions about prayer. In my opinion, that probably shows that they were expecting a theology book, which this is not. Moreover, Bounds does provide plenty of biblical grounding for purpose in prayer, but this is secondary to the goal of the book; his classic books are written to inspire you to pray, not to convince you of his specific theory of prayer.

I don’t recommend reading this book in a compilation (if you have a choice) because I think the compilation obscures the unity of theme that is found in this book, apart from his other books.


Like all of E. M. Bounds’ books, Purpose in Prayer is available for free in PDF format on the Internet Archive.


If you enjoy Bounds’ books on prayer, you might enjoy Praying Clear Through by W. J. Harney. It is written in a very similar theological stream.


“I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their prayers because they do not wait long enough on God. They just drop down and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them. Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor’s door-bell, and then running away as fast as he can go.”

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