Born AUGUST 15, 1835Edward McKendree Bounds needed to know how to pray. Why? Because of his involuntary involvement in American Civil War politics. Afterwards, because of his voluntary service as a military chaplain. Because of his pastoral duties after the war. Because of his role as a husband and father, resulting in his wife’s deathbed request. Then because of opportunities and disappointments within his denomination. Through it all, E. M. Bounds spent hours in prayer, gaining insights he chose to share with the rest of us.
A DENOMINATION AT RISK
Edward grew up in Shelbyville, Missouri where his father served as county clerk. His father died in 1849, when Edward was fourteen. In the shadow of is father’s public service, the teenage Edward studied to be a lawyer. The young E. M. Bounds, born one year before Abraham Lincoln began practicing law, passed the bar in 1854. The nineteen-year-old soon gained a reputation as a good lawyer, but he wasn’t to remain one.
In 1859, only five years into his career, Edward Bounds changed careers. He began using his voice to persuade church congregations instead of juries. It wouldn’t be an easy min-istry.He joined a branch of Methodism born out of the slavery debate. The hot issue in the Methodist Episcopal Church reached its boiling point at the church’s General Confer-ence of 1844. The divide led to the formation of two branches: the Methodist Episcopal Church, North and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Mr. Bounds, who wasn’t personally in favor of slavery, joined the southern branch in 1859, not thinking the issue would matter in his ministry. It soon did.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president in November of the following year. Between the November election and his April inauguration, seven southern states seceded from the Union. Missouri, which had supporters in both camps, became a concern. In the summer of 1861 Washington D.C. dispatched military troops to Missouri. They were to protect the state from the pro-slavery element within its borders. The officers in command exceeded their orders.
They tried freeing slaves throughout the state. The military viewed the pro-slavery Methodist Episcopal Church, South, as a threat. The troops took over property, including the denomination’s churches and parsonages. When Pastor Bounds refused to sign an oath of loyalty to the Union (since he was already a US citizen) and refused to pay a $500 bond, he found himself behind bars.
INTO THE SOUTH
Pastor Bounds spent the next year and a half in a federal prison in St. Louis. He wasn’t free in many ways, but the young pastor freely preached to and helped his fellow prisoners. He was released at the end of 1862 with the stipulation that he should not return to Missouri until the war ended. He went to Mississippi.
There, E. M. Bounds became a chaplain for the Confederate Army. He was assigned to the Third Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He dutifully held services, counseled and consoled the soldiers, then marched with them to the front lines to minister. Their last battle together took many of the Missourians’ lives and forever changed the life of Chaplain Bounds.In the final days of November, 1864, the north and south clashed in the Battle of Franklin in Tennessee. The south, out-numbered and less equipped, didn’t stand a chance. The battle ended five hours after it began, with extreme casualties on both sides. Chaplain Bounds was again taken prisoner.
This time, he was permitted to return to his home state of Missouri if he signed an oath proclaiming his allegiance to the Union. He did, but he soon went back to Franklin. He helped identify and bury the fallen fellow Missourians he’d served. Remaining in Franklin, Edward eventually pastored the town’s Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
As pastor, he met once a week to sow seeds of prayer with a group of men. A year later, a harvest resulted in about 150 individuals confessing personal faith in Jesus.
Pastor Bounds relocated to Eufaula, Alabama. It was there he met Emma Elizabeth Barnett. Two years after a pastoral relocation to St. Louis, the couple were married in September, 1876. The marriage lasted only eight years. Emma died in 1884, leaving Edward with three children and a deathbed request. She asked that after her death he marry her cousin, Harriet, whom she believed would be the perfect wife and mother her family needed.
By then, E. M Bounds had begun a writing ministry. He worked as assistant editor for the official publication of his denomination’s Missouri Conference. He enjoyed the job. He married Harriet, and they began adding children of their own to the family. Along the way, death claimed a couple of the children. In 1890, the year one of the youngsters died, the praying editor was invited to serve as associate editor of the church’s national publication.
Writing about scriptural truths took on new meaning. Many of his articles addressed the threat of liberal theology creeping into the denomination. Edward won over many readers to carry the con-servative flag. However, he lost a major battle; the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, dissolved the role of evangelist from its ranks. Edward, who’d ministered as an evangelist, resigned his post and left the organization. He and his family moved to Washington, Georgia. From there, he traveled and preached as an evangelist. He continued writing. He also committed himself to praying every morning from 4:00 AM to 7:00 AM.
THE WORDS HE LEFT US
The first of his books to be printed started under the title Preacher and Prayer (in 1902), but later received the title change, Power Through Prayer. He published The Resurrection in 1907. He didn’t live to see every title in print. He passed away in 1913. His friends, Homer Hodge and C. L. Chilton, oversaw the preparation and publishing of further titles from his writings. Little more than a decade after his death, a total of eleven books bore his name on the cover. Almost a century following Edward McKendree Bound’s last prayer on earth, no fewer than eight titles still sell.
Here are three of his quotes about prayer:
“Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still.”
“Prayer is the most formidable weapon, the thing that makes all else we do efficient.”
“Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.”
LET ME KNOW: How has E. M.’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.
- Larsen, Timothy, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Evangelicals. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003.
- Petersen, William and Randy Petersen. 100 Christian Books That Changed the World. grand Rapids, MI: Revell, 2000.
- Dorsett, Lyle Wesley. E. M. Bounds: Man of Prayer. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991.
Books by E. M. Bounds-
Separate titles include, “Power Through Prayer,” “Prayer and Praying Men,” “Purpose in Prayer,” “The Essentials of Prayer,” “The Necessity of Prayer,” “The Possibilities of Prayer,” “The Reality of Prayer” and “The Weapon of Prayer.” You can purchase all these books together as either “Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer” or “The Complete Collection of E. M. Bounds. on Prayer.”
Online- (You can view seven of his books on prayer for free at:)
- http://www.ccel.org/ccel/bounds?show=worksBy. ———————————————————————————————