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His Books Survive – But Who Was The Man?

The name of E M Bounds is inextricably linked to his many published works on the subject of prayer. Yet in his lifetime he was known to few outside his immediate influence. Many tragic events stalked his life and tested his spirit. Born in Missouri in 1835, he was named Edward McKendree Bounds – the middle name from a famous Methodist circuit rider.  His father died when Edward was just fourteen, and in spite of his youth he took off with his older brother to seek fortune in mining and panning for gold. Four futile years of hard graft and exposure to immorality and degradation were enough, and he returned home. There he discovered a greater treasure, a “pearl of great price”, and he committed his life to God. He embarked on legal studies and was the youngest in Missouri to be called to the bar.

The Great Spiritual Awakening of 1857 swept his home town and he obeyed the call of God for full-time Christian ministry. Ordained in 1859, he became a country pastor, but not for him a peaceful and tranquil life. The Civil War began to divide the nation. Bounds witnessed the cruelty of Union soldiers executing 55 innocent civilians. He refused to sign the Oath of Allegiance, his church was raided, and he was beaten and thrown into prison. An exchange of prisoners secured his release on the condition that he stay out of Missouri, but he walked over 200 miles, then secured a mule and continued till he reached home!

He joined the Confederate Army as a chaplain. There he preached, prayed and encouraged his fellows. The tragedy of defeat came in the Battle of Franklin, in which General Hood’s army suffered over 6,000 casualties. Bounds was wounded by a Union sword and taken prisoner. For two solid weeks he had the task of burying his fallen colleagues in a mass grave. The gruesome task earned his release as a non-combatant and he returned home.

However, Bounds’ heart remained in Franklin and he was haunted by the disrespectful way that his men had been buried; he determined to right a great wrong. Under his direction the bodies of 1,496 Confederate soldiers were exhumed and then given the dignity of individual Christian burials on the Carter Farm, where a lasting memorial was finally established in 1951. Bounds raised funds to pay for the care of the graves, published a list of the fallen, made contact with many of the families and helped fatherless children to gain scholarships.

The grief that overwhelmed the town of Franklin impressed upon Bounds that his ministry was to the living. He organised public prayer meetings in the town square and after a year or so God answered by revival fire.  Over 500 believers were recorded in his own congregation.  For the last 19 years of his life he devoted himself to intercessory prayer. Bounds engaged for a minimum of 3 hours a day in concentrated prayer; he also would rise up early and go and pray outside different people’s houses for their particular circumstances. Before his death in 1913 two of his books were published; today all eight titles are available. Want a book on prayer?   Seek out a Bounds’ title!

David Browne.