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Good books
Daring to Draw Near
Author: John White (1977, 2000)
Publisher: Tyndale (192 pages)
Review by Rev Ng Seng Chuan

This is not just a "good" book. It is non-pareil (without compare). I cannot claim to have read many books on prayer. But of those which I have read, this is unquestionably the best.

The book is a survey of ten prayers uttered by nine Bible characters (there are two chapters on David). The book’s subtitle hints at its objective – "Prayers That Help Us Know Who God Is". It aims to instruct us about the God to Whom all prayers are directed. Why so? Presumably because, judging by the way we pray, few of us know the God to Whom we pray.

I have read the book through at least twice, and stand rebuked each time I thumb through its pages again – rebuked for the shallowness of my faith and the triteness of our prayers.

In the opening chapter on Abraham, John White defines prayer (p.9) as God drawing us into His celestial boardroom that we might "deliberate with Him on matters of destiny." And it is therefore "not intended primarily to be centred on my petty needs and woes." Delving further into this ‘instrumental’ use of prayer (praying to get what I want), White comments that what counts in prayer is not "personal safety or material prosperity but fellowship with him and peace of mind" (p.27).

He considers the way we Christians pray today as betraying our disposition of being "worshippers of the golden calf" (p.42). Yet, far from condemning the church, he advocates that those who are thus critical learn to pray as Moses did, in asking that his name might be wiped off from the book of life. "It would be good if more Christians viewed churches the same way," comments White dryly.

You think you’ve got problems? They can’t be bigger than Daniel’s, can they? "In the Christian life, you need more tension, not less, if you are to do the will of God" (p.77). White argues for pain as the pathway to achieving His purpose – as He did with Hannah (p.101). For He allows pain that we might move from seeking the gift to seeking the Giver. "He wants people in their suffering to come to him. For he is himself the gift we really need" (p.105).

And yet intimacy with God carries profound risks. He might just trust you as much as He trusted Job – enough to strip him of all semblance of dignity (p.114). David was to dance before the ark without any sense of reserve, but not before God brought His awesome power to bear upon the lack of reverence in the way the ark had been transported from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David (II Samuel 6).

It is precisely this awesome power of God that makes most of our mundane earthly petitions seem trite beyond endurance. It is for this reason that Paul’s prayers seem to be infused with such spiritual energy that make us look upon him with admiration. Yet it is precisely for this admiration that White would fault us (p.160):
 

If therefore one feels that Paul’s prayer is spiritual and not practical, it is a sign of how blind he or she is to what life is all about. The person who knows his or her true destiny is to reign with Christ, whose eyes are opened to his or her true hope, the person who is keenly aware that in God’s eyes he or she is exceedingly precious, the person who has caught a glimpse of the fact that the power of the universe’s Creator is within him or herself, this person does not need prayer about minor or even major problems he may encounter in life. He can handle them easily.

For White, it is this understanding that would enable us to traverse the darkest valleys, as our Saviour once did. If the prayers of Jesus on the cross meant anything, it was that of "showing us how to die" (p.185).

Prayer, so it seems to John White, is the means by which we are enabled to triumph over the darkest gloom, if only because we have dared "to draw near" and stood in the blazing white light of the presence of the Almighty.

As I put the book down, the only meaningful prayer I could think of was the prayer the disciples once addressed to their Master. "Lord, teach us to pray."


BGST GENERAL FUND UPDATE

Operating expenses for Sept 2006

$ 57,090

Balance in General Fund 
as at 1st Sept 2006

$ 6,635

Funds received to-date (5th Sept)

$ 16,030

Balance to raise for Sept 2006

$ 34,425

Total Budgetted Operating Expenses 
for Oct to Dec 2006

$198,570

Balance to raise for the rest of 2006

$232,995

CHAPEL NOTES

Chapel on 30 August 2006

Today’s chapel was conducted by the Dean himself. Dr Quek gave an address on "Flora and Fauna", interweaving it with references to plants and animals in the Bible and Christian hymnody. The inspiration for the address came from his preparation for the "eco-walk" scheduled for the weekend.

What made the address particularly enlightening was not only the speaker’s access to vistas of knowledge on the geography of the Holy Land based on a first-hand experience, but snippets of history on his own predilections towards botany and zoology. He spoke of the fun he had after dissecting a rabbit, in a science lab in his secondary school days, to discover that the splayed specimen actually resembled his biology teacher! He also reminisced on the wonder of encountering snow in Jerusalem one winter during one of his earlier visits together with his family many years ago; and the awesome beauty of a floral landscape on another trip to Ashkelon in spring.

Rocks and rivers and sheep and sparrow received like illumination via allusions to Scripture and hymns. Moral of the story? If you have missed chapel as well as this weekend’s eco walk – well, then, look out for the next nature walk BGST organizes!

Chapel speaker on Sep 13 will be Mr David Chan Chee Chung.

(Summary by Ng Seng Chuan).

NEWS BITS

1. Courses Commencing in Term 4

  • Speech Techniques & Speech Clinic (AT234, 1.5 credits), starting Sep 13, 7.30-9.30pm. Lecturer: Rev Ng Seng Chuan.
  • Coping with Stress (Tent module), Dates: Sep 19, 26, Oct 3, 7.30-10pm. Lecturer: Mr Yam Keng Mun.
  • Learning the Craft of Teaching (CE255, 1.5 credits), starting Sep 26, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng.
  • Personal Ministry Skills (Tent module), Dates: Oct 10, 17, 31, 7.30-10pm.
  • Understanding Galatians (NT312, 1.5 credits), starting Oct 12, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Dr Oh Boon Leong.
  • Spiritual Retreat Experience: Nature, Purpose & Dynamics (CE264, 3 credits), Dates: Nov 6, 13, 20, 27, Dec 4 (class sessions); Dec 8-10 (residential retreat); Time to be confirmed. Lecturer: Mr John Chong Ser Choon.
  • Understanding Culture (Tent module), starting Nov 7, 7.30-10pm. Lecturer: Dr Ng Peh Cheng.
  • Addictions: On Substance & Pathological Gambling (CO260, 1.5 credits), starting Nov 9, 7.15-10.15pm. Lecturer: Mr William Teo.
  • Tent seminar: Tentmaking Types. Nov 25, 2-5pm.

Visit our website for course descriptions. For registration, please call 62276815 or email bgst@pacific.net.sg

2. A Lunch Hour Pronunciation Class in the CBD.
Sounds Good? by Rev Ng Seng Chuan
Dates
: Sep 15, 22, 29; Oct 6, 13, 20, 27; Nov 3, 10, 17 (10 sessions)
Time: 12.45pm to 1.30pm
Venue: Multi-purpose Room, 2nd floor
Class size: Limited strictly to 25 students
Course Fee: $125
Textbook
(optional): $25. Registrants can place order through BGST

To register, please come by to BGST. Registration is only confirmed upon payment of course fee before course commences.

A Blessed Birthday to ... 

Mr Ho Beng Guan 11/9

Rev Kew See Seong 11/9

Mdm Chin May Sum 11/9

Mrs Jennifer Loh 12/9

A/P David Chew 12/9

Mr Joseph Lim 12/9

Mrs Catherine Tcheau 13/9

Mr Peter Tan 13/9

Mr Patrick Lee 13/9

Mr Toh Beng Guan 14/9

Mrs Susie Yong 14/9

Mr Chua Kwan Meng 14/9

Ms Ng Lay Kwan 15/9

Mr Anthony Tay 16/9

Mr Samuel Kim 16/9

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