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).
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):
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."
A Blessed Birthday to ...
Mr Ho Beng Guan 11/9
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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
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Mr Anthony Tay 16/9
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