Resensi

If You Will Ask

Judul: If You Will Ask: Reflections on the Power of Prayer
Penerbit: Discovery House Publishers
Penulis: Oswald Chambers
Tebal: 117 halaman
Cetakan: 2nd Edition (1989)

This book is composed of gems on the topic of prayer. Series of Chambers’ own reflections, questions are interspersed throughout the text to provoke deeper consideration of the subject. Reading each chapter, I realized I ought to give a great deal more time to brooding on the fundamental truths of the sacred simplicity of prayer.

Chambers first brings the readers across the Garden of Gethsemane. Often I am too frivolous and shallow to be dismissive to what Jesus spoke in the supreme moment of His agony and its relation to prayer. ‘Stay here, and watch with me. …Watch and pray’ (Matt 26:38b, 41a), words that weighed so greatly, intermittently I fall short to distinguish. Is our idea of praying based on the keen watching that Jesus asked of His disciples? He took the disciples, to see His agony, to see the unveiling of His heart—and they slept for their own sorrow. “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt 26:38a). “This agony is not of human phase at all. This distress of God in Man, or rather of God as Man, is too enormous to our human mind to understand, but at least we need not misunderstand” (p.21). Chambers entreats us to have lasting impression and remembrance of the very essential ground on which we pray—on the ground of redemption and no other ground. We can pray and our prayers are heard, not because we are earnest, not because we suffer, but because Jesus suffered. “Prayer is not what it costs us, but what it costs God to enable us to pray. We have ‘the boldness to enter the Holiest” (Hebrews 10:19) because He went through the depths of agony to the last ebb of Gethsemane, because He went through Calvary” (p.24). It costs God Almighty so much that anyone can pray.

Then later Chambers blatantly suggests that the obscurity is, perhaps, our Lord Jesus is not in actual fact our Master, or we do not have it in mind to distinctly make Him Master practically. We are sparingly accustomed with the thought that Jesus is our Saviour, our Sanctifier, anything that puts Him in the relationship of a supernatural comrade. Jesus said no sentimental things about prayer, He said matter-of-factly and intensely real things, and this is one of them. “Therefore pray…” (Matt 9:38a). Have we prayed plainly because Jesus is our Master and He orders us to pray? Chambers reminds us that we pray to the great Master of human hearts, One who understands the unconscious depths of personalities which we know nothing, and He has told us to pray. ‘Greater works than these he will do… And whatever you shall ask in My name, that I will do” (John 14:12-14).
Another point Chambers conveys which takes me out from my dully ordinary view of prayer is when he mentions, ‘When a man is in real distress he prays without reasoning. He does not think things out, he simply blurts things out. Only when a man flounders beyond any grip of himself and cannot understand things does he really pray” (p.13). We have prayed often and generally with sincerity, but how often we pray with earnestness, working from the very implicit part of ourselves? How devout, urgent, and desperate is our prayer? “It is not cowardly to pray when we are at our wits’ end. It is the only way to get in touch with Reality” (p.15). In the state of mind where there is no real sense of sin, nor any spiritual wants and longings, no consciousness of guilt, it need not be expected that one will pray. As long as we are self-reliant we do not need to ask God for anything. Time and again we need to ask God to allow us to see His visions through His eyes, to apprehend all the needs and subjects so present and pressing that He wants us to pray always for.
As much as I am keen on his powerful prose, perceptibly Chambers has proposed extremities in his definitions and illustrations, in particular in “Some say that a man will suffer in his life if he does not pray. I question it. What will suffer is the life of God in him, which is nourished not by food, but by prayer. When a man is born from above, the life of the Son of God begins in Him, and he can either starve that life, or nourish it. Prayer nourishes the life of God. Our Lord nourished the life of God in Him by prayer. He was continually in contact with His Father” (p.13). Strong exclamations such as ‘to nourish the life of God  in us’ are altogether a fallacy and absurdity, almost a mockery to the reality that drawing nearer to God in prayer and praise is indeed a need and necessity to us in order that God’s will be manifested in us and through us. At this juncture reader learns to be steadily and uncompromisingly mindful in appreciating, and evaluating, any work of literature.
As one prays much, the more he sees the astuteness and necessity of prayer for his own spiritual gain. Teaching is good, understanding God's word is a blessing, bonding with other believers is pleasant, but what are they compared with personal communion with God, making the soul so revolted of sin and so dead to the world. “Are we prepared to what it will cost? It will cost intense narrowing of all our interests on earth, and an immense broadening of our interest in God. It will cost anything that is not God in us” (p.74). We imagine that prayer is for occasions, while it is essential to put on the armor of God for the relentless practice of prayer, for “there is no such thing as a holiday for the beating of hearts. If there is, then grave comes next. And there is no such thing as moral or spiritual holiday. If we attempt to take holiday, the next time we want to pray it is a struggle because the enemy has gained victory all around” (p.34). The devil is a bully but he cannot stand for a second before God. In being intercessors, Chambers says, “We think of prayer as a preparation of work, or a claim after having done work, whereas prayer is the essential work. We move around in devotional speculations, but we won’t bring it straight down to earth and work it out in actualities” (p.91). We ought to grow into doing some definite thing by praying.
To be taught to handle a thing by praying is to cross the threshold to an acutely rigorous school. But we have heard that the more saints pray, the more they love prayer, for the more they will enjoy God. For what is better than having soul come nearer to God? What is worse than the unbelief and enmity of heart that keeps one from always praying? In this book Chambers tells us.

Maret 2006

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