Monday, November 19, 2007

God Does Not Always Answer Our Prayers?

“God does not always answer our prayers.” Almost all speakers I have heard talking about prayer do state this. It has always been troubling me. I find two problems here. Firstly, this statement implies that prayer is all about asking and answering. We ask something from God and God answers. It seems that God is regarded as a genie that always provides whatever the person who controls it asks. This is not the essence of prayer, at least for Christianity. Asking for something is only a small part of prayer dimensions. In fact, it is the shallowest understanding of prayer. The heart of prayer is to commune with God. Exchanging our feeling and thoughts with God. To go into the very heart of God, this is the heart of prayer.

Secondly, I find the understanding is based on the presupposition that answering prayers equals answering ‘yes’. It means when God says ‘no’ to our requests, we neglect his answer and act as if God has not answered our prayers. This is very childish. Children usually cannot accept a ‘no’ answer from their parents. They will conclude quickly that their parents do not love them if their requests are not granted. As they grow, they would understand that their parents have actually ‘a better answer’ when they say ‘no’ to their children. Most of the time, I find that when I think God does not answer my request, he has actually answered ‘no’. I just cannot accept it. So, God always answers our prayers, more accurately our requests. His answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thank You Mr.Smiley !!!

On November 12th, I went to Malacca to visit someone in one of the hospitals there. While I was waiting for my bus in the bus stop just opposite my college, a skinny and smiley guy came and asked, “Do you know how to go to Malaysia?” Then I told him that I wanted to go to Malaysia, but since I had never been there, I was also not sure. Then he was very happy because he found another “blind man” to go together with him.

He was very friendly. He told me that he lived in a condo nearby. Later he found out that I was a theological student and I discovered that he was a Sunday school teacher. We were really enjoying our chat while we were on the bus going to Johor Baru. Then he started to share that he had a cancer and just done chemotherapy. He was going to go through radiotherapy soon. I almost could not believe it. Because he looked so happy! How could someone whose stomach had been removed be joyful like that? At the end I found the secret. He said, “We don’t know when our lives will end. What we can do is to choose how we want to live. And I have chosen to live happily, enjoying whatever God has given to me. God is good all the time.”

Of course it was not the first time I heard such statement. But, being said by a man who had gone through such agony, that statement became extremely powerful! He is the man who really understands what Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” He has taught me a very meaningful lesson which I might never learn even from a prominent theologian! He also has reminded me of two things. Firstly, a message will be powerful if it is said by a person who really knows what it means by experiencing it. “God is good” might mean nothing if it is said by a person who has never gone through agonies in life. Secondly, a theology must be born from “the street”, not from an ivory tower. Being a theological student, sometimes I feel like being separated from the world. There are too many books which I have not read. Sometimes, or may be most of the times, this makes me forget that I also need to learn from the living text, such as the smiley man I met. In fact, I do believe that a good theology must be born from a dialectical process between the Word and the world. Having said this, I think that smiley man is the right person to write about and develop a theology of suffering.

At the end of our meeting, I said to him that I was very blessed to meet him. I truly thanked God for giving me the opportunity to meet and learn from him. And I really thanked him for his passion and openness to share his life with me. Thank you Mr. Smiley!!!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

If Heaven and Hell Never Exist

Chrisye, an Indonesian pop singer legend who died on March 30th 2007, composed a very interesting song entitled Jika Surga dan Neraka Tak Pernah Ada (If Heaven and Hell Never Exist). Here is the lyric:

Apakah kita semua benar-benar tulus menyembah pada-Nya?
(Are we truly sincere in worshipping Him?)

Atau mungkin kita hanya takut pada neraka dan inginkan surga?
(Or probably, are we just afraid of hell? And we simply want heaven?)

Jika surga dan neraka tak pernah ada, masihkah kau bersujud kepada-Nya?
(If heaven and hell never exist, will you still worship Him?)

Jika surga dan neraka tak pernah ada, masihkah kau menyebut nama-Nya?
(If heaven and hell never exist, will you still call His name?)

Bisakah kita semua benar-benar sujud sepenuh hati
kar'na sungguh memang Dia, memang pantas disembah, memang pantas dipuja?
(Can we truly worship Him ultimately because of He himself deserves to be worshipped and to be praised?)

This song challenges everyone who claims that they believe in God. Why do you believe in God? Why do you go to church, mosque, temple, or other worship places? Is it simply because you want to go to heaven and are afraid of going to hell? If this were the reason, you are actually not worshipping God. You are worshipping yourself. You are just using God for your own goodness and safety. You are basically worshiping Him because of what He can give to you.

Christianity never teaches this kind of egoistic faith. You may want to check the Bible to find out that whenever the writers of the Bible are referring to Jesus, they always mention Him as “Lord and Savior”, not “Savior and Lord”. Why? I think it is because they are trying to tell the readers that what Jesus has done is a secondary reason of why we should believe in and follow Him. The most important thing is who Jesus is. Jesus is Lord! If he is the Lord, he deserves to be worshipped! If God is truly God, God deserves to be worshipped! We do not need other reasons in order to believe in Him.

Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opium of the people.” I partly agree with him. I would say that religion MIGHT BECOME the opium of the people. It happens when people worship God only because of what God can do for them. For those who claim that you believe in God, let me challenge you to think: Why do you believe in God?

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