Oswald Chambers Biography
“Wherever He has engineered your circumstances, pray.”Chambers, 1993
OSWALD’S EARLY LIFE
In a small town in Scotland, in 1874, Oswald Chambers—teacher, evangelist and author of the daily devotional My Utmost for His Highest—was born. At this time, Scotland was at the height of one of the great awakenings in the history of revivalism.
Charles Spurgeon, Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey brought change to religious fundamentalism, captivating crowds with gospel teaching and songs. Hannah and Clarence Chambers, Oswald’s parents, became followers of Christ and were baptized.
Shortly after Oswald’s birth, his family moved to Perth in central Scotland, where his father accepted a position as a pastor. Oswald and his brother Franklin enjoyed exploring the ancient city and climbing the rocky cliffs surrounding it.
THE PROVIDENTIAL CALL
In 1889, Oswald’s family moved to London. As a teen, his mother influenced him greatly. On the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, Oswald was baptized. He was sixteen years old. He joined a Bible class for young men and as part of a church with one hundred other young Christians, his faith grew. His studies at Rye Lane Chapel ignited the flames of deep spiritual passion within him. His heart was touched by the lodging house crowd in London, leading him to spend much of his time ministering to them.
Classical instruction was meant to prepare Oswald for the workforce, perhaps as an apprentice, or for higher education. He had many talents. He played the piano and the organ and wrote poetry. To his father’s chagrin, Oswald pursued art at the Royal College of Art. As an art student, he drew from live models and focused on artistic techniques for two years. At the completion of his Art Masters Certificate, he was awarded a scholarship to study art in Europe. He turned it down, choosing instead to follow the providential call in his heart. Throughout his life, Oswald chose to trust in God’s provision. In 1985 he wrote, “that all the kingdoms of the world are to become Christ’s—that artists, poets and musicians be good and fearless Christians.” (McCasland, 1998)
MINISTRY OF HOSPITALITY
The Pentecostal League of Prayer helped Oswald, a master of intercession and avid scholar of the Bible, to establish the Bible Training College (BTC). Students at the BTC lived in family style housing, taking their meals together with Oswald and his young wife, Gertrude. Both believed strongly in practicing the ministry of hospitality.
In addition to lecturing at the residential Bible College, Oswald also engaged with learners through a popular Bible correspondence course and preached weekly.
By 1915, forty students from the BTC were serving as missionaries.
During his service in WWI as YMCA chaplain, Oswald ministered to Allied troops in Cairo and the surrounding area. The soldiers loved and respected Oswald Chambers, nicknaming him “the O.C.” alluding to the post of Officer in Command.
His wife and young daughter kept him company in the desert sands of Egypt. Each Sunday, in the harsh climate, his wife served tea on white table linens to crowds of soldiers. Afterward, if the men chose, they could remain under the devotional huts to listen to Oswald’s Bible teachings. It was not unusual for everyone to stay, even Mrs. Chambers. Deft at shorthand, she diligently recorded her husband’s messages.
At age forty-three, while in Egypt, Oswald died of complications from appendicitis. Though he was not a military officer, one hundred soldiers escorted the funeral procession across the Nile. His father was informed of the news of his death by telegram. The message simply said, “Oswald, in His Presence.”
PREACHING WITH THE PEN
After his death, Oswald’s wife, Gertrude, whom he called Biddy (for B.D., Beloved Daughter) continued his legacy. She devoted her life to transcribing and organizing his prodigious teachings. Fifty books bearing his name have been published over all.
Reader Harris, founder of the Pentecostal League of Prayer said, “Probably the most lasting of all preaching is with the pen.” (McCasland, 1998) This is certainly true of Oswald Chambers whose classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, has never been out of print.
Chambers, Oswald. So Send I You/ Workmen of God: Recognizing and Answering
God’s Call to Service.1325 L. Discovery House, 1993.
McCasland, David. Oswald Chambers, Abandoned to God, the Life Story of Author of
My Utmost For His Highest. Unabridged. Christianaudio, 2007.
For additional resources:
Christian, Martha. Searching for Mrs. Oswald Chambers: One Woman’s Quest to
Uncover the Truth about the Woman behind the Most Celebrated Devotional of All
Time. Tyndale House Publishers, 2008.
Ule, Michelle. Mrs. Oswald Chambers: The Woman behind the World’s Bestselling
Devotional. Baker Books, 2017.