Thoughts on Prayer – Bonhoeffer’s Life Together (Walking with the Saints)

There are many more fantastic passages from Bonhoeffer’s classic on Christian community, Life Together, that I want to share.  Here are a few on prayer:

“As good and useful as our scruples may be about keeping our prayer pure and biblical, they must nevertheless not stifle the free prayer itself that is so necessary, for it has been endowed with great promise by Jesus Christ.” Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 1394-1395). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

“As helpful as the church’s tradition of prayer is for learning how to pray, nevertheless it cannot take the place of the prayer that I owe to my God today. Here the poorest stammering can be better than the best-phrased prayer. It goes without saying that the state of affairs in public worship services is different from the daily worship of the community living together.” Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 1428-1430). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

It is easy to pick on people for how they pray, especially when the word “just” is said every three words.  There is certainly growth that can be had in prayer, as we learn to pray.  That said, there is a simple beauty in people praying from the heart which some of us may miss if we are overly concerned with the prayer being theologically accurate.

The persons assigned to pray for the community should learn what it means to have a duty to perform in the congregation even at a time when they would like to avoid this task because they are weighed down by inner emptiness and weariness or by personal guilt. The other members of the community should support them in their weakness, in their inability to pray. Perhaps then the words of Paul will come true: “We do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom. 8: 26). 49″ Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 1420-1424). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Prayer means nothing else but the readiness to appropriate the Word, and what is more, to let it speak to me in my personal situation, in my particular tasks, decisions, sins, and temptations. What can never enter the prayer of the community may here silently be made known to God. On the basis of the words of Scripture we pray that God may throw light on our day, preserve us from sin, and enable us to grow in holiness, and that we may be faithful in our work and have the strength to do it. And we may be certain that our prayer will be heard because it issues from God’s Word and promise.” Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 1914-1918). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

Prayer and scripture go hand-in-hand.  We learn from scripture and the words shape how we pray.

After writing this, I feel like I should go pray…

A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich (2004-12-08). Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible: 5 (Kindle Locations 1929-1932). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.

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