Thursday, May 29, 2008

The great school of prayer

Other than the Bible itself, there's not another book I cherish more than Life Together. I recently pulled it off the shelf again and couldn't put it down. I love it for it's brevity, it's simple directness, it's practicality, it's realism, and above all for the devotion to Christ and his Church that shines through every page. I enjoy the paradox of reading this passionate celebration of life in community by a self-described introvert, who found being among people (even his family) a taxing experience. I guess I can relate. For Bonhoeffer reading, singing and praying the psalms were an essential part of common worship, both in the church and the home. They are the answer to the question, "Lord, teach us to pray." The Psalter teaches us the meaning of Christian prayer, what we should pray and how to pray as a fellowship.

The Psalter is the vicarious prayer of Christ for his Church. Now that Christ is with the Father, the new humanity of Christ, the Body of Christ on earth, continues to pray his prayer to the end of time. This prayer belongs, not to the individual member, but to the whole Body of Christ. Only in the whole Christ does the whole Psalter become a reality, a whole which the individual can never fully comprehend and call his own. That is why the prayer of the psalms belongs in a peculiar way to the fellowship. Even if a verse or a psalm is not one's own prayer, it is nevertheless the prayer of another member of the fellowship; so it is quite certainly the prayer of the true Man Jesus Christ and his Body on earth.

In the Psalter we learn to pray on the basis of Christ's prayer. The Psalter is the great school of prayer.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (pp. 46-47)


Jason Miller said...

One of my Top 10 books, huge influence on me personally and the way I do ministry. I've done a study of it with one of my leadership teams, and will do so again.

Stephen Ley said...

I wrote a devotional inspired by it for our church's summer missions team to take with them to Paraguay. I might post it here once they're safely out of the country.

BTW congratulations on your ordination. I'm sure it's been a long road. May your ministry be richly blessed!