A close friend and I have completed reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Prayerbook of the Bible (1940). Here are my take-aways and questions.
- God hears us “not in the false and confused language of our heart but in the clear and pure language that God has spoken to us in Jesus Christ” (from “The Introduction”).
- “All the prayers of the Holy Scriptures are summed up in the Lord’s Prayer and are taken up into its immeasurable breath” (from “The Introduction”).
- “The same words David spoke, therefore, the future Messiah spoke in him. Christ prayed along with the prayers of David or, more accurately, it is none other than Christ who prayed them in Christ’s own forerunner, David” (from “Those Who Pray the Psalms”).
- What impact does a Christocentric theology of prayer have on the Trinity? “Only in and through Jesus Christ can we truly pray” (from “The Introduction”).
- “Whoever has begun to pray the Psalter earnestly and regularly will ‘soon take leave’ of those other light and personal ‘little devotional prayers and say: ‘Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which I find in the Psalter. Anything else tastes too cold and too hard’ (Luther)” (from “The Worship Service and the Psalms”). Should I only pray the words of the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer?
- “Jesus Christ himself has offered the perfect worship service, in that he fulfilled all the ordained sacrifices in his own voluntary, sinless sacrifice. In his own person Christ offered God’s sacrifice for us and our sacrifice for God. For us there remains only the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving in prayers, songs, and in a life lived according to God’s commands (Ps. 15, Ps. 50). So our entire life becomes the worship service, the thank-offering. God wishes to acknowledge such a thank-offering and to show salvation to those who are thankful (Ps. 50:23). These psalms wish to teach us to become thankful to God for the sake of Christ and to praise him in the congregation with heart, mouth, and hands” (from “The Church”). How do I cultivate a life that becomes the worship service?
- “Even in the deepest helplessness, God alone remains the one addressed. Help is neither expected from other people, nor does the sufferer in self-pity lose sight of God, the origin and goal of all affliction. The one who suffers sets out to battle against God for God. God’s promise, God’s previous redemptive deeds, the honor of God’s name among all people, are again and again held up before the wrathful God” (from “Suffering”). How do I battle against God for God without blasphemy?
- “If I am guilty, why does God not forgive me? If I am not guilty, why does God not end my torment and demonstrate my innocence to my enemies (Pss. 38, 79, 44)? There is no theoretical answer to all these questions in the Psalms any more than in the New Testament. The only real answer is Jesus Christ. But this answer is already being sought in the Psalms. It is common to all of them that they cast every difficulty and tribulation upon God: ‘We can no longer bear them, take them away from us and bear them yourself, for you alone can handle suffering.’ That is the goal of all the psalms of lament. They pray about the one who took upon himself our sickness and bore our infirmities, Jesus Christ. They proclaim Jesus Christ as the only help in suffering, for in Christ is God with us.” Should projects of theodicy be abandoned, referred instead to the work of Jesus Christ?