Memorial and Place of Encounter Bonhoeffer-Haus Berlin
So much strength to resist ! Read Bonhoeffer in critical time (9) May 17, 2020
ROGATE: “Lord, teach us, to pray!” Praying along with Christ
“Lord, teach us to pray!” So spoke the disciples to Jesus. In doing so, they were acknowledging that they were not able to pray on their own: they had to learn. »To learn to pray« sounds con-tradictory to us. Either the heart is so overflowing that it begins to pray by itself, we say, or it will never learn to pray. But this is a dangerous error, which is certainly very widespread among Christians today, to imagine that it is natural for the heart to pray. We then confuse wishing, hoping, sighing, lamenting, rejoicing – all of which the heart can certainly do on its own – with praying. But in doing so we confuse earth and heaven, human being and God. Praying certain-ly does not mean simply pouring out one’s hart. It means, rather, finding the way to and speak-ing with God, whether the heart is full or empty. No one can do that on one’s own. For that one needs Jesus Christ …
If Christ takes us along in the prayer which Christ prays, if we are allowed to pray this prayer with Christ, on whose way to God we too are led and by whom we are taught to pray, then we are freed from the torment of being without prayer … We can pray only in Jesus Christ, with whom we shall also be heard …
God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we want to pray with assur-ance and joy, then the word of Holy Scripture must be the firm foundation of our prayer. Here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teaches us to pray. The words that come from God will be the steps on which we find our way to God …
Jesus Christ has brought before God every need, every joy, every thanksgiving, and every hope of humankind. In Jesus’ mouth the human word becomes God’s Word. When we pray along with the prayer of Christ, God’s Word becomes again a human word. Thus all prayers of the Bible are such prayer, which we pray together with Jesus Christ, prayers in which Christ includes us, and through which Christ brings us before the face of God. Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray …
At the request of the disciples, Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer. In it every prayer is con-tained. Whatever enters into the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer is prayed aright; whatever has no place in it, is no prayer at all. Al the prayers are summed up in the Lord’s Prayer … Luther says of the Psalter: “It runs through the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer runs through it, so that is possible to understand one on the basis of the other and to bring them into joyful harmony.” The Lord’s Prayer thus becomes the touchstone for whether we pray in the name of Jesus Christ or in our own name. It makes good sense, that the Psalter is very often bound together with the New Testament. It is the prayer of the church of Jesus Christ. It belongs to the Lord’s Prayer.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayerbook of the Bible. An Introduction to the Psalms, 1940, DBW, Vol. 5.
TEXTS B (from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, volume 8)
From first awakening until our return to sleep, we must commend and entrust the other person to God wholly and without reserve, and let our worries become prayer for the other person.
Christmas Eve 1943 to Eberhard Bethge. DBW 8, 256.
God, I call to you early in the morning,
Help me pray and collect my thoughts, I cannot do so alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light.
I am lonely, but you do not abandon me.
I am faint-harted, but from you comes my help.
I am restless, but with you is peace.
In me is bitterness, but with you is patience.
I do not understand your ways, but you know [the] right way for me.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Prayers for Prisoners: Morning Prayer, November 1943, DBW 8, 194 ff.
I should talk with you sometime about prayer in time of need. This is a difficult matter, yet our misgivings when praying for ourselves are perhaps not good either … I won’t say any more about this, I can only do that in person, but that’s the way it is; it takes a crisis to shake us up and drive us into prayer, and every time I find this shameful, and it is. Perhaps it’s because so far, as such moments, I’ve found it impossible to speak a Christian word to the others. Last night when we were lying on the floor again and one man called out aloud: »O God, O God!« – he’s otherwise a pretty frivolous fellow – I couldn’t bring myself to offer him any sort of Chris-tian encouragement and comfort, but I remember looking at the clock and just saying, it won’t last more than another ten minutes. I did this without thinking, automatically, probably with the feeling that I shouldn’t use it as an opportunity for religious blackmail.
To Eberhard Bethge, January 29/31, 1944, DBW 8, 275 f.
God does not fulfill all our wishes but does keep all his promises. This means God remains Lord of the earth, preserves the church, renews our faith again and again, never gives us more than we can bear to endure, makes us rejoice in his presence and help, hears our prayers and leads us on the best and straightest path to God. But doing all these things unfailingly, God elicits or praise.
To Eberhard Bethge, August 14, 1944, for Eberhard Bethge’s birthday on August 28, DBW 8, 569.
CONTEXT (see also the Editor‘s Introduction to the English Edition of Geffrey B. Kelly)
In the introduction to the “Prayerbook of the Bible”, Dietrich Bonhoeffer unfolds his christocen-tric understanding of prayer that leads to Christ and comes from him. In Luther’s footsteps, he understands the Psalms from the Lord’s Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer from the Psalms. Christus is recognized and confessed as the one word of God in the human word (see: Theo-logical Declaration of the Barmen Confession Synod of May 31, 1934, Thesis 1).
The exclusivity of the confession to Christ is experienced by Jews in Christian-Jewish dialogue and people who belong to another or no religion, as an appropriation or even as an exclusion. In his letter to Eberhard Bethge of April 30, 1944, Dietrich Bonhoeffer asks: “How can Christ be-come Lord of the religionless as well?”
It is not about excluding the “others” (this is also shown by the poem “Christians and Heathens” with the conclusion: “and forgives them both”), but rather about including them by unlocking the doors that separate us. Bonhoeffer’s question is an echo of the Pauline message of overcom-ing the fence between the Jewish people and the other peoples “in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11 ff.). The crucified one is “the peace” as the risen one. “Jesus Christ has brought all hardship, all joy, all thanks and all hope of people before God.” The “Lord” being of Christ is to be understood as a dialectical-dynamic conversion (“Metanoia”): If we allow “to be pulled into walking the path that Jesus walks, … into the – messianic – suffering of God in Jesus Christ” (letter of July 18, 1944 to Eberhard Bethge), he will liberate us from the smallness of our “own needs, questions, sins, fears” and take us in the greatness of his prayer so that “God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven”.
When Christ the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35) prays with us, the request for “our daily bread” be-comes the request for the preservation of the life of others, wherever.