Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, October 5, 2017
A Straight Way in Psalm 119
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s devotional writing is often heartfelt, sometimes earnest. As I make my way through this anthology of briefer devotional writings, I am struck again and again by phrases used in a particularly apt way. Or, some word or phrase Bonhoeffer might mention convicts me—sneaking up on me in an unexpected manner.
It was that way with Bonhoeffer’s commentary on verse 5 of Psalm 119:
Oh, that my ways were made so direct
That I might keep Your statutes!
The first point he addressed was the difference between wishes and prayers. “One proceeds from our need as we ourselves understand it, the other proceeds from our need as God has taught us to see it. The one is desperate and demanding, the other is humble and confident.”  Ah, such a difference. Some might imagine it to be subtle. However, the more I think about it, the more I tend to think that needy people who wish for things might just be anxious and fearful, possibly oblivious of others, or angry with life—perhaps even secretly disappointed or angry with themselves.
Ah, but prayer? People who pray? Bonhoeffer contrasts these needy, desperate ones with humble people who request from God in confidence, with (some) patience, and above all, knowing that God’s ways are sure, direct and straight. What a contrast. What conviction sneaks up on my heart, knowing that I am—occasionally—a whiny brat, throwing a tantrum before my Heavenly Father. (Dear Lord, I am sorry. I really, really am. I will try my best to do better. Truly.)
But, wait! Bonhoeffer has more for us in this commentary! “Out of the crooked and twisted a straight way shall emerge, which is not ‘blocked and made crooked by human doctrine’ (Luther). God’s statutes alone remain firm, drawn up by Him for all times.”  Here he quotes from Martin Luther. Yes, faulty people can botch things up. Even well-meaning pastors and theologians can goof and get things wrong. If people keep their eyes on God’s Word, and search out God’s ways, then a straight path can emerge. It is not always easy, but it is almost always clearly marked.
Dear God, You so clearly mark the way I am to travel with You. Thank You for Your Word, Your statutes, and Your confidence that You offer so freely. Help me—help us all to receive Your Word with gratitude. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.
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 Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 107.
 Ibid, 108.