Tag Archives: prayer

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Psa 34-19 brokenhearted, words

More Prayer, Suffering, with Psalm 34

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had a tumultuous life during the 1930’s and 1940’s, ending with his imprisonment and death by the hand of the Nazis. He had escaped the tumult of Germany for what ended up being only a short respite. Bonhoeffer had been invited to come to the United States to lecture.

As was a habit for him, Bonhoeffer regularly prayed and meditated on a published selection of bible passages, the Herrnhuter Losungen. After reading and praying on a Losung text (2 Tim. 4:21), he felt strongly convicted by the instruction “Do your best to come before winter.” He decided to return to Germany in the summer of 1939.

This sermon on the suffering of the righteous (taken from Psalm 34) Bonhoeffer wrote in 1944, after he had been imprisoned for some time. His writings in prison had much to do with God being present with him—and with others—through adversity. He said, “Blessing means laying one’s hands upon something and saying: You belong to God in spite of it all. It is in this way that we respond to the world that causes us such suffering.” [1]

This is not the way that most people respond to suffering. Bonhoeffer had an intimate relationship with God. I take a step back from his difficult life and look at the upsetting and unfair circumstances. Yet, his deep faith in God brought him through and it showed. I am in awe of relationships like that. Such a deep, thorough understanding of the character of God astounds me. I quake and fear that I might be expected to go through fiery trials similar to what Pastor Dietrich experienced. I know, from even a rudimentary knowledge of church history, that many saints of God were similarly tested and tried.

Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to remain firm in my commitment and relationship to You. Help me love You with my heart, soul, mind and strength. Lead me—lead us to do what is right in Your sight.  In Your mercy, Lord, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 89.

Prayer, God’s Voice, and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, August 24, 2017

Psa 58-3 voice of charmers

Prayer, God’s Voice, and Psalm 58

Another blog post, another punch in the gut. Seriously, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words hit home especially hard. In this short commentary on Psalm 58, Bonhoeffer describes the challenging sentiments of King David in such vivid terms.

Yes, Psalm 58 is a psalm of vengeance. (What sometimes is called an “imprecatory psalm,” which has the psalmist “praying evil against” his enemies, and praying death and destruction to come upon them. [1] ) King David wants so desperately to describe his enemies as evil, nasty and abominable.

I was struck by verse 5, which has the enemies of David characterized as not heeding “the voice of the charmer, no matter how skillful his charming.” [2] Or, rather, I was really impacted by Bonhoeffer’s comments on this verse as directed to the modern believer. He describes us as charmed by the “skillful One who by his words of grace charms and controls our hearts.” [3] Yet, there are some who do not listen, and who even go so far as to seemingly stop their ears.

Ah, Herr Pastor, your words hit me right between the eyes…”There are times when, in willful disobedience, we harden our hearts against God’s will and heap up sin upon sin until at last we can hear no more. Then Satan has gained control of us.” [4]

That is me. I am the guilty one. Dietrich, you were exactly correct. Sometimes I willfully sin. Sometimes I deliberately shut my ears to God’s words of grace, Oh, woe is me! Who shall save me from such a sinful state? (Yes, I know—rhetorical question. Read Romans, especially chapters 6 and 7, followed by chapter 8.)

And, as Bonhoeffer eagerly admits, all we can do in such a case is pray. Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to walk in Your ways and listen to Your words. Unstop my ears from willful disobedience, and lead me in the Way everlasting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/asbury-bible-commentary/Imprecatory-Psalms

[2] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 78.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid, 79.

Prayer, Injustice and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, August 20, 2017

Psa 58-3 go astray

Prayer, Injustice and Psalm 58

I was amazed when I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words in this short commentary on Psalm 58. (I’ll deal with verses 1 through 3 tonight.)

First off, verse 1: “Are you then dumb, that you will not speak what is right, and judge the children of men with equity?” Bonhoeffer’s immediate response is somehow prescient…”It is an evil time when the world allows injustice to occur and keeps silent.” [1]

With all that has happened in these past days, between the horror from the marches and countermarches in Virginia last weekend and the subsequent vigils, marches, and other gatherings this week…it is an evil time indeed when we allow injustice to occur and the mass of humanity observing merely watches, and keeps silent. As Bonhoeffer says, so many are not only dumb, but are unmerciful.

Verse 2: “No, you devise evil in your hearts, and your hands deal out violence in the land.” It is not only those who merely watch that Bonhoeffer condemns. No, it is also the rulers. The leaders and overlords of the countries involved. How long, O Lord? How long? I agree with Herr Pastor Dietrich. It is truly a mystery of godlessness that runs rampant in all humanity.

Verse 3: “The wicked are perverse from the womb; liars go astray from their birth.” Ah. This, again, is the very depth of wickedness.

I am reminded of those verses from Isaiah 53:6 that mention “All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way.” (Ah, Handel, you set those verses so beautifully in your oratorio “Messiah”…) This is such a Lutheran sentiment, too.

All I can think of is running to my Lord and my God for help, for succor, for relief from sinfulness and blackness of heart. I know only too well that there is much injustice in this world. How long, O Lord? How long will we suffer? How long will You be silent?

Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our cries to You.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 77.

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, August 14, 2017

Psa 58-1, words

Prayer, Vengeance and Psalm 58

This sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer was written in 1937, just as the Gestapo were “tightening the net” around those ministers and seminary professors who protested against the Nazi regime in Germany. More than 800 of these members of the Confessing Church had been either imprisoned or taken under house arrest—for the “crime” of protesting against the regime. One example: a former seminarian at the secret seminary of Finkenwalde was arrested, and had “Evangelical Pastor” as his “crime,” written above the door of his cell.

The seminary at Finkenwalde was forcibly closed by the Gestapo in September 1937. Bonhoeffer wrote this sermon in response. (It was two more years before he actively joined the underground Resistance movement.) [1]

Sadly, how timely that this reading should be set for this time, next in the book. Given the horrors that happened this past weekend in the city of Charlottesville, Virginia with white supremacists and neo-Nazis openly marching and carrying swastikas and Nazi flags…

Bonhoeffer opens his sermon with a complete reading of Psalm 58, and then asks: “Is this fearful psalm of vengeance to be our prayer? May we pray in this way? Certainly not!” [2] No, Herr Pastor Bonhoeffer decries the sin that inhabits all of us. Our personal sin, “our spiritual indolence, our open or hidden disobedience.” [3]

Just as a good Lutheran pastor ought, Bonhoeffer reminds us of our personal guilt, and where each of us falls short. He follows this declaration with the crystal-clear fact that none of us is guilt-free, and none of us is truly able to pray this psalm. (As much as we may want to.)

True, we may desperately want to pray this imprecatory psalm, and especially those who were directly impacted by the horrific events in Virginia. Yet, Bonhoeffer says “No, we cannot pray this psalm. Not because we are too good for it (what a superficial idea, what colossal pride!), but because we are too sinful, too evil for it!” [4]

Dear Lord, deliver me—deliver us from the great sin of colossal pride. Reveal all the ways in which I have fallen short, and help me to amend my ways. Turn my thoughts to You, and lead me in the way everlasting. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 73-74.

[2] Ibid, 75.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid. 76.

More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Psa 62 my soul in silence

More about Meditation, and Psalm 62

Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on Psalm 62 early in his ministry, when he served as assistant pastor to a German congregation in Barcelona. He took as his text verse 1: “For God alone my soul in silence waits; from him comes my salvation.”

“To be silent does not mean to be inactive, rather it means to breathe in the will of God, to listen attentively and be ready to obey.” [1] When we are silent before God, what happens? I realize that some people—mistakenly—think that means to become completely blank and without thought. While I understand some forms of meditation involve some sort of emptying one’s mind of thoughts, I don’t think this is the kind of directed meditation and prayer that God wants us to do.

Bonhoeffer rightly goes on to say that some people grumble that only few become aware of those deep, loving, profound things that God wishes to say. God does, indeed, speak winning words to us: “I love you.” Yet, why is it that relatively few people fully realize the enormity of God’s personal love, caring and guidance in each person’s life?

“…We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror.” [2] Oh, how perceptive of Herr Pastor Dietrich! As Bonhoeffer mentions, these times are comfortless, even fruitless.

I know so well that merry-go-round of the urgent, of the necessary, of the endless to-do list. And, what about the demands of work? The voices and cries of the children, the aging parents, and the extended family? The rounds of the visits, the events, and religious obligations. I don’t have any quick fix, sadly. The extremes of becoming a martyr to all of the busy-ness or trying to set up walls of obliviousness both confront me.

Dear Lord, preserve me from all such clutter in my head and heart. Lead me to come before You in spirit and in truth, seeking after Your presence, Your silence. And then, may I seek after Your will in my thoughts, words and life. Please, God, may it be so.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 49.

[2] Ibid, 50.

More on the Word of God and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, June 30, 2017

Bible, OT scrolls

More on the Word of God and Meditation

This particular letter was so fascinating, and had so much in it, that I just had to take another day to reflect upon it. I’m referring to a letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his brother-in-law and good friend Rudiger Schleicher. (The two men had many interests in common, including theology.)

I was struck by what Bonhoeffer said about the Bible. “This is how I read the Bible now. I ask of each passage: What is God saying to us here? And I ask God that he would help us hear what he wants to say.” [1] Bonhoeffer does not read the Bible as someone preparing for a sermon, or doing bible study, with an eye to commentaries and delving deeper behind the words and meanings of the text. No. This is not the point for Bonhoeffer.

Instead, he particularly refers to what he saw as God’s central purpose for the Word: “…God’s Word begins by showing us the cross. And it is to the cross, to death and judgment before God, that our ways and thoughts (even the ‘eternal’ ones) all lead.” [2]

I think Bonhoeffer is saying that the cross is the apex of all things, the crux of God’s purpose and meaning. I almost hesitate to say this, but I understand it to be God’s be-all and end-all. The main point, the one-and-only. (Those phrases sound so trite, compared to God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.)

Sure, there are lots of things that are still hidden from common understanding, or puzzling, or downright confusing. However, Bonhoeffer freely admits that he “does not yet understand this or that passage in Scripture, but is certain that even they will be revealed one day as God’s own Word.” [3]

If someone as spiritually and theologically brilliant as Dietrich Bonhoeffer freely admits that, I suppose I ought to feel no shame and embarrassment at admitting the same thing. Yet, just as Pastor Bonhoeffer did, I need to keep reading, keep meditating, and keep studying. If I do this, God willing, I will add to my knowledge, understanding and wisdom about the Word of God. I hope my readers do, as well. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 36.

[2] Ibid, 37.

[3] Ibid.

The Word of God and Meditation

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bible, open

The Word of God and Meditation

Next, this anthology moves to a letter from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his brother-in-law and good friend Rudiger Schleicher. The two men had many interests in common, including theology. They did not see eye to eye, as far as theology in general (and especially of Christian life and practice) was concerned. Small wonder that they “feuded,” as Bonhoeffer gently kids his brother-in-law.

“First, I want to confess quite simply that I believe the Bible alone is the answer to all our questions, and that we only need to ask persistently and with some humility in order to receive the answer from it.” [1]

Bonhoeffer does not think we ought to read the Bible as we read other books. No, some read the Bible in a way that depends strongly on textual criticism. Bonhoeffer suggests that a good way to read the Bible is to concentrate on what is within the book, not just on the surface.

“When a dear friend speaks a word to us, do we subject it to analysis? No, we simply accept it, and then it resonates inside us for days.” [2] He urges his readers to ponder the word—the Bible—in one’s own heart, and ruminate on it.

This is not the first time I have read this anthology. No, while I was in seminary I read this book, and used it for a text for prayer and meditation. Since I feel so strongly about the Bible (both old and new Testaments), this approach to the Word of God comes quite naturally to me. What a wonderful thing, finding someone who feels similarly (and strongly, in the same way) about the Bible!.

Dear God, help me to read the Bible more faithfully Please, help me focus more closely on Your Words, just as I would read a letter from a dear friend. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear my prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000), 35.

[2] Ibid.