Monday, February 27, 2012

The Discipline of Prayer: Bonhoeffer and Lent

This Lent I have been trying to wake early and give some time to reading through a book (The Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann - excerpts to appear on the blog soon). But in addition to reading, I am trying to make a small time and space for prayer. This, I admit, is a difficult discipline. But when it is done, something mysterious seems to happen in my experience of life. I truly feel a sense of 'groundedness' and peace that allows me to feel all right about whatever happens in my day. Prayer has this weird way of opening up time and making me feel as though there is more time in my day (once I have devoted time to God in prayer). It is indeed a bizarre and life-giving discipline.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer understood this discipline and discussed it in his work, Life Together. Here are his thoughts:

"Prayer offered in early morning is decisive for the day. The wasted time we are ashamed of, the temptations we succumb to, the weakness and discouragement in our work, the disorder and lack of discipline in our thinking and in our dealings with other people - all of these very frequently have their cause in our neglect of morning prayer. The ordering and scheduling of our time will become more secure when it comes from prayer. The temptations of the working day will be over come by this breakthrough to God. The decisions that are demanded by our work, will become simpler and easier when they are made not in fear of other people, but solely before the face of God. "Whatever you do, do it from your hearts, as done for the Lord and not for human beings," (Col. 3:23). Even routine mechanical work will be performed more patiently when it comes from the knowledge of God and God's command. Our strength and energy for work increase when we have asked God to give us the strength we need for our daily work."

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