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Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught that scripture meditation was a crucial key for life and ministry. Dallas M. Roark gives a good review of Bonhoeffer’s thought in Life Together…


Life Together moves from general to personal worship. Bonhoeffer warns of two extremes: “Let him who cannot be alone beware of community,” and, “Let him who is not in community beware of being alone.”1 Silence is important, but it is silent obedience to the Word of God. Aloneness is necessary, but it does not become monastic. Solitude and silence have therapeutic values. After a time of quietness, one can meet people and events in a refreshed way.

Solitude and silence are important for three purposes. First, meditation. Meditation is the time of personal reflection on brief readings of the Scripture, not in order to sermonize, but to ask the question: what does God say to me in this text? Meditation is not a time of spiritual experimenting, a think-session for novel ideas, or a time for manufacturing unusual experiences. In meditation and through Scripture one seeks God.

Second, prayer. Out of meditation on Scripture comes guidance for prayer. Praying on the basis of Scripture is a means of avoiding repetition in prayer and emptiness of soul. Positively, it enables us to speak to God about matters too personal for corporate prayer. Bonhoeffer’s advice concerning a wandering mind: pray for the subjects of the straying thoughts and use this as a means of enlarging one’s prayer concerns.

Third, intercession. To bring one’s brother into the presence of God in concern for his needs is to intercede for him. The Christian fellowship lives or dies by what it does in intercession. Intercession is the means of transforming one’s personal attitudes about other people. It is hard to hate one you talk with God about. The intercession of the Christian is a service owed to God and man. Such intercession is more meaningful and fruitful the more definite it is. The importance of this service demands that it be diligently protected by a special time that is regular.

The real test of meditation comes in the crucible of daily experience. Has it made one strong or weak? What happens to the individual affects the community. If the individual is weak, then a sickness invades the community. Bonhoeffer’s beatitude is poignant: “Blessed is he who is alone in the strength of the fellowship and blessed is he who keeps the fellowship in the strength of aloneness.”2

1. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper & Bros., 1954)., 67

2. Ibid., 77

August 2008


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