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“A Christian community either lives by the intercessory prayers of its members for one another, or the community will be destroyed. I can no longer condemn or hate other Christians for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble they cause me. In intercessory prayer the face that may have been strange and intolerable to me is transformed into the face of one for whom Christ died, the face of a pardoned sinner. That is a blessed discovery for the Christian who is beginning to offer intercessory prayer for others. As far as we are concerned, there is no dislike, no personal tension, no disunity or strife that cannot be overcome by intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the community must enter every day.”

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”

~ Oswald Chanbers

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Father in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night

 

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A prayer written in Tegel prison, Berlin

Proverbs 24:10 says: “If you are slack in the day of distress, your strength is limited.”  This Proverb teaches us a very practical principle: if you have not conditioned or prepared yourself for times of difficulty, you are going to have a very difficult time managing it through your trial. You need to prepare yourself in advance. This is especially true regarding our practice of the spiritual disciplines, and the trials that we all eventually face.

A good example of this may be found in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Eric Metaxas, in his biography of the German pastor & theologian writes of how the practice of the spiritual disciplines played a significant role in his ability to deal with his imprisonment and eventual martyrdom:

From the beginning of his time (in prison) until the end, Bonhoeffer maintained the daily discipline of scriptural meditation and prayer he had been practicing for more than a decade.  Each morning he meditated for at least half an hour on a verse of scripture.  And he interceded for his friends and relatives, and for his brothers in the Confessing Church who were on the front lines or in concentration camps.  Once he got his Bible back he read it for hours each day.  By November he had read through the Old Testament two and a half times.  He also drew strength from praying the Psalms, just as they had done at Zingst, Finkewalde, Schlawe, Sigurdshof, and else where.  Bonhoeffer once told Bethge, who was about to embark on a trip, that it was all the more important to practice the daily disciplines when away, to give oneself a sense of grounding and continuity and clarity.  And now, rudely thrust into an atmosphere intensely different from his parents’ home, he practiced these same disciplines. (Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, p. 438)

Bonhoeffer practiced in prison, the disciplines which he had already learned and practiced in advance. It is highly doubtful that he would have fared so well during his time of trial had he not built these spiritual practices into his life beforehand.

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Pray for reconciliation and revival.

O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.
In me it is dark, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not desert me;
My courage fails me, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace;
in me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.
Father in Heaven praise and thanks be to you for the night
 

Dietrich BonhoefferA prayer written in Tegel prison, Berlin

“The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. The morning prayer determines the day.”

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” 

~Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

When our will wholeheartedly enters into the prayer of Christ, then we pray correctly.

“The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. The morning prayer determines the day.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

March 2017
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