Let Dietrich Bonhoeffer guide your prayer, but don’t get too comfortable

March 17, 2010

Bobz Book Reviews

Bonhoeffer cover

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Meditation and Prayer,”

edited by Peter Frick

The Lutheran Pastor who conspired to assassinate Adolph Hitler and lost his life as a result left a handful of writings that challenge Christians yet today to be Christian.

Peter Frick, a college educator, has drawn excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s works to be used to encourage the daily practice of meditation and prayer. It was a practice Bonhoeffer encouraged when, while part of the resistance movement, he directed an underground seminary in Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1937, before his opposition to Germany’s warring leadership led to his eventual arrest and hanging.

That activism, that engagement, that hard-core brand of following Jesus Christ — even when difficult — no, especially when difficult — permeates the 56 pages of this slim-but-powerful purse-sized paperback from Liturgical Press (www.litpress.org).

Bonhoeffer has gifts to share about self-reflection, about self-deception, about silence, about a community praying for one another, about temptation, about suffering. Frick invites his readers to absorb them one day at a time, focusing on one thought throughout the day or even for several days.

They are so meaty that you can. Each meditation is less than a page, but page after page I found myself stopping to internalize the thought there in black and white. Take Bonhoeffer’s warning against “cheap grace”:

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession.”

Bonhoeffer’s faith is a faith of meditation, prayer and then action or consequence. His is not a half-way Christianity. He preaches the Gospel put into action in the world. Check out these excerpts:

“…it is certainly never pious to close the eyes that God gave us to see our neighbor and his or her need, simply to avoid seeing whatever is sad or dreadful.”

“Nothing is more ruinous for life together than to mistrust the spontaneity of others and suspect their motives. To psychologize and analyze people . . . is to destroy all trust. . . . People don’t exist to look into the abyss of each other’s hearts . . . but to encounter and accept eath other just as they are.”

“It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. But not before.”

There’s more where that came from. — bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 42-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

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  • Craig Berry

    Great review.

    As a Lutheran convert to Catholicism, I had heard good things about Bonhoeffer, but not read his work.

    I find his witness and testimony, even unto death, a statement to ALL Christians, that we often have more in common than we are aware of.