PSALMS: Congregational Worship And The Psalms, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The Prayer Book of the Bible

Congregational Worship And The Psalms Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In many churches the Psalms are read or sung every Sunday, or even daily, in succession.  These churches have preserved a priceless treasure, for only with daily use does one appropriate this divine prayerbook.  When read only occasionally, these prayers are too overwhelming in design and power and tend to turn us back to more palatable fare.  But whoever has begun to pray the Psalter seriously and regularly will soon give a vacation to other little devotional prayers and say: “Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which I find in the Psalter.  It tastes too cold and too hard.” (Luther)

Therefore, wherever we no longer pray the Psalms in our churches, we must take up the Psalter that much more in our daily morning and evening prayers, reading and praying together at least several Psalms every day so that we succeed in reading through this book a number of times each year, getting into it deeper and deeper.  We also ought not to select Psalms at our own discretion, thinking that we know better what we ought to pray than does God himself.  To do that is to dishonor the prayerbook of the Bible.  In the ancient church it was not unusual to memorize “the entire David.”  In one of the Eastern churches this was a prerequisite for the pastoral office.  The church father Saint Jerome says that one heard the Psalms being sung in the fields and gardens in his time.  The Psalter impregnated the life of early Christianity.  Yet more important than all of this is the fact that Jesus died on the cross with the words of the Psalter on his lips.

Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church.  With its recovery will come unsuspected power.

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