Psalms (Bonhoeffer)

PSALMS: Holy History by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 20, 2017

Psalms 78, 105, and 106 tell us about the history of the people of God on Earth, about the electing grace and faithfulness of God and the unfaithfulness and the ingratitude of his people.  Psalm 78 is not addressed as a prayer to anyone.  How ought we to pray these Psalms?  Psalm 106 summons us to thanksgiving, to praise, to commitment, to petition, to confession of sin, to the call for help in the light of the past history of salvation: thanksgiving for the goodness of God, which continues with respect to his people into eternity, which also we contemporaries experience as did our father; praise for the miracles which God works for our benefit, from the redemption of his people out of Egypt all the way to Golgotha; commitment to keep [...]

PSALMS: The Law, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 13, 2017

The three psalms (1, 19, 119) which in a special way make the law of God the object of thanks, praise, and petition seek to show us, above all, the blessing of the law.  Under “law,” then, is to be understood usually the entire salvation act of God and the direction for a new life in obedience.  Joy in the law and in the commands of God comes to us if God has given the great new direction to our life through Jesus Christ.  That God could at one time conceal his command from me (Psalm 119:19), that he could allow me one day not to recognize his will, is the deepest anxiety of the new life. It is grace to know God’s commands.  They release us from self-made plans and conflicts.  They make our steps certain and our way [...]

PSALMS: The Creation, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

June 6, 2017

The scripture proclaims God to be the Creator of Heaven and Earth.  Many psalms summon us to bring him honor, praise, and thanksgiving.  There is, however, no single psalm which speaks only of the creation.  It is always the God who has already revealed himself to his people in his word who is said to be known as the Creator of the world.  Because God has spoken to us, because God’s name has been revealed to us, we can believe in him as the Creator.  Otherwise we could not know him.  The creation is a picture of the power and the faithfulness of God, which he has demonstrated to us in his revelation in Jesus Christ.  We worship the Creator who has revealed himself as the Redeemer. Psalm 8 praises the name of God and his [...]

PSALMS: Classification, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 30, 2017

We shall arrange the subjects dealt with in the Psalter prayers in the following manner: the creation; the law; holy history; the Messiah; the church; life; suffering; guilt; enemies; the end.  It would not be difficult to arrange these according to the Lord’s Prayer and to show how the Psalter is totally absorbed in the prayer of Jesus.  But in order not to anticipate this result of our observations, we want to remain with the arrangement inferred from the Psalter itself. [...]

PSALMS: Congregational Worship And The Psalms, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 23, 2017

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 [...]

PSALMS: Names, Music, Verse Form, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 16, 2017

The Hebrew title of the Psalms also means “hymns.”  Psalm 72:20 refers to all preceding Psalms as, the prayers of David.  Both items are surprising and yet understandable.  To be sure, at first glance, the Psalms contain exclusively neither hymns nor prayers.  In spite of that the didactic poems or the songs of lament are also basically hymns, for they serve to glorify God, and even those Psalms which do not contain any address to God (e.g., Psalms 1, 2, 78) may be called prayers, for they serve to submerge in God’s will and purpose the one who prays them.  The word Psalter originally referred to a musical instrument, and was first used only in a secondary sense as a designation for a collection of prayers which were [...]

PSALMS: Who Prays The Psalms, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

May 2, 2017

Of the 150 Psalms, 73 are attributed to King David, 12 to the songmaster Asaph, who was appointed by David, 12 to the Levitical family of the children of Korah working under David, two to King Solomon, one of the music masters Herman and Ethan, probably employed by David and Solomon.  Thus it is understandable that the name of David has been connected with the Psalter in special ways. It is reported that after David’s secret anointing as king, he was called to play the harp for King Saul, who was abandoned by God and plagued by an evil spirit.  And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. (1 Samuel [...]

PSALMS: Learning To Pray In The Name Of Jesus, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

April 25, 2017

Now there is in the Holy Scriptures a book which is distinguished from all other books of the Bible by the fact that it contains only prayers.  The book is the Psalms.  It is at first very surprising that there is a prayerbook in the Bible.  The Holy Scripture is the Word of God to us.  But prayers are the words of men.  How do prayers then get into the Bible?  Let us make no mistake about it, the Bible is the Word of God even in the Psalms.  Then are these prayers to God also God’s own word?  That seems rather difficult to understand.  We grasp it only when we remember that we can learn true prayer only from Jesus Christ, from the word of the Son of God, who lives with us men, to God the Father, who lives in eternity.  [...]

PSALMS: “Lord, Teach Us To Pray”, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

April 18, 2017

So spoke the disciples to Jesus.  In making this request, they confessed that they were not able to pray on their own, that they had to learn to pray.  The phrase, “learning to pray,” sounds strange to us.  If the heart does not overflow and begin to pray by itself, we say, it will never “learn” to pray.  But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself.  For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings – all of which the heart can do by itself – with prayer.  And we confuse Earth and Heaven, man and God.  Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart.  It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, [...]