“The whole day now acquires an order and a discipline by winning the unity of the day. The order and discipline must be sought and found in the morning prayer. It will stand the test at work. Prayer offered in early morning is decisive for the day.” [Italics mine]. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 50.
Bonhoeffer writes that morning prayer affects our work in the way we relate to others, in the way we organize our time, and in facing temptation. He also points out that the decisions we make “will become simpler and easier when they are made not in fear of other people, but solely before the face of God.” I find his latter observation especially insightful for the fear of man is a snare that the pressures of the workday can drive us into if we are not beholding the face of God, if we are not living in His presence.
While I realize that some people are “morning people” and others are not, the morning sets the trajectory for the day and what we think about, what we take in, what we ponder, and who we speak to (prayer) in the morning sets the tone for the day. But this is not a matter of a morning spent in prayer here and a morning spent in prayer there, this is a matter of morning upon morning upon morning devoted to our Lord Jesus Christ, to His Father, and to the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of a way of life – a life of morning prayer weaves a tight-knit fabric of life that can withstand in Christ the world’s attempts to tear that life apart. Just as Bible reading must be more than a verse here and a verse there, or even a passage here and a passage there, so morning prayer must become a way of life, a discipline practiced whether we are hot or cold, enthusiastic or lethargic, confident or hesitant. No matter what we think our pressing needs are, there is no need pressing over and above morning prayer.
This is especially challenging in our electronic age where televisions cry out to be turned on, email demands to be checked, cell phones beckon to be viewed “just in case we missed a call or a message”, and twenty-four-hour news insists that we watch the top stories another twenty-four times. For sports fans – isn’t it more important to see how the late-night game ended than to first devote time with our heavenly Father?
The day we have been given is not our day, it is God’s day, indeed, in Christ it is God’s Day, God’s New Day. If we are in Christ then we are in God’s New Creation – how shall we live in that New Creation? It isn’t just that we have been made new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:16 – 17ff), we have been transferred into the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). We are not new creatures living in an old kingdom of darkness and death, we are new creatures living in Christ’s kingdom of light and life. The attempted encroachments of the old creation must be seen for what they are – attempted invasions – and must be repelled. The Day belongs to God and I will therefore worship Him in the morning…I will worship Him before I engage in anything else…I will present myself as a living sacrifice in morning prayer, Bible reading and mediation, singing – the Day belongs to God, I belong to God – that is the knowledge in which I am to begin every day – that is what I am to conform my life to.
In Life Together Bonhoeffer envisions morning prayer as communal prayer; I pray but also we pray. This is all the more reason to seek others with whom we can pray in the morning, for most of us do not live in communal (physical) community with one another. Meeting with a small group, even if only once a week, can be critical in weaving a fabric of morning prayer. Praying with our spouse or with roommates before leaving the house assists in stitching together a life of morning (and continuing) prayer. If we pray alone let us not pray as if we are alone, but rather pray in realization that we are members of the body of Christ, that we pray “Our Father”, that we join our voices to the voices of brothers and sisters across time and space in Jesus Christ.
Rockets launched without a guidance system are dangerous, so is a day and a life without morning prayer. I doubt that few (if any) ship captains leave port without first having charted their course for the cruise. I have never met anyone who thinks that he can drive 400 miles on an empty gas tank. But this is about more than mechanics, this about more than cause and effect, this is about more than pragmatism – this is about who God is and who we are – this is about the relationship with us that Jesus Christ purchased with His blood on the Cross – let us begin each day as who we are…new creations living in God’s New Creation, living in Jesus Christ.
“Prayer offered in early morning is decisive for the day.”