Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Reflections on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together – 71

On pages 62 and 63 Bonhoeffer transitions to prayer and then to intercessory prayer, exhorting the reader to “pray on the basis of the words of Scripture” (page 63).

“And we may be certain that our prayer will be heard because it issues from God’s Word and promise. Because God’s Word has found its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, all the prayers we pray on the basis of this Word are certainly fulfilled and answered in Jesus Christ.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 63.

The above words presuppose, I think, a belief in, and an experience of, union with Christ and His Word. The belief leads to the experience and the experience fosters the belief. Faith is substance and it is evidence (Hebrews 11:1), faith is palpable. Hebrews teaches us that when we stretch ourselves out toward God that we must believe not only that He is, but also that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6). James writes that when we ask God for wisdom that we are to ask in faith without doubting – certainly this is true of all of our asking; we are asking God “who gives to all generously and without reproach” (James 1:5 – 6)

It seems as if we have two extremes in the American church; there is the formulaic and blind “Name it and Claim It” approach; then there is the passive approach that peeks its head out of its turtle shell to say a quick, “Thy will be done” and instantly retracts its head lest it risk exposure to the unseen realm and lest its faith should be challenged by a call to growth and perseverance. Neither approach is based on the Word, neither stands on the Word’s specific promises and eternal verities, neither is Biblically thoughtful.

Paul writes, “For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us – by me and Silvanus and Timothy – was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge” (2 Corinthians 1:19 – 21).

Paul writes the above in the context of suffering, and he writes it just after sharing about a time in his life when he “despaired even of life” and had the “sentence of death” in himself. This is no blind “Name it and Claim It” approach to life, and this is no passive approach to the Word of God – this is faith and prayer and intercession forged in the crucible of suffering, forged as the Word of God forms Paul and his companions into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), forged as Paul and his companions look not at the things that are seen, but rather at the eternal things that are unseen (2 Cor. 4:16 – 18).

Peter writes that it is through God’s precious and magnificent promises that we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4); yet if we don’t know the Word of God we cannot know the promises of God and if we do not know the promises of God we cannot pray and intercede based upon those promises.

We are to have confidence in answered prayer in Jesus Christ as we pray based upon His Word and as we have confidence, faith that is palpable, in our ever-faithful Father. First we meditate on the Word, then we pray in and through and upon the Word – this is Bonhoeffer’s progression, and this is a dimension of Biblical prayer. 

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