Praying the Psalms with Christ – Divine Word, Human Word

November 13, 2007 at 8:57 pm Leave a comment

This is the third post in a series on praying the psalms.  The previous two posts may be found by clicking the following links:  Post # 1  Post #2

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his Prayerbook of the Bible, asks how the prayers of the Bible can be God’s Word, if they are simultaneously the words of human beings to God.  The two would seem to be mutually exclusive, as he writes:

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?…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, to God the Father, who lives in eternity.  All prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, in which he accompanies us and through which he brings us into the presence of God…

If all prayer is inspired, if all prayer is the voice of God’s Spirit within us, then prayer is simultaneously a human word and God’s Word.  Jesus Christ, who is both God and human, in whom the Spirit dwelt fully, speaks humanity to God  and God to humanity, so the prayers that are in the Bible are first and foremost his prayers:

…If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.

This again is a problem, for the writers of the Psalms, whoever they were (tradition says David and others, historical criticism has other answers), were not Christ.  How then can we say that the Psalms are about Christ?  Bonhoeffer puts it this way:

…it is important to note that even David did not pray out of the personal exuberance of his heart, but out of the Christ who dwelled in him.  To be sure, the one who prays his Psalms remains himself.  But in him and through him it is Jesus Christ who prays.

Again, there is more to say about this.  But if the Psalms are Spirit-inspired rather than merely human wants and needs, they necessarily are part of inspiration and will that is in Jesus, the Son of God and the One who is filled with the Spirit.




Entry filed under: Prayer, Psalms.

Praying the Psalms with Christ: Learning to Pray Sermon 11/11/2007 – “They’re So Sad, You See”

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