Prayer for Others
DECEMBER 30, 2021
Earlier this year I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. It is a great little book on developing and deepening authentic Christian community. I found it both convicting and encouraging. I recommend it to your reading.
While reading one especially convicting section on prayer I imagined myself having a conversation with Pastor Bonhoeffer. It went something like this:
Bonhoeffer: A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me (Life Together, p. 86).
Me: Wait a minute. I get praying for my friends. But do you really mean that I must pray for those that cause me trouble also?
Bonhoeffer: His face, that hitherto may have been strange and intolerable to me, is transformed in intercession into the countenance of a brother for whom Christ died, the face of a forgiven sinner (Life Together, p. 86).
Me: So, you’re saying that I need to pray for difficult people, people who are rude, or thoughtless, or irritable, or irresponsible?
Bonhoeffer: This is a happy discovery for the Christian who begins to pray for others. There is no dislike, no personal tension, no estrangement that cannot be overcome by intercession as far as our side of it is concerned. (Life Together, p. 86).
Me: You mean that I should even pray for people on the other side of the political divide? Are you saying that conservatives should pray for progressives, and progressives should pray for conservatives, really pray for them, not pray against them?
Bonhoeffer: Intercessory prayer is the purifying bath into which the individual and the fellowship must enter every day. The struggle we undergo with our brother in intercession may be a hard one, but the struggle has the promise that it will gain its goal (Life Together, p 86).
Me: How does this happen?
Bonhoeffer: Intercession means no more than to bring our brother into the presence of God, to see him under the Cross of Jesus as a poor human being and sinner in need of grace. Then everything in him that repels us falls away; we see him in all his destitution and need. His need and his sin become so heavy and oppressive that we feel them as our own, and we can do nothing else but pray…To make intercession means to grant our brother the same right that we have received, namely, to stand before Christ and share in his mercy (Life Together, p. 86).
Me: May it be so Pastor Bonhoeffer, may it be so.