Dietrcich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian during the administration of Hitler. Here is his background for his book “Life Together.”
Life Together p10 “…while preparing to visit Gandhi in India through the mediation of CF Andrews to pursue an interest in pacifism, he recieved a call from the Confessing Church to take charge of an “illegal”, clandestine seminary for the training of young pastors in Pomerania. He went back at once. In 1935 he moved to Zingst and from there to Finkenwald near Stettin, where he shared a common life in emergency-built houses with twentyfive vicars. This was life together, the life of the Christian community which is described and documented with Biblical insight in the Geneinsames Leben (1938),[Life Together]…”
With this in mind then I continue on with this blog. I am using the teaching from a bible study I am currently attending that is talking about this book.
In his book “Life Together” Bonhoeffer talks about a Day With Others, wherein it appears he is outlining a common day, one of many with these vicars. Each day would open with morning devotions and prayer and then it was onto the “work day”. According to Dr Mary Craig, (marycraigministries.org) the German mindset on work was to be diligent and work hard. She recounts her grandmother would move the refrigerator to clean behind twice a week, I believe. This is a minute example of the what Bonhoeffer’s ethnicity meant by the work day. Real physical manual labor heartily entered into. He talks about the fact that the mean times were to be a welcomed break from the work and a place of sharing and “common union”. The evenings then would be a time of retrospect and prayer for forgiveness of those things deemed sinful or unacceptable before the LORD. Bonhoeffer among others believes as does this writer in keeping short accounts before God.
The Role of prayer in Community.
Prayer, song and the reading of scripture do go hand in hand for each brings to the common union table of community its unique position and function. The reading of scripture is the food of the spirit and soul, of vital necessity in daily living. prayer not only changes things around us but most primarily changes us but in prayer is also demonstrated and performed a part of the work of bearing oneanother’s burdens. In her study “Life Together: Christian Community through the eyes of Dietrich Bonhoeffer ( a study of the book Life Together by Bonhoeffer) she states that the seminary students would perhaps gather with their professors and pray for “how the day was going to go, for the work, for the whole group, for particular needs in the group, personal and otherwise, oppressing sins to be overcome, and for the persons committed to their care.” She goes on to state “… this sets a pattern for how we should be praying as a group as well, that we are bearing one another’s burdens and we are praying for our whole group, as a group and as individuals.”(you can hear the series on yourlisten.com under craighouse or goto tffr.zxq.net and you will find the friday selection for the download groups and there you will find the drop down menu for this series.) In this setting common prayer, common thanks and common testimonies of what God is doing in individual lives, and common intercessions are being offered to God “joyfully and confidently in the presence of one another” (Dr M. Craig: Life Together Friday Night Bible Study)
You will find this to be somewhat of a pattern in Sunday morning church services but when we as a people find ourselves on the run or in hiding underground it is these things that we need to understand and embrace in order to have Christ centered Christian Community. It is also possible that a common reading and teaching can be given as well. Or that a time for such things as common discussion of Biblical Study and truths and Theological instruction of Christian Doctrine can be held at certain times. But PRAYER in common fellowship is VITAL to community existence as it deal with the spiritual side of things making the physical easier to control. Anytime you gather a diverse multicultural group of people to live together under a single binding tie (Christendom and the common union of Christ as the mediator of Salvation and blood tie of familial belonging) there is bound to be a lot of sparks flying upward and anytime the Body of Christ will gather the Adversary will be wanting to get in the midst to somehow stir the pot of disharmony and disband the fellowship of the brethren. This function of prayer can effectively root out spiritual hindrances in that for the purpose of some of the prayers confession among the brethren is a necessity, especially for “Besetting Sins”, area of struggle in individual lives. Utilization of the Psalms and seeing that Christ prayed all these psalms in His lifetime as appropriate expressions of a wide range of emotion and situation unto God with which we may identify, is a perfect means of both praise/ worship and intercession or prayer. Consider that the Psalms is the God accepted and God ordained language of expressing all kinds of emotion. No these are not our words but then again is prayer merely talking with God as we might another man or entering into the person and presence of Deity and ultimate authority and Kingship and shall we then resort to the common tongues we reserve for our fellow man or homies or learn the accepted language of the Court of the Most High?
Christian community must be lived in an atmosphere of grace and understanding. We all not only have common union in Christ but common day to day struggles and issues of life. Common crisis which blows up in our collective faces and then days of reprieve from emergencies which are to be enjoyed. It is imperative that we do NOT come together with criticism and backbite and devour (Gal 5:15) although also not tolerance but UNDERSTANDING. Tolerance leads to apathy and acceptance of sin into the community whereas Understanding will not tolerate the sin but be gracious to the individual doing the sin so as to bring them before God, the only One who can free from sin, and exercise discipline to keep the actions under control for the good of the community as a whole. If we look at the Amish we will find a setting of the typical religious community life. Some of its Template is a handy fit to the needs of Christian Community.
Work in community.
In a community that is under the radar or maybe even off the grid and in a time wherein the economy and hence the livelihood of the people could become extremely rural and subsistence in nature or even closer to survivalistic and off grid in nature, the work day will be dictated by the needs of the community at large and the individuals therein. Being begun in prayer and the reading of scripture and the praying of psalms is to be begun well but what of the day itself? It is written “whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Col 3:23)
but how does that work?
Prayer and Work
Bonhoeffer felt that the place of prayer, worship and scripture reading and the time for it was to be separate from the work a day world. It would appear God felt likewise…
Ezek 44:19 “When they go out into the outer court, into the outer court to the people, they shall aput off their garments in which they have been ministering and lay them in the holy chambers; then they shall put on other garments so that they will not transmit holiness to the people with their garments. Some might view this as separation of sacred and secular and in Old Testament thought this was the case. In New Testament thought all things become touched with the sacred for in as much as Christ is in the Believer by the blood shed and working of the Holy Spirit Himself. But I bring this scripture into play to underscore the separation of self to things before the LORD that would detract the focus of the mind and body from tasks at hand and the concept of ministry before the people as the work a day portion wherein the mind and body must focus on the task at hand.
Even Christ separated the life of prayer from the life of ministry to a certain degree in that He regularly went away to communion with God before returning to the disciples and the work of the Kingdom which was his JOB on Earth.
The focus of the mind should be on the job at hand in order to do it with all ones might. Moreover in the place of prayer the focus is to be on just that and the reading of the Word in its time. If our jobs demand our time and concentration and do not normally conform to a place where prayer can be made whilst performing the job, then it is robbery to pray while working. For this writer the place of morning prayer of intercession is the post where she works as a School Crossing Guard. In this type of job it is watchfulness for the oncoming children and performance of safeguarding their passage across the street that gives place to limited prayer. At this time there is no other really set apart place to pray. In other jobs this writer would not dream of praying while working, as the work is to concentration intensive. In a community where food gathering and maintenance of living conditions not to mention security of living space and occupants are a daily job for all, the place of prayer does tend to need to be separate from the place of labor and yet in the labor is often what is called arrow shot prayers. Concentration to job is paramount in the workplace and that can give place to a less than able concentration to prayer. I will however also add from Madame Guyon who felt that the mind should always be prepared to fly back to the Presence of Christ at any given break in the concentration on either task or other interactions and allow the Spirit Himself to draw the mind and the heart back unto God. In this manner sacred blends itself into secular perhaps and touches lives in ways no mere mortal could ever guess.