Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization
"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"
Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.
Saturday, June 01, 2013
Born in 1906 and descendent from a brilliant and influential family, Dietrich Bonhoeffer chose to enter the service of the Lord as a Lutheran minister and theologian. He studied in Germany and United States and was a pastor and rector of the seminary at Finkenwalde. As a significant contributor to the Confessing Church during the Nazi regime and oppression of churches, he worked secretly with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. He was eventually captured and martyred in a Nazi prison. He remains for people of all Christian denominations a shining example of radical discipleship and a teacher of vibrant faith.
One of his contributions to Christian spirituality was a unique perspective on intercessory prayer and the Lord’s challenge to love one’s enemies. He writes, “In prayer we go to our enemies, to stand at their side. We are with them, near them, for them before God. We are doing for them…what they cannot do for themselves.”
Jesus commands: “Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) This can be one of the hardest Christian demands, for our human instinct is to retaliate or at least to hold onto the hurt and respond in a passive aggressive way. Jesus wants us to not only tolerate but actually love those who have hurt us, love meaning to lay down one’s life for the other as Jesus did for us. We are expected to display a radically different kind of attitude than the world around us. We are called to pray for those who persecute others.
The prayer aspect of Jesus command is a great act of charity wherein, as Bonhoeffer explains, we stand near to our enemy, or anyone else we may be praying for, and bring them closer to God who will lead and bless them.
What is more, we stand in for what the person cannot do for themselves – either because of weakness of faith, hardness of heart, blindness of spirit, stubbornness of will – and we bring the person in touch with the Lord. It is as if we had one had holding on to the outstretched hand of Jesus and the other hand holding onto the person for whom we are praying, and we introduced the person in need to Jesus, with the excitement of sharing the treasure of our friend and savior Jesus with another. Though they may not even know we are praying for them, we are at their side and they are close to God who loves them.
In our moments of woundedness and suffering at the hands of others, we cannot change their behavior. We CAN be responsible for our own behavior and not sink to lashing out or seeking vengeance. We CAN be loving and prayerful. We CAN be open to reconciliation and stand next to our enemies in prayer in order to being them before God.
In our world today there are enemies of truth, enemies of freedom, enemies of the Church – as well as the people in our individual lives who make life tough to handle. Stand with them every day in prayer and humbly ask God to soften their hearts and being peace to their inner turmoil. Be near to them and make up for what they cannot do for themselves. Perhaps you will find peace and conversion for them and for you. Perhaps you may save their soul.
Bonhoeffer’s unique twist on intercession is meaningful to Christians and all people of good will. It is only the tip of a spiritual iceberg awaiting anyone who wishes to read Bonhoeffer’s works. Trusting in the reward of his martyrdom, may he pray for us to be radical disciples as he was in his time.