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    Prayers to a God Who Cares

    There is no sighing in Blumhardt’s prayers. They are confident of victory in God’s promise.

    By Eugen Jäckh

    June 29, 2022

    What is it about these evening prayers that still draws thousands of people around the world to turn to them daily, a century after they were spoken? Their rare simplicity and authority spring from the remarkable life of their author, Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, a pastor and theologian who influenced Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, and Karl Barth. As Barth writes of Blumhardt’s approach to prayer: “Our cause, our hope, is served better with prayers than with treatises … If we want to become healthy and strong, we have to start from the beginning and become like children. That is where Blumhardt can be of great service to people everywhere.” Eugen Jäckh, a friend of Blumhardt’s and the editor of his complete works, introduces the collection.

    Originally intended only for some of Blumhardt’s close friends, this book of prayers was collected after his death in 1919. Taken from evening devotions that Blumhardt held at Bad Boll, in Germany, these prayers were said without any thought of publication. The fact that they came into being out of real life in this way has endeared them to many who have since used them. The style of the prayers has been changed as little as possible in order to maintain the quality of the spoken word and their essential simplicity.

    Those who knew Blumhardt were deeply impressed by the pastoral, even priestly, quality of his personality. His concern went out not only to those whom he knew or who sought his help, but to the whole world. He prayed “without ceasing,” but not with many words. He stood before God, mindful of people and their needs and answerable for them.

    People’s concerns were important to him because, for him, they were God’s concerns. It is characteristic of him that when he prayed, the first three requests of the Lord’s Prayer always rose involuntarily to his lips. He lived in them and subordinated everything else to them. “All we ask and long for, all our concerns down to the very smallest, we lay in your hands in the one great request that your name be glorified on earth as it is in heaven.” Blumhardt’s short, concentrated prayers contain everything that we want to bring before God, though he never gets lost in details and trivialities. His whole being, and therefore his praying as well, is ruled completely by the saying: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). Because of this, we seldom hear him ask for these other things.

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    Blumhardt’s prayers breathe forth peace in a remarkable way; they have no overwrought emotionalism about them. This peace comes from Blumhardt’s unshakable conviction that God’s kingdom is on the way in spite of stormy and changing times. And so he gives thanks “for giving our hearts hope for your kingdom, the kingdom of God. We thank you that again and again we may draw strength from this hope, find new youthfulness and courage, and discover how powerfully, though hidden, your kingdom is already approaching.” But because his heart trembles within him, like the hearts of all those who are waiting for this coming of God’s kingdom, he asks, “in order that God can speak to us,” for the “quietness we need in order to stand before God and forget all the things that can assail us.”

    Just as nearly every letter of Paul begins with thanks, so Blumhardt too in his prayers is always full of praise and thanks. For there is nothing that can lighten our hearts like giving thanks. In giving thanks we are positive; in the face of thanks everything negative and contrary disappears. Blumhardt’s thanksgiving does not lose itself in details and superficialities, but is completely directed towards the most inward and central thing that is given to us by God – that we are his children. Therefore Blumhardt never tires of giving his simple, childlike thanks that God is our Father and that we may be his children.

    But “if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). Blumhardt’s prayers flow out of this feeling for the suffering of the whole world. But there is no sighing about them – they are strong and glad and confident of victory in the knowledge of God’s promise, which has been given us. Basically they all point in the same direction – to the prayer that God’s kingdom shall come, that the Savior shall come. If we pray, all sin and need can only strengthen our faith in the certainty of God’s promise that he will complete his work and bring an end to all affliction.

    Contributed By

    Eugen Jäckh (1877–1954) was Blumhardt’s pastoral assistant and executor of Blumhardt’s literary estate.

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