Morning Prayer: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Leonard Cohen

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer morning prayer

A little while back, Mrs. C. came across a prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that we often return to when, as on our better days, we find a few minutes in the morning to stop and pray. It turns out it’s quite well known in the right circles, and there are a variety of English translations, but I’ll include here the one we know best:

O God,
early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray,
and to concentrate my thoughts on you:
I cannot do this alone.

In me there is darkness,
But with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways,
but you know the way for me …

Restore me to liberty,
And enable me so to live now
that I may answer before you and before me,
Lord, whatever this day may bring,
Your name be praised.

That’s a profound, eloquent prayer, as Bonhoeffer was profound and eloquent. It would take a book or two to begin to appreciate and analyze it, but the power of those final lines makes a particularly good start to any day; creation itself seems to bow before that notion: Lord, whatever this day may bring / Your name be praised / Amen.

It’s a sense of things that is ever present in the Book of Psalms, and I think that those are the prayers that take the measure of all others.

And, while expressed in his own impudent, inimitable way, I think it is the sense of things in Leonard Cohen’s great, great song, “Born In Chains.” (From his 2014 album, Popular Problems.)

I was born in chains
But I was taken out of Egypt
I was bound to a burden
But the burden it was raised
Lord I can no longer
Keep this secret
Blessed is the Name
The Name be praised