Prayers that Changed the World: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Morning Prayer for Fellow Prisoners”

By: Lemuel Sandoval

I’m sure it has happened to you. The alarm clock goes off and, still half asleep, you get out of bed. It’s late, as usual, so you quickly dive into endless activities and to-dos. By the time you realize it, your first prayer is before dinner! How many times have we forgotten to seek God early in the morning?!

Now imagine waking up every day in jail, essentially waiting for a death sentence. Anyone could be excused for wondering where God was at work in conditions like that.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) woke up every day for two years in a cold German jail cell. The charges against him: opposition to the Nazi regime and conspiracy to overthrow Hitler. The sentence: the death penalty. Bonhoeffer was not a soldier, though, but a pastor and theologian whose faith in God and Christian conviction led him to act radically against the new government in Germany in 1933. For that reason, he was arrested and imprisoned.

Yet, that did not shake his faith. Instead, he devoted himself to writing and pastoring inside the prison. His teachings about the church as a community and radical discipleship persist to this day. A witness claimed that before his execution, Bonhoeffer knelt to pray and got up with the certainty that God had heard his prayer.

When I compare my life to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, even the worst of my mornings is a good enough reason to thank God for life and seek direction from him for the day ahead.

Among all that Bonhoeffer wrote from prison, this beautiful “Morning Prayer for Fellow Prisoners” invites us and inspires us to seek God early in the day.

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 alone, but You do not abandon 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.

Lord, have mercy on me!

Deliver me and make me live now

Responsibly before You and before men!

Lord, whatever this day brings me,

Let your Name be praised!

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