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Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,232 ratings  ·  114 reviews
In this beautiful little book, Bonhoeffer guides the Christian to the Scriptures for lessons in how to pray. He affirms that the Lord's Prayer is the primary prayer of the Christian, which he asserts contains every prayer that a Christian ought to pray. Bonhoeffer also makes a startling but wise claim that jolts us out of the narrowness of our focus in prayer: "The richnes ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published 1974 by Augsburg Books (first published 1959)
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Tamara Rodrigues No, Psalm 23 is mentioned a couple of times, but nothing in detail.

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Jul 13, 2015 rated it liked it
I found this very short book useful for 2 reasons:

1. It provided a good overview of how to classify Psalms under particular topics. So those psalms that are about guilt, suffering, the church, the Law, etc. This is particularly useful when understanding how to use them when praying.

2. It had a brief 20 page biographical sketch of Bonhoeffer's life that I appreciated. Reading more extensive bios on him has always been on my list but I haven't been able to get to it, so having this abridged versi
Nov 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This work is one of Bonhoeffer’s great but oft overlooked contributions to Christian devotional literature. Many works have been written on prayer and call readers to greater prayer lives, but few succeed in offering a true methodology for doing so that is not mundane, legalistic, or self-centered. Bonhoeffer, ever the man of prayer, offers a unique method of approaching the throne of grace that empowers fresh, grace-filled, and God-centered prayers. Bonhoeffer’s solution is not complex or myste ...more
Sep 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Such a short book with a long lasting impact. I have always thought of Psalms as songs unto the Lord however, Psalms are the basis of the Lord's Prayer. Many times Jesus quoting a psalm in prayer. Which makes perfect sense with the Sela in many Psalms. Sela indicates that one must be still and quickly think through the words of the Psalm, to quiet the heart, and to know the greatness and goodness of the Lord. ...more
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A brief but splendid introduction to the Psalms which teaches us how to pray them in light of the first and most important pray-er, Jesus. In him the psalms are fulfilled, prayed aright, and become our own.
Chakib Miraoui
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a very intelligent study of Psalmodic themes and how they relate to Christ and Salvation.

The latest scholarly reconstruction of Psalms might disagree with this pamphlet by a German priest and martyred activist, yet applaude the sincerety and humility that went into its making.

Bonhoeffer is a deeply faithful lover of the Son, he show how despite being written by David and his literary agents, the Psalter is also the making of Christ in David.
Becky Pliego
2017 -- Always good.
2016 Review: So tiny and yet it has some exhortations that have stayed -and will stay with me always:

"If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of the Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer."

"If we want to read and pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ."

"If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessa
Alex Lopez
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2015
I ordered this book not knowing anything about it, and was surprised, almost disappointed to find a small 80 page book. Bonhoeffer however, did not disappoint and went into great detail in how to practically pray the Psalms, and to apply them to everyday life. This book is a must read for an intro to the Psalms and the Christian life. This work has gleaming insights into what prayer is and isn't. Also, how the Old Testament agrees and points to the New Testament. Jesus is the one praying in the ...more
Marietta Stechmeyer
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: study
The chapter "The Enemies" really helped me understand how we can pray with Jesus that our enemies be directed to him, the righteous one, who forgives the sins of the world. Super helpful for those Psalms that seem so vengeful, violent and just plain antiquated- not loving our enemies like Jesus instructs in the New Testament. Now I can pray these Psalms with confidence knowing that Jesus is petitioning God alongside us to place God's wrath for sin on himself and forgive his enemies (including my ...more
Clifford Luebben
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Bonhoeffer took on all my major questions and confusions when approaching the psalms and I received the answer: Jesus. Confused? Read the book and it will make sense. How can I pray the destruction of wicked people when I too am wicked? How can I proclaim my righteousness to God? I now know thanks to God speaking through this man. Reading the Psalms can now be such a richer part of my prayer life, and hopefully I can encourage so in my family and other community.
Peter Jones
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A very short, but good introduction to some themes in the Psalms. As usual, Bonhoeffer connects the Psalms to Jesus and shows how we can only pray them by looking at Christ. A lot of wonderful insight into how the Psalms affect our prayer life. He closes with a short exhortation to morning prayer. This book would be good to pick up every now and then to put some spiritual adrenaline back in one's prayer life. ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful little introduction into the Psalms and how they teach us to pray. Bonhoeffer points always to the dual nature of Christ, of His and only His ability to teach us to pray, and the necessity of our accepting both our guilt and, through Christ's great sacrifice, our innocence - our right and the rightness of our taking everything to God. ...more
Zack Clemmons
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Our prayer is prayer insofar as it’s joined with the prayer of Jesus.
Dan Glover
Jan 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a brief, concise, winsome, and Christological case for praying the Psalms as Christian prayer. Bonhoeffer interprets the Psalms as the prayer book for the church as read in light of the gospel, and particularly as interpreted and understood as subsumed and fulfilled in the spirit and form of the Lord's Prayer. I would gladly recommend this to a Christian who does not think of the Psalms (either some or all) as legitimate for the regular prayer life of God's new covenant people, and I wou ...more
Kevin Halloran
Sep 15, 2020 added it
Shelves: prayer, 2020
This book was both much shorter and much richer than I expected. An encouragement to dig into the Psalter and use it as a path to communion with God.
An unusual book, so short. It's almost like a pamphlet promoting and introducing daily praying of the psalms, but because of Bonhoeffer's insight and authoritative manner, not to mention reputation, it becomes something more weighty. The little chapter on morning prayer is a gem. ...more
Oct 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very powerful. The book is only 88 pages, but it takes time to read and digest. I kept stopping to read and re-read the Psalms that Bonhoeffer cited. Highly recommended.
Favorite quote: "Decisions become easier and simpler where they are made not in the fear of men but only in the sight of God."
Adam Shields
Mar 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very short, but worth reading for a Christological look at the Psalms.

My full review is at
Peter Stonecipher
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Short read, great encouragement to pray the Psalms.
A very short and accessible way to get into Bonhoeffer’s writing. Nice little biography at the back.


If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ. We must ask how we can understand the Psalms as God’s Word, and then we shall be able to pray them. It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given m
John Funnell
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is not a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer that has not transformed my thinking.

Every sentence is Christ centred and points you to Christ. This little book is no exception.

A wonderful morning devotional
George van Popta
If you like the Psalms and Bonhoeffer then you will like this little book.
Kendall Davis
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Well, it's a tiny book with only 86 pages.
But nevertheless huge in its spiritual value.....
Dietrich Bonheoffer was a Lutheran theologian/pastor, who lost his life for his faith and conviction under the national socialist regime in Germany.
He was martyred and was hanged for his faith in Flossenbürg on April 9. 1945.
His last words where:" This is the end, but for me the beginning of life".
"Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible" consists of an introduction to the Psalms, with an added biographical s
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know that I was going to like this at first, which is unusual because I'm rather a Bonhoeffer fan. The first quarter or so is interesting, but a little heavy-handed in terms of Christianizing the Psalms--each one has a direct correlation to the Christ, they are to be prayed in all their richness, so on and so forth. Not that that isn't important or an interesting point to make, but again, it felt very obvious in some ways.
Once he got into actually categorizing the Psalms, though, I was
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
An excellent little book that helped me understand that 1) the Psalms are not about me and my experience primarily, they are about Jesus, 2) which means that we can't cherry pick which Psalms we read. It also helped me understand how we can pray for destruction for God's enemies in good faith (because we want God to triumph at the end of times), and how we can pray that we are innocent when we are all sinners (because in those who are in Christ are innocent in the eyes of God because of Christ's ...more
Jason Logue
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A lean book full of amazing depth and insight. I just finished reading this book as part of my morning devotional. I carefully digested only one chapter a day. Like most of his other works, Bonhoeffer must not be breezed through at all. He essentially makes a case for praying the Psalms almost exclusively, and why this is in line with how Jesus taught us to pray through the Lord's Prayer. He breaks down the types of Psalms into Davidic and non-Davidic, as well as Psalms about guilt, praise, plea ...more
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is not much longer than a magazine article, and yet probably much of what has been written about the Psalms in the past 50 years is only an elaboration of it. Interesting to read in the biography at the end of the book that after its publication, he was no longer permitted to publish. Will have to re-read it and see what set the Nazis off. I enjoy reading about the Confessing Church and its stand against the Nazis.
Dec 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent guide to reading the psalms in a whole new way. The first section gave such a thought provoking overview that I brought up points I learned from reading in many conversations afterward. The second section divided the psalms topically and I took time with each section to meditate on the psalms he mentions, reviewing Bonhoeffer's ideas about the topic as I went. It made for a very enriching exercise in my devotional time. Highly recommended. ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wonderful, poignant (as Bonhoeffer always seems to be), and fascinating to read alongside C.S Lewis' Reflections on the Psalms. The only prevailing discomfort I had with this compact read was the absence of the Holy Spirit -- exchange some of Bonhoeffer's use's of Christ in regards to the Psalms with the Holy Spirit, and it all makes much more sense. Leave it as it is...and potential problems arise...? ...more
Jan 20, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was alright. It was the first Bonhoeffer book that I’d read (rather than selections of his writings or books about him), and it was good, but wasn’t the most amazing of his material. However, I do have to admit that I feel inclined to like it more if only because I know that Bonhoeffer took a big risk publishing it (since it spoke highly of the Hebrew Scriptures and was written during the Nazi regime), and was, in fact, the reason why he was banned from publishing anything else.
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Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian. He was also a participant in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, a founding member of the Confessing Church. His involvement in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler resulted in his arrest in April 1943 and his subsequent execution by hanging in April 1945, sho ...more

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73 likes · 21 comments
“But it is a dangerous error, surely very widespread among Christians, to think that the heart can pray by itself. For then we confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings–all of which the heart can do by itself–with prayer. And we confuse earth and heaven, man and God. Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty. No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ.” 3 likes
“It is characteristic of the faith of the Christian that through God’s grace and the merit of Jesus Christ he has become entirely justified and guiltless in God’s eyes, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1 ). And it is characteristic of the prayer of the Christian to hold fast to this innocence and justification which has come to him, appealing to God’s word and thanking for it. So not only are we permitted, but directly obligated–provided we take God’s action to us at all seriously–to pray in all humiliation and certainty: “I was blameless before him and I kept myself from guilt” (Psalm 18:23); “If thou testest me thou wilt find no wickedness in me” (Psalm 17:3). With such a prayer we stand in the center of the New Testament, in the community of the cross of Jesus Christ.” 2 likes
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