We learn in the stages and phases of our lives which forms of prayer God calls for from us. We never leave the prayer of supplication, where we allow the Father to search our hearts and try our thoughts and deliver from wicked ways. But in times here and there, He requires different kinds of prayer.

bonhoefferImagine my joy when I arrive at an entry in the Bonhoeffer devotional where he talks about the “OH” in prayer. This is part of the personal and sometimes corporate travailing prayer, where we move beyond praying for spiritual matters and offer moanings and groanings to God.

Bonhoeffer distinguishes between the “‘oh’ of our wishes” and the “‘oh’ of prayer. The former  demands and despairs. It wishes out — for changes in the world, for improvement in others. But all of this leads us nowhere without the latter “oh”.

We cannot even bring forth even the right “oh” from our own heart. (p. 56)

The latter “OH” is humble and confident, and God through His Spirit teaches us to say it. It is the beginning of personal change and renewal…with you and me. He then delivers the kicker….that “in the right “oh” our inexpressible deep needs are summarized before God” (p. 56). The right “OH” is not hidden from God (See Romans 8:26 and Psalm 38:9).

The “Oh” we learn from God produces prayers with promise and potential. Bonhoeffer references Psalm 119:5, “O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” The “OH” that leads to prayers of promise (potential) also leads you and I to action…with us first.

This blessed me first to see this principle of prayer present so long ago (50+ years) and across cultural lines. God is so much greater and bigger than the credit we give Him! Second, this blessed me because Bonhoeffer validates travailing prayer in a new way (for me, at least).

We do not have to conjure up prayer. When we seek His Kingdom first, He will teach us how to give Him what He wants. Holy Ghost, help us love you, live for you, serve you…and even pray to/with you. Teach us the humble and confident and productive “oh” of prayer. Amen. Selah, and love to all.


Reference:  Bonhoeffer, D. (1906-1945). I want to live these days with you: A year of daily devotions. (O. C. Dean, Jr., Trans.). London, England: Westminster John Knox Press.
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