The Plough Diet: Evening Prayers For Every Day of the New Year

January 3, 2017 by

Evening Prayers book cover

“The true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears – who hears what God is asking for,” wrote the incisive Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard.

Kierkegaard’s attitude is mirrored by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt, whose prayers demonstrate an active faith that is in unity with God’s purpose. The book Evening Prayers contains 365 of them – one for each day of the year.

When I left home after high school my parents gave me a pocket-sized edition, telling me they’d be reading the prayer each evening and that if I did the same we could share a daily bond.

Now battered and worn, the clear-plastic protective jacket applied by my mother cracking at the spine and the cover sunlight-washed of color, the little volume did much more than that.

The turn of the millennium saw me living in a camp near the central-Bosnian city of Zenica among ethnic Muslim families displaced by that country’s civil war. In the three years I had by then lived away from home, I’d formed a habit of reading the evening prayers – and yet my faith had become enfeebled. My ears, filled with a cacophony of selfish ideas and philosophies, no longer listened for the still, small voice of the Jesus I thought I followed.

Ironically it was in the camp, where pain seemed to thicken the air we breathed and hearts were as marred as the landscape around us, among people against whom the cross had been wielded as a weapon, that I began to rediscover the faithful love of God.

On October first, for example, I read:

Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times. Share the happiness of those who are happy, and the sorrow of those who are sad (Romans 12:12, 15, free).
Lord our God, we thank you for your gospel, the great, good tidings we may carry in our hearts to give us joy in this present time, even though on all sides people are in anguish and agony. We thank you that your gospel fills our hearts with compassion, enabling us to help carry what many have to suffer. Show us our need of you so that we can receive your help. […]

Here were words that were alive and active in their recognition of both the despair that groaned all around and the need for good tidings from a plane far above our own. Jesus was not asking for heroic deeds of the kind I had egoistically dreamed of undertaking by moving to a country drowning in misery and bristling with anger and hate. He was asking for small things, I slowly realized; things more on a scale with the human being that I was. On my own, I had no great news to bring. But I could listen. And smile, encourage, and have compassion. I could acknowledge that Jesus was suffering right there in the seeming hopelessness of the people I saw every day, even while the victory of his resurrection remained unchanged. Like him, I could simply be present, carrying the Good News in my heart.

Camp Babino Polje seen from across the Bosna river
Camp Babino Polje seen from across the Bosna River.

One night, while reading another of these humble yet triumphant prayers in the small living area of the plywood barracks that our non-governmental organization had been allocated by the municipality, my roommate – a local co-worker who was herself a refugee – asked to join me. Although a Muslim, she had dipped into Evening Prayers and had soon discovered, as she later explained, that there was something about them that she needed; in fact, she said, she could no longer get to sleep unless she had read that day’s prayer. She was perhaps more traumatized than most, having faced family dysfunction long before encountering the terrors of war. But something in these simple devotions spoke peace into her soul. From then on, we read them together, the words warming our hearts as the glowing coals of a briquette in our tiny woodstove helped ward off the autumn chill that relentlessly seeped in through the flimsy walls.

Months later, having completed my assignment and moved back to Western Europe – recognizing for the first time the privilege of having a nationality and the financial means to be able to do so with ease – I received a message from my former colleague: she missed the prayers. A book was promptly shipped to unit #226 in Camp Babino Polje on the Bosna River. It brought comfort as her father grew ill and died, and as she and her mother struggled on financially and emotionally.

an open door

Now, as my own parents become more vulnerable with increasing age, Evening Prayers has come full circle: we are reading them together each evening – something we had not done before, although having consistently read them apart. Bonds formed through the prayers have grown deeper over the years. Many of the readings are familiar friends by now, but they have not grown old. Perhaps that is testament to Blumhardt’s understanding of God’s eternal nature; perhaps it speaks of the change and growth that each one of us experiences over the course of 365 days, and how this can attune our ears ever anew to God’s will.

As we stand at the beginning of this new journey round the sun, the January first reading reminds us:

This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9–10).
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as in heaven. May this continue to be our prayer in the new year, and may we find fellowship with one another in what is eternal and holy. Bless us on our way. Bless us on our earthly pilgrimage so that we may remain free from all bondage, able to thank you day and night for all the good you do, even when things look very dark. We praise your name and we pray as the Savior has taught us.

Amen. May we be listening for your will, Father, and may we then do it.


Evening Prayers For Every Day of the Year can be purchased here.

Alternately, the prayers are available as a free daily email. Sign up here.


This post is part of a series highlighting books and resources available through Plough.com, the Bruderhof’s publishing house. Read previous posts in this series.

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