Lutheran pastor Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842-1919) helped found Christian Socialism in Germany. He also influenced theologians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) and Karl Barth (1886-1968). Blumhardt’s devotions were published posthumously in German. Plough Publishing’s English edition includes a short introduction by Eugen Jackh, his friend and editor.
I was disappointed by Evening Prayers, For Every Day of the Year (2014). This lovely book contains 365 heartfelt prayers, each with a Bible passage. Yet they’re so spiritually minded that they’re of no earthly good. At one point, Blumhardt prays that “earthly concerns … no longer torment us and wear us out.” According to Jackh, he “never gets lost in details and trivialities” (ii). He prays to “forget all the things that can assail us” (iii). As a result, “Blumhardt’s thanksgiving does not lose itself in details and superficialities” (iii). His prayers are ruled by “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33) so that “we seldom hear him ask for … other things” (ii-iii). This is a mistake!
Jesus tells us to seek God’s kingdom first because spiritual concerns are a priority. But earthly concerns also matter. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said first that “your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask him” (Matthew 6:7). In other words, God knows what we need, but we must still ask him in faith. Jesus then said that we must ask, seek, and knock (7:7). Therefore, we shouldn’t forget earthly details and they’re not trivial. We must pray about them instead. Specific prayers are also better than general ones. This is what makes Brother Andrew’s God’s Smuggler (1967) such good reading. Behind the Iron Curtain, he prayed for specific things and received specific answers.
In the end, I think Blumhardt didn’t have both feet planted on terra firma. Focused solely on the spirit, he forgot that he had a body and soul with earthly needs. However, they must also be nourished with specific prayers.