on 6 December 2015
Bonhoeffer argues that following a schedule from a prayer book, independent of the fallibly perceived needs of the person praying, is not only a useful training ground for improvisatory prayer, but also a worthwhile activity in its own right. He further argues that the Psalms can be used as an excellent prayer book.
To do this, he interprets the person praying as praying in the company of Jesus Christ, with the protestations of innocence and suffering the innocence and suffering of Christ, and the vengeance the just vengeance of God, to be satisfied by the sacrifice of Christ.
Bonhoeffer later recommends morning prayer, to start the day off as it should go on. In general he regards prayer as acting largely on the person praying: "For this reason he gives us earthly prayers, so that we can better recognise him, praise him, and love him."
Only 70% of this short book is Bonhoeffer: the other 30% is a short biography of him similar to others that I have seen. However, this short 70% is in a very clear and readable translation, and carries such a striking and at least self-consistent message that it is difficult to feel short-changed. You even get some interesting asides, such as a remark on the suitability of Hebrew parallelism for antiphony.
Ultimately this book stands or falls by how the reader reacts to close inspection of the Psalms. As Bonhoeffer remarks, the Psalms have, historically, often featured very strongly in Christian worship (e.g. the month long schedules for morning and evening worship in the traditional Book of Common Prayer), so if the reader struggles with them, they will at least be in good company.