Historical Committee

Forward | Petition for the . . . Faithful | Petition against Schism | For Political Authorities | For our Enemies | For the Persecuted

Prayer Book for Earnest Christians, A spritually rich Anabaptist Resource

A translation of Die ernsthafte Christenpflicht
Translated and edited by Leonard Gross
Herald Press, 1997

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Forward by John E. Sharp

The rich language of ferrvent prayer finds clear expression in this new translation of Die ernsthafte Christenpflicht. These prayers were first offered three centuries ago by devout Christians in Europe. Amish and Mennonites carried these prayers in their trunks and in their hearts when they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. The timeless voice of prayer in this volume spans the barriers of time, language and culture, and is as fitting today as then.

These heart-felt prayers offer thanksgiving for God's caring protection, sincere confession and longing for God's merciful forgiveness of sin, and gratefulness for God' grace which crowns the daily sunrise. Evening prayers, morning prayers and prayers for special occasions express the desire for lives of obedience, hearts full of peace, and congregations of love and harmony. Pastoral concerns are expressed in prayers for the depressed, the poor, the weak, the sick, and the mentally handicapped; for widows and orphans; for persecutors and the persecuted.

Fifty years ago, Edward Yoder noted in his journal that he was using this classic devotional book and thought it to be "truly inspirational and deeply spiritual in tone and thought." He lamented that his generation of Mennonites, adopting English, had "cut themselves off so completely . . .. from the rich treasures of their heritage."

Now these rich treasures have been reclaimed. Like the Psalms, these enduring prayers offer us a language of devotion and commitment that will enrich personal, family and congregational worship. The are truly "rich in spirit," and give comfort to "devout Christian hearts . . . in all seasons and for all needs." We commend them to you for constant use.

Readers may want to choose appropriate portions of long prayers for use in public worship. Pastors will find many pastoral concerns that can be readily adapted for pastoral prayers. Personal pronouns can be adjusted for either personal or corporate worship. Developing an index of topics and themes within prayers could be useful.

These prayers will also make a contribution to the literature of spiritual direction and spiritual retreats, whether personal or guided. Much of the literature of spirituality, while relevant and useful, has been borrowed from other theological traditions. Here is a well spring of fervent spiritual expression from the Mennonite and Amish experience of the 18th and 18th centuries.

The Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church recognized this need in 1990, when it took action to sponsor the translation of this historic book of prayers. The committee sensed the growing thirst for a deep spirituality, the renewal of interest in the church's heritage, and the constant need for clear identity and vision.

It is our hope that, through these prayers, God will "shape the ordering of our lives," "encourage the work of our hands," and "graciously equip us with true faith, good hope and genuine Christian love."

JES, Director
Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church, 1997