Monday, April 14, 2014

Martin Luther On Prayer

"It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night," says Martin Luther in A Practical Way to Pray, a letter to encourage his barber toward greater Christian piety.
"First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and instruct prayer), I take my Book of Psalms, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed , and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some Psalms, just as a child might do."
 After Luther explains how he prays through the Lord's Prayer he challenges disciples to, "speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say 'yes' to your prayers. Never think that you are kneeling or standing alone, rather think that the whole of Christendom, all devout Christians, are standing there beside you and you are standing among them in a common, united petition which God cannot disdain."

Luther then goes on the explain a good way to pray through the Ten Commandments:
He speaks of forming a garland of four strands. The first strand is instruction: what is the commandment teaching us and what does God desire? Second, he turns to thanksgiving; third, a confession of sin for disobeying the commandment; and fourth, a prayer of supplication, asking God to give him strength to follow the commandment in the future. Here is his discourse on the third commandment: "You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain."
 First, I learn that I must keep God's name in honor, holiness, and beauty; not to swear, curse, not to be boastful or seek honor and repute for myself, but humbly to invoke his name, to pray, praise, and extol it , and to let it be my only honor and glory that he is my God and I am his lowly creature and unworthy servant. Second, I give thanks to him for these precious gifts, that he has revealed his name to me and bestowed upon me....Third, I confess and acknowledge that I have grievously and shamefully sinned against this commandment all my life...This I bitterly regret and ask grace and forgiveness. Fourth, I ask for help and strength henceforth to learn [to obey] this commandment and to be preserved from such evil ingratitude, abuse, and sin against his name and that I may be found grateful in revering and honoring his name."