Friday, March 26, 2010

Luther on Prayer

O My Soul:

The 16th century reformer, Dr. Martin Luther, wrote this on prayer (my emphasis is in italics):

“Where there is a Christian, there is the Holy Ghost, who is always engaged in prayer. For though the Christian does not continually move his lips to utter words, nevertheless the heart is beating and pulsating, like the arteries and the heart in the body, unceasingly sighing: O dear Father, may Thy name be hallowed, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done among us and all people, etc.

And as the attacks, trials, and troubles press and crowd harder, also such sighing and begging becomes more urgent, even audible.

So, then, you cannot find a Christian who is not always praying, as little as a living person is without a pulse, which never rests, but beats continuously, though the person may be sleeping or is occupied otherwise, so that he is not aware of its beating.” (St. L. VIII:363.)

What then is needed for prayer? Luther says:

Without communion with Christ no one can pray even one word which would count before God or be pleasing to Him.

The prayers of the Turks, Jews, monks, and hypocrites are of that kind.”

Speaking of this prerequisite of prayer, Luther says:

“The Spirit of grace brings it to pass that we can and may, yea, must, begin to pray.

Hence Christ here means to say: If you believe in Me and have received the Spirit, your hearts having thus become sure of God’s grace, as He had said above, ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,’ then your prayer will follow as a matter of course. For this is the true and proper work of Christians, and of the Christian only.

For before we become Christians and believe, we do not know what and how we should pray. And though a man prays most fervently , still the Spirit of grace is not there. The natural heart can only speak thus: Dear Lord, do Thou regard how virtuously I live, how much I suffer; or take into consideration the merit of this and that saint, the intercession and good works of pious people. Here there is no faith in divine grace and mercy for Christ’s sake; here the heart always remains uncertain and cannot know that it is certainly heard; it wants to deal with God only on the basis of man’s own holiness or that of others, without Christ, as though God ought to humble Himself before such a man and be forced to bestow His grace or help and thus become our Debtor and Servant. Such an attitude does not merit grace, but wrath; it is not prayer, but a mocking of God.”

Concerning the Lord’s Prayer, taught by Christ Himself, Luther says in his Large Catechism:

“Besides this we should be incited and drawn to prayer because in addition to this commandment and promise

God anticipates us and Himself arranges the words and form of prayer for us, and places them upon our lips as to how and what we should pray, that we may see how heartily He pities us in our distress, and may never doubt that such prayer is pleasing to Him and shall certainly be answered;

which prayer has a great advantage indeed over all other prayers that we might compose ourselves. For in them the conscience would ever be in doubt and say: I have prayed, but who knows how it pleases Him, or whether I have hit upon the right proportions and form? Hence there is no nobler prayer to be found upon earth than the Lord’s Prayer, which we daily pray, because it testifies excellently that God loves to hear it, which we ought not to surrender for all the riches of the world.” (Trigl. 703, Large Cat., Lord’s Prayer, 22 f.)

My summary on these notes:

I am learning that Christ has been praying for me and with me all along.

Depression is causing me to pray more earnestly and audibly. I am finding joy in daily prayers handed down to me from the church of old. (Matins and Vespers)

When I'm unable to intentionally pray Matins or Vespers (whose form is taken from a rich understand of Scripture), I am glad that the Lord's Prayer is always pleasing to God.

I am thankful to audibly hear God speak to me in His Word and Sacrament which leads me back to Him (even if it is my mouth He uses or that of friends or brother pastors.)

Those are a few notes for today. Thank you Dr. Luther for teaching me and thank you to the readers for remembering me in your prayers, comments, and phone call.

God bless you, too.


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