Although it’s been quite a while since I wrote about my word of the year – Pray! – it isn’t because I haven’t been thinking and reading…and praying!
Actually, to be perfectly honest, there’s been some procrastinating going on and maybe a touch of perfectionism too. Earlier this year, I read Timothy Keller’s book on prayer and I have every intention of writing a review of it. However, the book had quite an impact on my thoughts about prayer and on my prayer life, so I want to make sure I do a sufficient job on the review. So, yes, that one is going to have to wait.
However, Keller quoted Martin Luther quite a bit. It seems that a parishioner asked Luther for some instruction on prayer which led to Luther’s small book, A Simple Way to Pray.
Martin Luther was definitely a proponent of using Scripture to inspire prayer. He recommended using the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments and also the Apostle’s Creed as springboards to prayer.
Christ talks about the unceasing prayer in Luke 11[:8], saying one should pray without ceasing just as one should ceaselessly guard himself against sin and wrongdoing. Yet this can not happen if one does not fear God and does not have His command before his eyes, as Psalm 1[:2] says: ‘Blessed the one who day and night meditates on God’s command,’ etc.
Luther’s thought was that reciting the Scripture or the Apostle’s Creed which is based on Scripture will move us to seek God in prayer on the basis of His own Word.
In the rest of his little book, Luther gives examples of how someone might pray through the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed. There are four strands to the prayer that Luther recommends.
1. Read looking for what God is teaching you.
2. Thank God because of what He has done as revealed in your reading.
3. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you your sin and then confess it.
4. “Use the text to say a prayer for strong faith.”
Now, lest you think Luther was advocating a rote sort of prayer that could be in danger of becoming vain repetition, let me quote him once more.
Instead, I am giving you these words as examples, so that your heart will be aroused to pray and instructed with the kind of thoughts that you should be thinking when you pray the Lord’s Prayer. When the heart is warmed and ready to pray, these are the kinds of thoughts that will fill it, sometimes with many more words, or with fewer words.
My personal experience has been that as I pray through the Lord’s Prayer, my prayer is different every time – sometimes according to the Scriptures I have been studying, sometimes because of whatever has been on my mind and heart, sometimes because of day-to-day circumstances, and quite often just as the Holy Spirit inspires. And I have more confidence that I am praying in God’s will.
Another benefit of Luther’s method is that it can be used with any Scripture. For the past month I have been studying Galatians and have prayed my way through the letter using my own variation of Luther’s steps.
I can highly recommend trying Luther’s little book, A Simple Way to Pray and trying Luther’s method of prayer with your own variations. It may well be the warming of your heart that your prayer life needs.