Category: Prayer

Martin Luther and Prayer

Martin Luther and Prayer

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.

Luther wrote,

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.

Blessings for a New Week

 

Blessings for a New Week

Today sunshine broke through the overcast skies that hung over our part of Texas for the past week, giving us a particularly beautiful day. You know what they say about the beauty of a sparkling, flashing diamond displayed on deeply black velvet. That’s what today’s sunshine was like – a dazzling blessing set against the backdrop of gloomy cloudiness and oh, so welcome after days and days of rain and clouds and fog. Sunshine!

Lovely as that sunshine was, it was fleeting. It’s dark now and I cannot be sure that we will be blessed with sunshine again tomorrow.

However, another light has been shining in my heart and I know for sure that it will continue to shine tomorrow and throughout the rest of the week. Through His Word, through prayer, and through the writings of some of His servants, God has been pouring heavenly sunshine into my days, bringing blessings and promises of blessings that earthly sunshine cannot begin to equal, let alone surpass. Blessings that pour over the top and need to be shared.

It is my prayer that you will share in those blessings with me this week.

May you be blessed with beginning again and letting last week go.

May you be blessed with new hope for the new week, trusting God’s will for you for this week.

May you be open and ready for new chances to listen to your Father who loves you.

May you live in the reality of the grace God freely gives you, knowing that His grace is sufficient; that you can’t and don’t need to do anything to gain His approval; that all that you need for this week has been provided for you in the gospel.

May you be blessed with heavenly sunshine in your soul this week!

 

– photography by Morgan Sessions (Unsplash)

 

Why Hurry?

 

Hurry

Bible reading plans – are you familiar with them? Have you used one or five?

I have a love/hate relationship with Bible reading plans. (Doesn’t that just sound crazy? What is there to hate about a Bible reading plan?)

The problem is not with the reading plan itself – it is entirely with me.

A couple of years ago I started using a Bible reading plan on YouVersion. I enjoyed it and pretty much stuck with it. Every once in a while I would have to read a little extra to keep up, but I did finish the plan a couple of years in a row.

Sounds good right? Not really. There is so much hidden in those couple of sentence, but unless you know me well, you would never catch it.

First, “I enjoyed it”. Do you know why I honestly enjoyed it? Because good Christians are supposed to read the Bible through every year and I was finally doing it again. Good little Christian! Pat on the back! (ugh!)

Second, “I pretty much stuck with it”. Just look at that phrase – does that sound like somebody who was relishing time in God’s precious Word every day? Of course it doesn’t. It sound like somebody who is marking off a “to-do” list.

Third, “I would have to read a little extra to keep up”. To keep up? Really? Who or what did I think I was keeping up with? The Bible-reading-plan police who would come after me if I hadn’t finished reading through the Bible by year’s end?

Is it important to read through the entire Bible every year? If reading through the Bible once every year is good, what about reading through the Bible twice a year? Isn’t that twice as good?

Do you see what a mess a good intention can become? So let’s back up.

Obviously, reading through the Bible is a good thing, but why the hurry? Who says we need to read the whole book in a year’s time?

Do you know what I was finding as I checked off the little boxes every day and watched the percentage of the Bible I had read go up every day? I found that I had no idea what I had read and that my reading had not helped me connect with God at all. (or at least very little.)

So, I began to read one chapter a day with a certain purpose. To go along with my word of the year – pray – I began noting everything the day’s chapter taught me about prayer. I  have to say I struggled with this because…well…one chapter a day? It would take forever to get through the Bible at this rate.

Again, I had to ask myself, “Why the hurry?” I didn’t have a good answer.

My next step was prompted after reading Timothy Keller’s book on prayer (more on this in another post to come). Now my goal was to pray the Scriptures, so first I read through the day’s chapter two or three times slowly. Next I wrote down everything I learned about God from the chapter. Then I went through the chapter again looking for everything it taught me about myself. And finally I read the chapter one more time looking for commands, promises, and examples. Once I had these three lists, I used them to pray.

At first I was trying to do all of this in one day until again I asked myself, “Why the hurry?” Now I am taking two days to study and pray through each chapter.

What have I learned through this process?

1. One-year Bible reading plans can be a problem for people like me who love to check the boxes on a checklist. We tend to focus on getting it done rather than reading carefully, studying, and allowing the Holy Spirit time to speak through our study.

2. Slowing down is okay. Even if it takes me ten years to read through the Bible once, it doesn’t matter. The point is to consistently and steadily read and study and pray through the Bible.

3. There’s no need to hurry. Looking back over 35 years of reading the Word and studying the Word and learning to pray through the Word, I realize maturity in Christ is something that God builds in us day by day and year by year. It’s not instant and it’s not dependent on how many years I successfully read through the entire Bible. We just need to keep studying and keep listening to the Holy Spirit and trusting God with the results.

 

Note – Please know that I am in no way discounting the good that can come from reading the Bible every year! I will probably use a reading plan again in the future, but hopefully I will read more thoughtfully and without stressing about actually getting it done inside a year.

Learning to Pray

Prayer ButtonYou know how you can roll along through life and not be aware of God and what He is doing? And then, all of a sudden, something changes…

I almost don’t know how to express how learning to pray has impacted my life in the last couple of weeks. I need my words to make you see God and I’m afraid I’ll get in the way.

But, this is a blog and I am a writer, so I’ll try.

I’ve been reading Timothy Keller’s book on prayer. I haven’t finished it yet so I’m not ready to write a review, but the book is making a huge impact on my praying.

First, I’ve learned that our praying must be informed by Scripture. This idea has really struck a chord with me. This really isn’t the first time I’ve heard it – it’s just the first time I’ve really understood and practiced it. I’m learning to meditate on Scripture and to let prayer flow naturally from it.

For example, last night, when I went to bed I decided to meditate on Psalm 1 which I had memorized a long time ago – so long ago that I could only recite bits and pieces of it. However, I did remember the concepts. As I was reminding myself of the ideas of Psalm 1, I was able to begin to pray about and through them.

The second idea I’ve learned from Keller’s book is that The Lord’s Prayer is a pattern that we can always pray – not word for word, but idea for idea.

For example, beginning with “Our Father”…thinking about all that those two words mean and praising and thanking God that we are even able to say them in truth. Then moving on through the rest of the prayer and allowing the truths we have pondered in meditation to mix with the prayer.

It sounds so simple…and really it is, but through it God is changing the way I respond to Him and listen to Him and talk to Him.

And it’s changing the way I see myself and my sin. When prayer is informed by Scripture, you can’t help but see yourself as you truly are. That part is hard because it becomes more difficult to hide sin, to ignore or rename or justify sin.

But…if sin is hidden away, it can’t be laid bare in the light. It can’t be rooted out of us. It can’t be killed.

So I am going to continue to meditate and to use the Lord’s Prayer as a pattern and to glory in the presence of God and His searching eyes, knowing I can trust Him to change me into the likeness of His Son.

 

For more in this series go to Prayer – My Word for 2015.

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