Thursday, March 3, 2016

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Lord's Prayer

"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - Introduction
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - To Master Peter
"A Simple Way to Pray": Blogging Through Luther - The Lord's Prayer

In his book written to his barber, A Simple Way to Pray, Martin Luther begins by walking the readerthrough the seven petitions of the Lord's Prayer. For each petition, Luther suggests we repeat that petition in prayer and then apply it in prayer.

In the first petition (Hallowed be your name) for example, Luther begins his prayer with:
Oh, yes, Lord God, dear Father, hallowed be Thy name, indeed! Make it holy among us and throughout the world. Destroy and root out the horrible idolatry and heresy of the Turks, the Pope, and all false teachers and sectarian spirits . . . (8)
Such an approach combines the spiritual disciplines of meditation (properly defined) and prayer. Meditation is not about emptying oneself (like in eastern thought) but in filling oneself with the gospel, God, and his revelation. Luther models that here. What does it mean for God's name to be hallowed (a word we rarely, if ever, use)?

The one highlight I noticed most in this portion of Luther's book regarded how he concluded his sample prayers in the first three petitions. The first petition concludes thus:
Dear Lord God, convert and restrain! Convert those who would still be converted, that they with us, and we with them, sanctify and praise Your holy name, with true, pure doctrine and good holy living. But restrain those who will not allow themselves to be converted, that they cease the misuse, shaming, and dishonoring of Your holy name, and the misleading of those poor people. Amen. (8)
The second petition (Your Kingdom come) concludes in a similar way:
Dear Lord God, Father, convert and protect! Convert those who have not yet become like little children and members of Your kingdom, so that that together we may serve You in Your kingdom with a right faith and genuine love, and then, come out of this assaulted kingdom into the eternal Kingdom. Hinder those who refuse to turn away from using their power and strength to destroy Your kingdom. Hurl them down from their thrones and humiliate them so they are forced to cease and desist. Amen. (9)
The third petition, too, is similar:
Therefore, dear Lord God and Father, convert and protect! Convert those who wills till acknowledge Your good will, that together we would all be subject to Your will and overcome everything evil, and happily, patiently, and joyously bear all crosses and adversity, and through them demonstrate and experience Your good, gracious, and perfect will. Protect us from those whose unceasing rage and fuming hatred threaten evil and desire to do harmful things. Bring their plans, evil schemes, and methods to nothing but disgrace, so that they are trapped in them themselves, as stated in Psalm 7. (10)
In a previous post, I applied these petitions to how to pray in a world of terrorism (click here). If there is anything we learn from Luther in this portion of his book, I think this is it. Pray for the conversion of souls, the protection of the innocent, and the judgment of the wicked.

Another advantage of praying the Lord's prayer is its admonition to forgive. In the fifth petition (Forgive us our trespasses . . .), Luther encourages the reader to also pray Psalm 19:12 ("Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults."). Afterwards "If anyone feels at this point that he cannot forgive, he should just pray for grace so that he would be able to forgive. That point belongs in the sermon." (11)

Finally, two final words from Luther. First, the importance of concluding a sermon with "Amen":
Finally, note that you must always say "amen" strongly, with all faith, and without doubt that God certainly does hear you and says "yes" to your prayer. Do not think for a moment that you kneel and stand there in prayer alone. You need to realize all of Christendom, that is, all pious Christians, are with you, and you among them, in unanimous, unified prayer, which god cannot disdain. Do not leave from your prayers unless you have then said or thought: "Well then, this prayer has been heard by God. I know this for certain and for true." That is what Amen means. (12)

Secondly, on how prayers can preach:
When such rich thoughts come, just let other prayers go and give these thoughts plenty of room; do not in any way hinder them. For in this way the Holy Spirit is preaching to you. His sermon is better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more it eh process of praying a single prayer than I would have struggled to learn through much writing and reading. (13)

For more:
How to Pray in a World of Terrorism
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