Friday, October 31, 2008

Luther and Prayer

Martin Luther’s barber was a man by the name of Peter Beskendorf. ‘Master’ Peter asked Martin Luther to teach him to pray. Luther’s response was a wonderful letter (booklet) in which he lays out for Peter “A Simple Way to Pray.”

Most of us would readily admit that sometimes prayer seems anything but simple. Luther, in fact, addresses some of the struggles one faces when attempting to pray. He writes, “It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you ‘Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour, first I must attend to this or that. Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.”

Can you relate? You think about praying but some matter enters your mind and you delay prayer for an hour. The hour turns into two and before you know it an entire day passes without concentrated prayer. Luther reminds us that prayer should be a priority when he says, “let prayer be the first business of the morning.”

Luther goes on to warn against becoming “lax and lazy, cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer.”

When we engage in prayer we enter an arena of battle. We must be careful to fight against sin and our disinclination to prayer. We fight by faith in Christ and with a commitment to His Word.

In “A Simple Way to Pray” Luther gives instruction on how to prayer by using The Lord’s Prayer, The Ten Commandments, and The Apostle’s Creed. In his instruction the context of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century is obvious. When Luther prays that God’s name would be hallowed he prays, “Destroy and root out the abominations, idolatry, and heresy…of the pope, and all false teachers and fanatics who wrongly use thy name and in scandalous ways take it in vain and horribly blaspheme it…”

However, let us not think that Luther’s only desire was that the enemies of true Christianity be destroyed for he prayed as well, “Dear Lord God, convert and restrain [them]. Convert those who are still to be converted that they with us and we with them may hallow and praise thy name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life. Restrain those who are unwilling to be converted so that they be forced to cease from misusing, deviling and dishonoring thy holy name and from misleading the poor people. Amen”

“A Simple Way to Pray” is an interesting and helpful study on prayer. As well it opens a door into the situation of the Reformers who fought against the abuses of the religious establishment of the 16th century. If you read this letter you will find helpful instruction on how to pray, warnings concerning the struggles of prayer and encouragements to be faithful to “pray without ceasing.” You will also get a snapshot into the friendship of Martin Luther and his barber, Master Peter.

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