How’s your prayer life? In my line of work I get to pray quite a lot. Needless to say, I pray in church every Sunday. I pray most every time I visit a member of Trinity. Sometimes strangers see my collar and ask me to pray with them. (That’s one reason I wear the pastoral collar instead of dressing casually). I pray with other pastors when I meet with them - whether they’re Lutheran or from other denominations. I pray at meetings, both of our congregation and of Lockport CARES. I’ve prayed the invocation a few times at the Lockport Common Council meetings.
But I wouldn’t say that my prayer life is as vibrant as it should be. We believers like to think that our day is one continuous conversation with the Lord. But, like most of us, I slip into a rather secular mode when I’m away from the Word of God. If I were truly praying 24/7, I wouldn’t need to confess so many of my faulty thoughts, words and deeds!
Martin Luther recognized the connection between being in prayer and being in the Word. His routine for daily prayer was to open the Bible and go to the Psalms for some food for thought. After asking God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, he’d recite different parts of the Small Catechism (we know them, right?) and apply them to his own life. Soon, his prayers would begin to flow.
But, the final part of his “method” of praying was to go back to his daily life and absorb all the taunts and temptations of the devil – which drove him back to the Word to start the process all over again. Luther saw prayer as being the Christian’s great defense against sin, death and the devil. And God’s Word was the backbone of his prayer life.
This wasn’t just for monks and priests and theologians, though. Here is a letter Luther wrote to his barber, who asked him for some advice on how to have a richer prayer life.
Luther’s Advice to Peter His Barber
A Simple Way to Pray
by Martin Luther
I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.
First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.
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.
It may well be that you may have some tasks which are as good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer and a proverb, “He who works faithfully prays twice.” This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise.
This excerpt is from Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 43. © 1968 by Augsburg Fortress.
Be in the Word and pray without ceasing!