Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.
Do you struggle with prayer? Do you struggle with finding the right words, or knowing what to pray for? One thing I have learned as a pastor and chaplain is that most of us do struggle with prayer. But a person who has helped me with prayer is Martin Luther in his little booklet, A Simple Way to Pray. I share with you his simple way, hoping it might help you too.
This simple way to pray goes back to a day in 1535 when Luther sat in his barber’s chair. His barber, Peter Beskendorf, had seen the power of Luther’s prayer life, such that one day he asked Luther how to pray. Luther sprang from the barber chair and set about writing a little booklet on how he prayed! In a few days Luther returned excitedly to his barber with his little booklet. The booklet proved so helpful to the barber, his other customers, and other citizens of Wittenberg, that the booklet went through four editions in just the first year.
In A Simple Way to Pray, Luther roots prayer in God’s Word. Luther thought of prayer as simply a conversation that God begins by speaking to us in the Bible; then, we respond by talking to God. Luther called this way to pray “a garland of four twisted strands” that we lovingly present to our heavenly Father. Each of the four twisted strands comes from a question in response to what God says to us in the Bible. These four strands, or questions, are:
- What INSTRUCTION is there in God’s Word for me?
- What cause for THANKSGIVING is there?
- What CONFESSION of sin is called for?
- What PETITION is appropriate from what I read?
Our answers to these four questions raised to us in God’s Word are woven into a prayer garland we present to God. Luther illustrated weaving those four prayer strands from the first of the first of the Ten Commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). For example, taking the first of the Ten Commandments:
THE FIRST STRAND – INSTRUCTION
“Here I earnestly consider that God expects and teaches me to trust him sincerely in all things and that it is his most earnest purpose to be my God…”
THE SECOND STRAND – THANKSGIVING
Second, I give thanks for his infinite compassion by which he has come to me in such a fatherly way and, unasked, unbidden, and unmerited, has offered to be my God, to care for me, and to be my comfort, guardian, help, and strength in every time of need…”
THE THIRD STRAND – CONFESSION
“Third, I confess and acknowledge my great sin”… of having other gods…
THE FOURTH STRAND – PRAYER
Fourth, I pray and say: “O my God and Lord, help me by thy grace to learn and understand thy commandments more fully every day and to live by them in sincere confidence…”
Luther tells his barber that “just like a good and attentive barber keeps his thoughts, attention, and eyes on the razor and hair” so he needs to keep his thoughts and attention on God’s Word as he talks to God in prayer.
Some good ideas, I think. They have helped me as I pray! I hope they help you! Why not try your own garland or prayer today! It is a simple way to pray.
A fellow traveler,