Monday, July 27, 2009

How to Pray


Luther wrote a wonderful letter to Peter the Barber. Peter had asked Luther how one was to pray. And Luther sent him a response. This letter was sent early in the year 1535.

The most basic way to pray Luther says is to go to the Lord in humility knowing that you are a sinner, but that it is the Lord's command that you do pray. Then, use the Lord's Prayer as a template for all other prayers. Pray on each petition and expand as you see fit. Then perhaps a prayer with the Ten Commandments, and then parts of the Apostles Creed. Pray as is needed.

Luther thought the Lord's Prayer is the best of all prayers, even superior to the psalter. And Luther really loved the psalter.

So when you pray pray the Lord's Prayer and then delve into the petitions. Or pray the Ten commandments, or the Creed. And if you need help, grab your catechism and use it as a guide.

If you are not used to praying like this, it will take some getting used to. But, it is worth it. Pray in this way, and you ground your prayers on the Word of the Lord. This, I have found, is a good way to learn how to pray.

+Kyrie Eleison

3 comments:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Too often we worry about the quality of our prayers - as though our God were some pagan god who needed to be impressed by our wordsmithing or conviction, rather than the God who takes on Human Flesh and dies so that we might be forgiven.

But it is good to remember that prayer anxiety has been a constant throughout the ages of the Church - not just a new-fangled problem.

Jay Hobson said...

Hmm, yeah that is a good point that prayer anxiety has always been a problem. Which should have been obvious to me if I just wrote a post on the 16th century. I'm going to see if I can find any references on how-to-pray from earlier church history... that might be fun to look at.

Sean said...

i couldn't help but notice that in your little graphic , the word "Pat[t]erN" appears.... between the catechism and the psalms we have a tremendous "pattern of sound words". As your blog posts end, the kyrie is a biblical prayer to follow also! Beyond that we have the collects and hymns of course. Beyond even that there are certainly ex corde prayers which are also heard.

But there's something to going back further, to following a pattern of sound words that helps us... rather than simply praying spontaneously (which often means rather clumsily). It's certainly what Bonhoeffer says in "Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible" (in which he follows Luther's example of matching the psalms up with petitions of the Lord's Prayer):

"The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart."