Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Prayer and the Barber, part 1

Prayer and the Barber, part 1

Prayer is hard.  It is an activity that doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  That is one reason why it is good to seek out other Christians and have discussions on prayer so that we can learn from one another.  Nearly 500 years ago a barber took the opportunity to ask his most famous client, Martin Luther, “How do you pray?”

Martin Luther responded in 1535 with a letter titled A Simple Way to Pray, for Master Peter the Barber.  This letter contains some wonderful insights on the practice of prayer that are worth reviewing for a couple of posts.

Here is how the letter begins:

“I will tell you as best I can what I personally do 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…”

That is a great place to stop because it provides a great insight: even Martin Luther had difficulty praying!  I realize that it probably isn’t right to find comfort in the weakness of others, but it makes me feel so much more normal to realize that I’m in good company when it comes to struggling with prayer.  To state it again, prayer is difficult!

One of the first pieces of advice Luther gives is to give prayer a place of preeminence in our lives:

“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 that day…

“We must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind.  Thus at the end we become 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.”

To simplify Luther’s words: be intentional about prayer by making it the first thing we do every day.

It took me until 2009 to realize this point.  Although I had acknowledged the need for prayer, I had always rationalized that it DIDN’T have to be the first thing in the morning.  After all, I’m not a morning person and we should go to prayer at a time when we can really focus on God, right?  There is some truth in that statement.  However, in my reality, I never really got around to praying.  Maybe a little here and a little there, but nothing substantial that was making a difference in my relationship with God.  I’ve discovered that, for me, a devoted time in the morning is essential because once the day gets moving, I just can’t stop it to pray as I should.

So here is the accountability question of the day: do you have a regular, daily encounter with God in prayer?  I’m not asking when or where, just if it is a daily time specifically dedicated to relating to God in prayer.  If not, a sacrifice needs to be made.  Prayer is that important.

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