Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Prayer and the Barber, part 3

Prayer and the Barber, part 3

Martin Luther spent much of his prayer-time praying the Scriptures.  I contend that this is a practice we need to learn and incorporate into our prayer lives.  But what does this look like?

Let’s look at how Luther prayed the Ten Commandments.  First, his instruction on how to pray through them:

“If I have had time and opportunity to go through the Lord’s Prayer, I do the same with the Ten Commandments.  I take one part after another and free myself as much as possible from distractions in order to pray.  I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands.  That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly.  Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

Luther then proceeds to pray through each commandment!  I’ll provide only one example, Luther’s prayer over the fifth commandment: You Shall Not Kill.

The Fifth Commandment:  You shall not kill

Here I learn, first of all, that God desires me to love my neighbor, so that I do him no bodily harm, either by word or action, neither injure nor take revenge upon him in anger, vexation, envy, hatred, or for any evil reason, but realize that I am obliged to assist and counsel him in every bodily need. In this commandment God commands me to protect my neighbor’s body and in turn commands my neighbor to protect my own. As Sirach says, “He has committed to each of us his neighbor” [Ecclus. 9:14].

Second, I give thanks for such ineffable love, providence, and faithfulness toward me by which he has placed this mighty shield and wall to protect my physical safety. All are obliged to care for me and protect me, and I, in turn, must behave likewise toward others. He upholds this command and, where it is not observed, he has established the sword as punishment for those who do not live up to it. Were it not for this excellent commandment and ordinance, the devil would instigate such a massacre among men that no one could live in safety for a single hour-as happens when God becomes angry and inflicts punishment upon a disobedient and ungrateful world.

Third, I confess and lament my own wickedness and that of the world, not only that we are so terribly ungrateful for such fatherly love and solicitude toward us-but what is especially scandalous, that we do not acknowledge this commandment and teaching, are unwilling to learn it, and neglect it as though it did not concern us or we had no part in it. We amble along complacently, feel no remorse that in defiance of this commandment we neglect our neighbor, and, yes, we desert him, persecute, injure, or even kill him in our thoughts. We indulge in anger, rage, and villainy as though we were doing a fine and noble thing. Really, it is high time that we started to deplore and bewail how much we have acted like rogues and like unseeing, unruly, and unfeeling persons who kick, scratch, tear, and devour one another like furious beasts and pay no heed to this serious and divine command, etc.

Fourth, I pray the dear Father to lead us to an understanding of this his sacred commandment and to help us keep it and live in accordance with it. May he preserve us from the murderer who is the master of every form of murder and violence. May he grant us his grace that we and all others may treat each other in kindly, gentle, charitable ways, forgiving one another from the heart, bearing each other’s faults and shortcomings in a Christian and brotherly manner, and thus living together in true peace and concord, as the commandment teaches and requires us to do.

(Yes, I realize that for must of us the Fifth Commandment is “honor your father and mother”, but Luther considered “you shall not make for yourself an image” as a part of the First Commandment)

So here is an example of how Luther prays the Bible.  Notice how he allows Scripture to be his guide for thanksgiving, confession, and prayer for empowerment.  Now THAT is letting God speak into our lives.

But more than just prayer, this also challenges how we read the Bible.  So often the Bible is simply a textbook of information that we should memorize.  Yes the Bible contains information and, yes, we should memorize a lot of it.  But notice how Luther views the Ten Commandments:

“These are the Ten Commandments in their fourfold aspect, namely, as a school text, song book, penitential book, and prayer book.  They are intended to help the heart come to itself and grow zealous in prayer.”

Notice that when we bring prayer and the Bible together it changes both how we approach prayer and how we approach the Bible.  Both become much more formative rather than merely informative.  But more on that later…

  1. April 15, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Keep it coming Brian, great stuff. As I have stuggled through seasons of prayer being more discipline than joy, one of the practices that has helped has to go pray through the psalms. When I can’t describe my gratitude and wonder David usually has me covered.

  1. May 3, 2010 at 8:39 am
  2. May 13, 2010 at 8:11 am

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