A Simple Way to Pray By Martin Luther

Early in the year 1535, Peter Beskendorf, a barber and an old friend of Luther’s, asked Dr. Luther for suggestions concerning prayer. Luther responded with an open letter titled, How One Should Pray, for Master Peter the Barber. This letter fills the following pages. Luther’s instructions for prayer can be boiled down to this: pray the catechism. It has been said that the Small Catechism is the only catechism in the world that can be prayed, and this is exactly what Luther intends. The catechism is not just an instruction book, but, as Luther says of the Ten Commandments, a “school text, song book, penitential book, and prayer book.”

By this Luther would sink the words of the Catechism into both our minds and hearts that the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle’s Creed would
always be on our lips whenever we talk to God or to our neighbor. The parts of the catechism mold the way we think and act and speak and pray. Luther gives advice and instruction for taking up each petition of the Lord’s Prayer and expanding them. He shows how the Ten Commandments can be woven into a garland of four strands of teaching, thanksgiving, confession and petition. The three articles of the creed are woven into the same beautiful strand. For Luther, prayer is bound to meditation on the Lord’s Word. Studying and meditating on the Scriptures turns into prayer, and prayer likewise leads us back to the Scriptures where to Lord refreshes us with His gifts of life, salvation and the forgiveness of all our sins. The Lord speaks to us in His Word, and we respond, speaking to Him our thanks and making known our requests.

May this letter of Luther, written almost 500 years ago, encourage us to take up the catechism and pray, asking God as dear children ask their dear Father for all that we need.

Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, Colorado, USA
Second Week after Trinity Sunday, 2006

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