A Simple Way to Pray: Less is More
I recently heard another Christian say that Lutherans are not known for their prayer life. This struck me as both odd and sad – for prayer is one of the key foundations of our faith. Lutherans have a deep and rich prayer heritage to draw from. In this day and age, however, many Christians, including Lutherans, are unsure of where to begin in prayer. What does one say? How does one approach the throne of God? Is there a right way to pray? What if one doesn’t know all those fancy church-sounding words? Maybe we’re not as eloquent with words as someone else that we know. Do we just ask for stuff? How do we start? Sometimes, not knowing where to begin prevents us from getting started at all. I have good news! Luther once said “the fewer the words the better the prayer”. Sometimes less really is more. Introverts rejoice!
Prayer challenges are nothing new. In 1535, a barber named Peter Beskendorf asked Martin Luther to teach him how to pray. In response Luther wrote an open letter which has since been named “A Simple Way to Pray”. It is a short and wonderful read. You can find a free printable copy here: http://www.lbdsoftware.com/A%20Simple%20Way%20to%20Pray%20-%20Martin%20Luther.pdf.
In short, what Luther recommended in this letter is that we pray a “garland” or a “braided” prayer. This type of prayer happens when you use a base prayer, scripture, or article of faith, and pray through it in a way that is relevant to your circumstances. For example, you might take the Lord’s Prayer and, rather than simply reciting the Lord’s Prayer, you can take each petition, think about it and pray through it. You can pray through the whole prayer each day, or pray on just one petition.
The first petition is “Our Father in heaven, hallowed by the name”. To use this as a base for your prayer, you could focus on God’s holiness, ask Him to help you recognize that He is holy, that God is God and you are not. You might pray that your family would come to recognize that God is holy, or that your neighbors would, or your community, etc. You might ask God to help you to live in a way that reflects God’s holiness so that others may come to know Him. These are just a few basic ideas. When your prayer on that petition is complete, you can move on to the next petition.
This garland or braided prayer concept can also be used to pray through the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and other sections of Scripture. The Small Catechism, which is available as a free app for both iPhone and Android, as well as in print versions, is a great tool to aid in your prayer life. Not only will you find the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed, but Scripture verses and explanations are presented that can be a wonderful addition to your prayer life.
If you click on the link above and read it, you will find that Luther gave examples for each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Creed. If you really don’t know where to start, you can simply read his prayers. It’s perfectly acceptable to echo someone else’s prayer, for we are all part of the same body in Christ. This move is nice and simple! When you feel ready, you can continue to look at each petition, and then branch out into your own prayers as you weave your own thoughts with God’s Word as your focus. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. He will.
For Luther, prayer was bound to God’s Word. God’s Word should lead and guide our prayers, and our prayers should lead us back to God’s Word. God, through His Word, refreshes, equips, and strengthens us. This too will ultimately be reflected in our prayer life. The Lord speaks to us through His Word and we respond to Him in prayer, right through the very Word He gave us. It is a most beautiful relationship between our Father, who has adopted us and lavishly given us His gifts, through the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus. If you’ve been unsure of where to begin, or if you feel that your prayer life needs a boost, you are invited to discover the riches that await you through this “Simple Way to Pray”. To God be the Glory.