November 23, 2017

Reformation 500: Luther’s Prayers

Some Prayers of Martin Luther

One of Martin Luther’s tasks in reforming the church and raising the level of faith among the people was helping them learn to pray. For example, in his greatest work, The Small Catechism, he encouraged families to have morning and evening prayers together.

How the head of the family should teach his household to pray morning and evening

Morning Prayer.

1] In the morning, when you rise, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

2] Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray Thee to keep me this day also from sin and all evil, that all my doings and life may please Thee. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

3] Then go to your work with joy, singing a hymn, as the Ten Commandments, or what your devotion may suggest.

Evening Prayer.

4] In the evening, when you go to bed, you shall bless yourself with the holy cross and say:

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

5] Then, kneeling or standing, repeat the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. If you choose, you may, in addition, say this little prayer:

I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast graciously kept me this day, and I pray Thee to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. For into Thy hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Thy holy angel be with me, that the Wicked Foe may have no power over me. Amen.

Then go to sleep promptly and cheerfully.

Here are some other prayers of Luther for various occasions. I chose some that I find particularly instructive and insightful, and hope that they might prove useful for our iMonk community. These are taken from a collection called Luther’s Prayers, edited by Herbert F. Brokering.

• • •

Prayer Before the Sermon

Eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, give us your Holy Spirit who writes the preached Word into our hearts. May we receive and believe it and be cheered and comforted by it in eternity. Glorify your Word in our hearts and make it so bright and warm that we may find pleasure in it, through your Holy Spirit think what is right, and by your power fulfill the Word, for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.

Prayer After the Sermon

Dear Lord Christ, you have enlightened my heart with your truth. Grant me your Spirit and the power to do and not to do whatever pleases your gracious will. Amen.

A Prayer for Strengthened Faith

Almighty God, through the death of your Son you have destroyed sin and death. Through his resurrection you have restored innocence and eternal life. We who are delivered from the power of the devil may live in your kingdom. Give us grace that we may believe this with our whole heart. Enable us, always, to steadfastly praise and thank you in this faith, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer After Communion

We thank you, almighty Lord God, that you have refreshed us with this precious gift, and we ask for your mercy that you would let it nurture in us strong faith toward you and intensive love among us all, through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer for Lasting Peace

Dear God, give us peaceful hearts and a right courage in the confusion and strife against the devil. And so may we not only endure and finally triumph, but also have peace in the midst of the struggle. May we praise and thank you and not complain or become impatient against your divine will. Let peace win the victory in our hearts, that we may never through impatience initiate anything against you, our God, or our neighbors. May we remain quiet and peaceable toward God and toward other people, both inwardly and outwardly, until the final and eternal peace shall come. Amen.

A Pastor’s Prayer for Guidance

Dear heavenly Father, say something. I will gladly remain silent and be a child and learner. If I should rule the church with my own knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, I would have been sunk long ago. Therefore, dear God, you guide and direct it. I will gladly forsake my point of view and understanding and let you rule alone through your Word. Amen.

A Prayer for Relief from Misery

Lord, misery and misfortune annoy me and oppress me. I long to be rid of them. You have said, Ask and it will be given you. So I come and ask. Amen.

A Prayer for Love toward Others

Dear Father in heaven, for the sake of your dear Son Jesus Christ grant us your Holy Spirit, that we may be true learners of Christ, and therefore acquire a heart with a never-ceasing fountain of love. Amen.

Comments

  1. “I thank Thee, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast …” I

    find it kind of ironic that for someone who translated the Bible into the common vernacular, we are given translations of his prayers into an antiquated English.

    P.S. I have had a long hard day. So pardon my snipe.

    • Steve Newell says:

      How often do we pray the King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer? Why because that is a common prayer we all have learned even though some may choose NIV, ESV, KJV, etc for their own bible translation.

    • I know what you’re saying, Mike. I’d say 2 things in response: (1) this is an older book, so the language is too, (2) Luther prayed in the 1500s, so rendering them in older English seems fitting to me. Still, I find them rather conversational and not as formal as, say, The Book of Common Prayer.

      • Michael Bell says:

        I was picking on one particular one. But I agree with your conversational comment.

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        I used to get all blazey about this, but I find antiquated language quite suitable for liturgics. There has to be a reason why initiatives to redo the Divine Liturgy in modern Greek and Russian rather than koine Greek and Old Church Slavonic keep failing.

        For me, the language of the 1952 RSV is pitch perfect for liturgical English.

        • Michael Bell says:

          Which maybe explain part of the reason why I am not very liturgical?

        • I often read from The Showings of Julian of Norwich, in the original Middle English of the late 14th century. The editor cleaned it up a little, more for the orthography I think (it brought the alphabet at least into modern times). Julian’s dialect was more like Modern English than was Chaucer’s, so it’s do-able with a few annotations.

          Lady Julian’s mystical devotion has even more of an other-worldly quality in the older language. But I probably should get a modern translation.

          By the way, I’ve used the 1952 RSV most of my adult life, but I still think it’s pretty clunky. The style of the KJV is better if you can get past the antiquated words. But I wouldn’t recommend the KJV for most people.

  2. Steve Newell says:

    Another thing I like about Luther is both a pastor and a theologian. Luther can provides great insights as a theologian and how to apply the same insights in our daily life. My head hurts when I read Luther’s “The Bondage of the Will” then I read Luther’s Small Catechism and I find great value for my daily life.

    Luther’s prayers are simple yet profound.

    • My favorite is the “Prayer for Relief from Misery.” It’s akin to Peter’s “Help, Lord, we perish!” in the midst of the storm. I love that Luther could teach people in pain to pray such simple, concise prayers and give them assurance that God hears them.

      • Steve Newell says:

        I don’t think you’ll hear this type of prayer at a “prosperity gospel” church. But then again, they don’t handle suffering all to well.

      • Ronald Avra says:

        I count coffee in peace as relief from misery.

  3. Dana Ames says:

    So you Lutherans out there,

    do y’all “bless yourself with the holy cross”(I assume that means “make the sign of the cross over yourself) when you pray? Very curious 😉

    Dana

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      I have seen Lutherans cross themselves, Western style, but only once…
      and never on their home turf.

      They aren’t like Anglicans, where you have a continuum all the way from practically the Plymouth Brethren to practically SSPX.

    • I’m a member of a Lutheran church, though I wouldn’t call myself Lutheran; I cross myself, as do a few others, whenever the Trinity is invoked by name, which is two times in most services. The overwhelming majority of members of our parish do not cross themselves.

      • Steve Newell says:

        Many Lutherans don’t because it’s too “Catholic” when it is acceptable since it is a catholic practice.

        • I was baptized as an infant and catechized as a child in the Roman Catholic Church. I grew up making the sign of the cross as a matter of habit. As an adult Episcopalian, I made the sign less frequently, and now even less than that. I can’t say that it is, or ever was, very meaningful to me. Occasionally I intentionally refrain from making the sign in the places where I usually do; either way, with or without it, things are much the same, or so it seems to me.

  4. Mike, do you think Luther had been reading the Didache before writing these prayers?