If you don’t know how to do something, simply read the instructions. We’ve all been told that many. Probably too many times. Yet for some reason we never do. The same is true of our prayer lives. A friend of mind who worked in a Christian themed retail store once told me of her distress over the fact that more people bought commentaries on the bible than actually read the bible itself. As a writer, that’s good for business. But as a ministry leader, that is disheartening. We do not take advantage of the fact that we have God’s Word accessible to us. It is available in several different mediums and versions. Perhaps it is appropriate for me to write this on Reformation Day as I reflect on the fact that not so long ago only clergy had access to the Word. It could not be challenged because they were the authority, they were the learn-ed ones! Take a moment and thank God for those like John Hus and Martin Luther who fought to give us a Bible we could understand in our own language. And it is on the anniversary of Luther nailing his famous debate (95 Theses) to the door at the church in Wittenburg, that I am reflecting on his same letter to his barber. From the pulpit Luther had stressed the importance of prayer. Jesus commanded, and Paul echoed for us to never cease when praying.
Luther’s barber accepted his challenge but admitted that he did not know how to pray. Luther’s famous reply (letter) to him is the book we now know as A Simple Way to Pray. It is a very light read, and a strong weapon for arming ourselves with Prayer. Luther’s approach to prayer is quite simple. The four steps include Instruction, Thanksgiving, Confession, and Prayer. Luther takes the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed (which admittedly is not Scripture but still good for meditating on God’s Word), meditating on one line then following his four step form.
The small volume is very Luther rich. By that I mean it can be a bit wordy, crass in a spot or two, and emphasizes above all justification (or made right in the eyes of God) by faith. Prayer, like salvation, is a gift bestowed on us by God. To not accept it is to turn our backs on God. Like Luther’s barber, if we object by saying we don’t know how, then Luther notes just spend time with Him. As he finishes one section, Luther lets on, if you have time or feel the need to go on, then go on. I am not sure if Luther sees talking to the Father in the relationship style that is so common in today’s liturgy, but he definitely believes that the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be in prayer. Prayer, according to Luther, need not be long but rather “fervent and often.”