Notes and quotes from A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer by Dr Archie Parrish.
1. When we get on our knees, we are all simple men. As simple people, we need a simple way to pray.
2. Martin Luther’s little book to his barber ‘Master Peter’ is a great tool to teach people how to pray.
3. “A study of Luther’s prayer reveals a childlike simplicity and love for God blended with streams of joyful trust and surrender to Him. He simply, fervently expresses the needs of his heart and conscience. He earnestly cries out to God for comfort, help and grace.”
4. When a Christian prays “Dear Father, Your will be done”, God responds “Dear child, yes, it shall be done in spite of the devil and the whole world.”
5. After warming his heart by reading a psalm or two, Luther’s method for prayer involved praying through the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments and Apostle’s Creed.
6. “Take care not to undertake… so much that one becomes weary in spirit.”
7. Luther’s method was based on the structure and content of his Smaller Catechism. His practice of praying these foundation truths enabled him to connect doctrine and devotion like inhaling and exhaling.
8. Luther saw coming to God in prayer as a beggar “who opens wide his cloak in order to receive much.”
9. Bolster the presenting of your desires to God with particulars. “The petitioner should give motives for his reason; he should seek by every indication and argument to move God to fulfil his wish.”
10. “When I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little Psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Lord’s Prayer, Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.”
11. When your heart has been warmed kneel or stand with your hands folded and your eyes toward heaven and speak or think as briefly as you can: “O heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to raise my eyes or hands toward You or to pray. But because You have commanded us all to pray and have promised to hear us and through Your dear Son, Jesus Christ, have taught us both how and what to pray, I come to You in obedience to Your Word, trusting in Your gracious promises. I pray in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ together with all Your saints and Christians on earth as He has taught us.” Then pray through the Lord’s Prayer.
12. “To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill.”
13. After praying through the Lord’s Prayer, Luther would pray through the Ten Commandments. “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 demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”
14. The Ten Commandments in their fourfold aspect, as a school text, songbook, penitential book, and prayer book, are intended to help the heart come to itself and grow zealous in prayer.
15. For those who have more time after praying through the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments, Luther recommends praying through the Apostle’s Creed, making it into a garland of four strands like with the 10 commandments.
16. You must always speak the amen firmly. Never doubt that God in His mercy will surely hear you and say yes to your prayer.
17. “A Christian has prayed abundantly who has rightly prayed the Lord’s Prayer.”
18. “Whoever begins to pray the Psalter earnestly and regularly will soon take leave of those other light and personal little devotional prayers.”
19. We need to pray not what we feel like praying, but what God wants us to pray. God wants us to pray as Jesus did, that His will be done, not our will.
20. “Our dear Lord, who has given to us and taught us to pray the Psalter and the Lord’s Prayer, grant to us also the spirit of prayer and of grace so that we pray with enthusiasm and earnest faith, properly and without ceasing, for we need to do this; he has asked for it and therefore wants to have it from us. To him be praise, honour, and thanksgiving. Amen.” (Luther, foreword to the Neuburg edition of the Psalter)
21. Luther recognised the importance of prayer with other believers, but he built his daily schedule around his time alone with the Lord.
22. If solitude means getting away from the busyness around us, silence is stilling the busyness within us.
23. If your prayer would echo God’s voice speaking to your heart, then you must listen to Him through His Word before you speak in prayer.
24. We bring all kinds of prayers to our Almighty God, knowing that He hears us and will answer when we pray.
Awareness of God’s greatness stimulates us to adoration, praising Him in prayer.
Realisation of God’s righteousness reveals our sinfulness and moves us to confession.
Recognising God’s justice reveals the undeniable guilt of the human race and the necessity of divine punishment which leads believers to lamentation, expressing sorrow.
Consciousness of God’s grace and goodness inspires us to thanksgiving, thanking Him for what He has done.
Knowledge of God’s mighty power and of specific human need stirs us to supplication, coming to God with our requests.
When requests are for our own needs, we come to God with petition.
When requests are for the needs of others, we come to God in intercession.
25. Martin Luther’s passion for prayer grew out of his passion for God.