A Simple Way To Pray

Martin Luther wrote a letter to his barber giving him ideas on how to pray. This section of the letter comes right after he explains how to expand on the Lord’s Prayer, which is something I like to do once a week.

I do not bind myself to such words or syllables, but say my prayers in one fashion today, in another tomorrow, depending upon my mood and feeling. I stay however, as nearly as I can, with the same general thoughts and ideas. It may happen occasionally that I may get lost among so many ideas in one petition that I forego the other six. If such an abundance of good thoughts comes to us we ought to disregard the other petitions, make room for such thoughts, listen in silence, and under no circumstances obstruct them. The Holy Spirit himself preaches here, and one word of his sermon is far better than a thousand of our prayers. Many times I have learned more from one prayer than I might have learned from much reading and speculation.

–Martin Luther, A Simple Way to Pray by Martin Luther (PDF File)

This sounds very familiar. What I’ve realized in the last few years is that much of prayer like this, as far as praise especially, and thanks, is actually meditating. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit is involved when we pray. He opens our eyes to new things we hadn’t thought of (John 14:26, Ephesians 1:17) but are still Biblical. I think this is what Luther is saying here.

Although this may sound like it’s bordering on mysticism, God often gives me new ideas of things to praise him for. They are almost always obviously Biblical. If not, careful investigation is important because of how deceitful our hearts can be. This is where we listen, and then meditate on what the Spirit has revealed to us, or just reminded us in a new way. These seemingly small things can be very profound. This is what Luther means by the “Holy Spirit himself preaches”, and is contrasted with mere human “speculation” apart from the Bible. The Spirit helps our prayer life to ‘evolve’ as we learn more about how to pray. We can also imitate Paul’s prayers and pay attention to all of the different aspects of the Psalms.

What I quoted from above is from a PDF file of A Simple Way To Pray, which can be easily read on your computer or smart phone, if you have one. One page a day makes for a good devotional. There is also a tiny book that’s 68 pages long, but as far as I know, it contains the same thing as the PDF file, which is in the public domain. There is also another PDF file with a quote from R.C. Sproul and various items about Luther and prayer. I highly recommend this material.

There are also some very good books on The Lords Prayer that I’m familiar with:

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