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Archive for June 17th, 2014

At a pastors’ meeting, a district official was there who espouses, “listening prayer” and generally, it seems, prayer of a more evangelical bent.  Then another pastor lamented that his congregation after some sort of congregational renewal emphasis,  with an evangelical bent,that his congregation just does not want to pray.

Maybe the problem is the way the Bible, that is the Lord’s Word, the Lord  defines, describes and invites us to pray which is not the same as prayer is understood these days in Christianity.

As a vicar, now quite a few years ago, Karen,  president  of the women’s group asked me lead their next session on prayer.  I remember being quite embarrassed by the fact I could not admit then and there:  I don’t pray. Sure, I prayed on Sundays during the service, but the rest of the week, no I did not pray. Why?

I understood prayer as informed by television preachers and television evangelicals:  always spontaneous and from the heart.  Since those prayers were not issuing forth from my heart, I suppose I concluded that my heart is empty and that I am not a good Christian or worse, not a Christian like the folks you see and hear praying at the squeeze of the hand in a prayer circle. It was the height of ‘born againism’ and the charismatic movement,  even in Lutheran churches.  If this type of praying is still being pushed so enthusiastically, then no wonder so many don’t want to pray because they are not as  good s those ‘spiritual’ people.  I wonder how many times when Jesus’  fellow Jews saw and heard the quite public prayers of the Pharisees, they thought they were not good (see the Lord’s parable, the Pharisee and the Tax Collector!  Luke 18: 9-14; and Matthew 6:4–6!) And I was right:  my heart is empty, in and of itself, and I am not a good Christian.  The last place to pray out of is out of  the heart, as “…every intention of the thoughts of (man’s) heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  as the Lord correctly judged men’s hearts before the deluge.     After the deluge, Jesus taught it is what comes of the heart is what defiles a man and it’s grim (see St. Matthew 15:18-20!)

Literally in the backyard of the Church, under our noses, all the while, is the way to pray:  the Daily Prayer Offices of the Church, that is, Matins, Vespers, Compline, Suffrages.  We don’t need to invent prayers or even buy prayer books per se, there is the worship book and within it as the Bible the Psalms.  We pray out of God’s Word, the Bible.  Yes, I pray out of my need to the Lord but as He commands and invites us to pray.

  1.  First,  He commands us to pray in the second commandment, You shall not the Name of the Lord your God in vain.  Luther’s teaching on the commandment in Small Catechism:  “We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.” (emphasis my own).  We call upon the Name of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit daily.
  2. Second,  the Lord teaches us to pray, as Jesus was asked by His disciples to teach them to pray, He taught them the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer.  And the longest book in the Bible is Psalms! All prayers!
  3. Third, the Holy Spirit inspires our prayer:   St. Paul admitted, we don’t pray as we ought but the Holy Spirit helps us as He intercedes for the Saints, even in our sighs,  see Romans 8:25-27!

Only in Christ, the Word made flesh is heart made anew. The Lord commands, teaches and inspires prayer through His Word, the Bible.  Still we do not pray out of the heart alone but out of God’s Word.

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