Sunday, December 23, 2018

Immersed in the Prayer of the Church. . .

My wife, the daughter of a printer, is my proofreader for most things published (though not for this blog and hence the typos, errors, and grammatical mistakes are ALL mine and mine alone).  In reading through the weekly intercessions before printing, she said the most profound thing to me.  In these prayers, I am included without having to pray for myself at all.  Praying the prayer of the day is praying for me and my own concerns.  I wish I would have said that.

I grew up in the day when extemporaneous prayer was real prayer and praying the prayers of others was praying with training wheels on -- it was not authentic and not real prayer.  As a young pastor I was told many times by many people that my prayers sounded like a book -- a compliment I thought but it was not meant that way at all.  In fact, it was being suggested to me that I really did not know how to pray at all, that even my extemporaneous prayers sounded like they were written by others and not the authentic fruit of my own heart and composition.  For a while I was deeply wounded by this charge.  Then I got over it.

If I were teaching homiletics in seminary, which no one would ever want me to do, I would not let anyone write a sermon until they had spent a year immerse in the preaching of others -- earthly church fathers, medieval preachers, Luther and other Great Reformers, even the American preachers of the Great Awakenings.  But I would also have them read the sermons of many of our great preachers who have published collections or internet sermons to read and hear.  You don't learn preaching by preaching, you learn preaching by hearing sermons preached.  That is where good preaching begins and why I still spend a fair amount of my devotional time reading the sermons of others.

Translate that into prayer.  If I were teaching someone how to pray, I would not let them start with their own prayers but urge them to begin by learning from the great pray-ers of Christian history, reading the collects of Cranmer, and looking at the prayers and petitions which have stood the test of time and appear in prayer books new and old.  Would it be too quaint to suggest that they find themselves a dogeared copy of The Lutheran Hymnal and pray the General Prayer of the Church over and over and over again?  Would it be too obvious to suggest praying Scripture, at least the prayer book of the Psalms?

What my wife stumbled upon is that the Prayer of the Church could easily be the form and outline of the prayers of God's people as they individually pray in their closets and cars, at their breakfast tables and in their beds, and together with family or in solitude.  Because of her comment, I have begun making the Prayer of the Church available in print after each service so that people may take them home and pray them in their own time and place.  Immersed in the Prayer of the Church we are free from the sometimes difficult burden of knowing where to start and what to say.  And hidden in the Prayer of the Church are the prayers and petitions of our own individual needs and wants.  If we let them be. . .

So you will not get a complaint from me if you begin with and stick with the hymnal as your prayer book and the Prayer of the Church as your individual dyptych and if you find help for the desires of your heart to prayer in the sturdy and eloquent prayers great Christian men and women of old have left us -- a rich and living legacy that neither diminishes our own words but provides a prayer when no words come and a school from which we learn to pray. . .


Anonymous said...

May I recommend what may well be the most comprehensive and faithful prayer companion ever published, and now in English translation, for the very first time (unabridged). We blew through the first print run and it is at the printer again. It's absolutely fantastic, featuring prayers from Luther and other confessionally orthodox Lutheran fathers.

You can read more about it and sample it by clicking on this link.

The translation was done by Matthew Carver who did a masterful job bringing these German treasures into good modern English.

The Lutheran Prayer Companion is the first-ever English translation of the German Evangelical-Lutheran Prayer Treasury, featuring prayers written by Luther and other church fathers.

Nearly 500 prayers that cover almost any situation, every Sunday in the Church Year, and each day of the week
Over 100 hymn texts
Beautiful gilded cover
Topical prayer index

When you don’t have the words to pray, when you feel unsure in your prayers, when you are struggling to pray—turn to these prayers rooted deeply in God’s Word. These prayers will certainly enhance your prayer life, draw you closer to your Savior, and inspire your own prayers.

Praise for Lutheran Prayer Companion

“Yet another treasure from our church’s past. . . for our edification in our own day.”
—Rev. Paul J. Grime, PhD, Dean of Spiritual Formation and Dean of the Chapel Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

“The prayers in this volume do not mince words; they confront directly the real situations people face.”
—Rev. Christopher S. Esget, Senior Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA, LCMS Sixth Vice-President

“In our watered-down, superficial age, this resource will help us not only learn how to pray but also give solid meat throughout a person’s life.”
—Rev. Dr. Walter R. Steele, Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Quartz Hill, CA

“How we pray discloses what we believe, and what we believe shapes how we pray. . . . Through this volume, the rich spirituality that shaped our church in years gone by is let loose in our own language.”
—Rev. William Weedon, Director of Worship for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Chaplain of the International Center of the LCMS


Cliff said...

Lutherans on a whole are not very good at spontaneous prayer. Pastor Peters has given us some tips on how to begin our prayers and prayer life. Incorporating the great sermons and collects will add richness and meaning to our prayers. We all need to learn to pray effectively.

John Joseph Flanagan said...

I for one pray the Lord's Prayer daily. In His teachings, Jesus implied we should not merely recite "long winded" prayers like the Pharisees and Jewish priests. I believe prayer should be simple, conversational, sincere, and in Jesus name.

Cliff said...

John, I agree with your comments about simplicity, and sincerity. On the other hand, Jesus prayed daily and some scholars suggest he prayed at least an hour. Martin Luther also prayed fervently for an hour and when things heated up he spent more time in prayer. I believe Luther was the one who suggested we pray the Lord's Prayer five times a day. Long winded is not the same as sincere prayer.

Anonymous said... does one pray "effectively"??