Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Learning to Pray . . . .
When one of my daughters was an infant, her older sister was very concerned about how people would view this new addition to our family if they discovered that she could not talk. In order to hide this grim fact, she would tell people “she can talk.” Dawn and I explained to her that her younger sister would indeed learn to talk in the coming year or so and that all babies begin life without a command of a language. Over the next few months, we continued to reassure her that her sister would learn to speak – and perhaps she would speak English like us.
Have you ever considered the process whereby you learned to speak? God’s plan for our usage of language is for us to learn to speak by repeating words after others. This is why so many people have found it easier to become fluent in a second language by immersing themselves in a culture where it is spoken, over against traditional classroom instruction. In the Psalms and prayers of the Old and New Testaments, God gives us a language of prayer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in Prayerbook of the Bible) wrote that when we pray the Psalms or the Lord’s Prayer, we are speaking God’s words back to Him, in such a way that we are being taught how to pray. If we desire to pray in accordance with God’s Will for our lives, we can do no better than to pray the prayers of Scripture. In this way, God is giving us the words that are formed upon our lips and prayed back to Him. Of course, the intimacy of relationship in which God has set us carries an invitation for us to communicate to Him the very things which are on our hearts. This is where many Christians and would-be Christians often feel “stuck.” It is nothing to feel embarrassed about, but many people feel that they do not know how to pray – and so they don’t.
The Church has a responsibility for teaching God’s Christians how to pray. While there are many things which I might say in way of introduction, I want instead to encourage you to learn from Dr. Luther – who was, himself, a man of prayer. In the early years of his ministry, Luther was asked by his barber to provide some instruction to him on how to pray. Luther was a scholar with the heart of a pastor, and so he penned a response, which later became the popular booklet “A Simple Way to Pray.” While this wonderful booklet is available in many formats from various booksellers, you may download it free-of-charge (or read it online) at: http://www.se.lcms.org/uploads/simple_way_pray_luther.pdf. If you do not have internet access, but would like a copy - please let me know and I will get one for you.
In Christ Jesus,