Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Theology and Practice of Prayer: A Lutheran View

I just this morning finished this great report put out by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR). I'd like to share a bit with you, so you might want to read it for yourself...

Prayer is a universal thing, so how is Christian prayer different from all other prayers?
"It is impossible," [Luther] says, "for a conscience to expect anything from God unless it first gains the conviction that God is gracious for Christ's sake."

It should also be pointed out that prayer is NOT a "means of grace" - it does NOT grant salvation, but flows from it.
However fervent or sincere [prayers to any but the One True Triune God] may be... prayers to other so-called "gods" or spiritual intermediaries (including angels) are misdirected and are forbidden by God in his Word.
Exaggerated claims by those who suggest that they have a special "pipeline to God" which gives their prayers a unique power to work miracles are misplaced at best and arrogant at worst.
Prayer, then, is a solemn and joyous act of worship flowing from true faith in and gratitude for the gift of God's Son, Jesus Christ.

Why bother to pray when God already knows what I need?
It flows from faith in the One True God - as Luther put it, it's like asking, "What is the purpose of breathing?" or "Why should I allow my heart to beat?"
Exploring The Lord's Prayer, without the Lord who came to reconcile us to the Father, there would be no such prayer, no possibility of addressing God as "Our Father," nor could we ever pray, "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us," without the manger, the cross, and the open tomb of the only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we think that we are too unworthy to approach the Righteous Judge of all mankind. If we were like the Apostles, then, maybe we could. "Away with such thoughts!" says Luther. The command to pray is for ALL Christians, including you and I.

Why is God interested in hearing and receiving our prayers in the first place?
Even after the Fall into sin, God has ever actively sought (and continues to seek) us out toward the goal of delighting in our presence, fellowship, and praise.

Does prayer really matter? Is God there? Are my pathetic needs important to an eternal God?
Prayer becomes foolish to the skeptical. It seems contrary to our natural pragmatism which constantly says, "Do something!" and sees prayer as just another form of dithering. Yet prayer moves God's heart.

How do Christians pray?
Pray the Psalms, as Jesus Himself did.
Pray the Lord's Prayer, not as from rote memory, but with conscious intent - Luther states that "The Lord's Prayer is the gospel turned into prayer." He says we should say this prayer with "your heart... stirred and guided concerning the thoughts which ought to be comprehended in the Lord's Prayer."
Sometimes we get absorbed with the disasters and corruption in the world and think that it is somehow all God's fault. The emphasis in prayer should be, instead, that we are to pray for God's saving work of redemption and sanctification to continue in us. It is, for Christians, like Psalm 40: "I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart," though "evils have encompassed me."
Christian "spirituality" is not disembodied, nor does it neglect physical creation. Christian spirituality is anchored in creation. Asking for "our daily bread" is very earthly. The God of highest heaven is not above lowly bread. This [Fourth] petition wars against both anxiety and avarice.
Table prayers are spiritual weapons!
In the Fifth Petition of the Lord's Prayer, Luther reminds us that "forgive us... as we forgive" is corporate, including the one who gravely wounded me. It is impossible to pray this without a foundation in the love of God in Christ Jesus, who intercedes for us, His Holy Spirit strengthening, and even praying for, us.

Why do we struggle in this life? Why are their disasters, wars, temptations to sin?
It will be the Father's purpose at times to bring Jesus' disciples into confrontation and conflict with Satan and his temptations, the God who, when we have been chastened, we cast ourselves on His mercy.
"Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" are to be considered together, not separately.
Accept with simplicity Christ's invitation to cry out for help in the face of a life where evil of one kind or another is never absent, because there is no one, no time, no place exempt from the evil one and his power.
Christ and Christ alone, is the good who overcomes evil and so is our courage and confidence. He who did no evil has overcome it for us!

See what insights YOU get from this little booklet!

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