Luther's Prayers The Lord’s Prayer is perhaps the most recited prayer in all human history. Many churches recite it every week in their liturgy. Catechisms often devote a question and answer to each line of the prayer. Pastors preach sermon series on it. And countless families and individual Christians pray it regularly, even daily.

Martin Luther captures both the benefit of regularly feasting on the Lord’s Prayer and the danger of repeating it with a disengaged spirit:

To this day I suckle at the Lord’s Prayer like a child, and as an old man eat and drink from it and never get my fill. It is the very best prayer, even better than the psalter, which is so very dear to me. It is surely evident that a real master composed and taught it. What a great pity that the prayer of such a master is prattled and chattered so irreverently all over the world! How many pray the Lord’s Prayer several thousand times in the course of a year, and if they were to keep on doing so for a thousand years they would not have tasted nor prayed one iota, one dot, of it! In a word, the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest martyr on earth (as are the name and word of God). Everybody tortures and abuses it; few take comfort and joy in its proper use.[1]

Luther expounds on how to pray the Lord’s Prayer to one’s benefit in a letter of instructions to his barber, Peter, who had asked him how the ordinary person should pray to God. Those instructions can be read in Luther’s Prayers, and an illustrated children’s version is also available. As a taste of his heart-oriented approach, Luther writes,

You should know that I do not want you to recite all these words in your prayer. That would make it nothing but idle chatter and pratter. Rather do I want your heart to be stirred and guided concerning the thoughts which ought to be comprehended in the Lord’s Prayer. These thoughts may be expressed, if your heart is rightly warmed and inclined toward prayer, in many different ways and with more words or fewer.[2]

 

 


[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Prayers, ed. Herbert F. Brokering (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1994), 50.

[2] Luther, Luther’s Prayers, 48.

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