Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Martin Luther was one man who knew how to pray. I read Dr. Archie Parrish's book yesterday entitled A Simple Way to Pray: Life and Wisdom of Luther for Today. It was a very simple read, yet a very convicting, encouraging and challenging one. When I finished the book, I had a greater passion for prayer and for communion with God than I did beforehand.

I would like to highlight just a few parts of the first section of the book for you in hopes that you may find great encouragement and lasting joy in your prayer life with the Living God.

Frederick Hieler declares of Luther, "After Jeremiah, Jesus, and Paul, the German reformer is indeed the most powerful among the eminent men who had a genius for prayer" (15). Did you know that historical records show that Luther prayed for four hours each day?

Helmut Thieliche wrote, "Luther prayed this much, not despite his busy life, but because only so he could accomplish his gigantic labors...to work without praying and without listening means only to grow and spread oneself upward, without striking roots and without creating an equivalent in the earth. A person who works this way is living unnaturally" (15).

Pastors must also be men of prayer. They must prove to be examples for all their flock to follow (1 Tim 4:12; Titus 1:6-9). Pastors must be people of high spiritual and moral character so that when they multiply after their kind, they will be the kind that should be multiplied. Godly pastors produce Godly followers! Martin Luther is this kind of example for us to follow.

On July 17, 1505, Luther entered the Augustinian monastery at Erfurt. As far as Luther knew, he was conforming to the Roman Church's teachings. Namely, that "those who desire to develop lives of holiness should enter monasteries or convents to escape from the wicked world through contemplative prayer. This was the life that Luther would undertake" (20).

It was during these years that Luther - with dauntless courage - almost entirely alone opposed the power structure of the Roman Church. It was on April 17, 1521 - 4 years after the 95 Thesis were nailed to the door at Wittenburg - the archbishop of Treves asked him two questions:

1- Would he acknowledge these books that were laid upon a bench before him to be his productions?

2 - Would he recant the opinions contained in them?

Luther answered yes to the first question and then before answering the second, he asked if he could have just one day to consider his answer.

It was that night he went home and prayed this prayer:

The bell has been already cast,
judgment has been pronounced.
Ah God, ah God, O YOU must do it, You alone!
The matter is not mine, it is yours. O God, do you not hear?
MY God, art Thou dead?

No, You cannot die; You only hide yourself.
Stand by me. Lord, where do you tarry?
Where art You, O my God?
Come, Come!

I am ready, even to forsake my life for this, submissive as a lamb, for righteous is this cause which is Yours.
And should my body perish for this cause, should it fall to the ground, yea, be broken to fragments, yet your Word and your Spirit are enough.
And all this can happen only to the body; the soul is Yours and belongs to You and will remain forever with you (p.22).

It was that night that Luther after praying turned his heart to pray through and meditate on Psalm 46:

Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; 3 Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah..."Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Then after meditating on this Psalm, still that very same night, Luther wrote:

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.


2. Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.


3. And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.


4. That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.


Then, the very next day Luther - on April 18 - appeared before the council and the question was repeated, "Will you recant these writings?" Luther replied: "I cannot unless I am convinced of error from Scripture and reason...Here I stand: I can do no more: God help me. Amen" (p.26).

In sum, "Through his private struggles in prayer at Worms, Luther received from the Lord unshakable strength, assurance, and confidence so that he was able to defy a world of enemies. God used this man of prayer to begin a great Reformation, a new era in the history of Christianity" (p.27).

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