“Lord, Teach Us to Pray!”

Prayer is a universally-accepted spiritual activity … or at least nearly so. The details may differ based on a person’s religious beliefs or denominational affiliation, but the call to remember disaster victims “in our thoughts and prayers” is received positively. Some may want more than thoughts and prayers, but almost no one DOESN’T want prayer.  

Lutheran Christians have a wonderfully robust and helpful theology of prayer built very much on Martin Luther’s instruction on the Lord’s Prayer in his Small Catechism. Consider the following: 

1. Luther begins not with what God’s people need but, rather, with the nature of the one to whom we pray. “(With the words ‘Our Father…) God tenderly invites us to believe that God is our true Father and that we are God’s true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask God as dear children ask their dear father.”

In other words, our prayer focuses first on who GOD is … our Father … and then who WE are … God’s dear children. Only then does Luther begin to contemplate either what we need or desire.

One alternative is to speak about prayer either as an obligation or as a means to get from God what we want or need.

2. He continues to observe that God, in many ways, does not require our prayer. God’s name is kept holy, God’s kingdom comes, God’s will is done, and daily bread is given, Luther observes, all without our prayer.

This must not stand separate from Luther’s first observation concerning God as our “true Father.” More than anything else, loving fathers want to love their children. More than anything else, this means receiving their children’s questions, requests, and other expressions of love.

Our prayer, then, is as much a reflection of God’s love for us and our love for God. We do not pray SO THAT God will grant our request. We pray BECAUSE GOD HAS already accomplished everything for us.

We are commanded to pray “in the name of Jesus.” But this is no magic formula or just the final step in a properly structured prayer.  “In the name of Jesus,” rather, is the whole summary of our prayer because it fixes our gaze on God.

Peace and joy,