[this will be in installments since is quite long.]
A Simple Way to Pray
Early in the year 1535, Peter Beskendorf, a barber and an old friend of Luther's asked Dr. Luther for suggestions concerning prayer. Luther responded with an open letter titled, "How One Should Pray, for Master Peter the barber. This letter fills the following pages.
Luther's instructions for prayer can be boiled down to this: pray the catechism. It has been said that the Small Catechism is the only catechism in the world that can be prayed, and this is exactly what Luther intends. The catechism is not just an instruction book, but as Luther says of the Ten Commandments, a "school text, song book, penitential book, and prayer book.
By this Luther would sink the words of the Catechism into both our minds and hearts, that the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostle's Creed would always be on our lips whenever we talk to God or to our neighbor. The parts of the catechism mold the way we think and act and speak and pray.
Luther gives advice and instruction for taking up each petition of the Lord's Prayer and expanding them. He shows how the Ten Commandments can be woven into a garland of four strands of teaching, thanksgiving, confession and petition. The three articles of the creed are woven into the same beautiful strand. For Luther, prayer is bound to meditation on the Lord's Word. Studying and meditating on the Scriptures where to Lord refreshes us with His gifts of life, salvation and the forgiveness of all our sins. The Lord speaks to us in His Word, and we respond, speaking to Him our thanks and making known our requests.
May this letter of Luther, written almost 500 years ago, encourage us to pray, asking God as dear children ask their dear Father for all that we need.
A Simple Way to Pray
I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen
First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.
It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, "Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour, first I must attend to this or that." Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.
It may well be that you may have some tasks which areas good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer and a proverb. "He who works faithfully prays twice." This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise.
On the other hand it is also true that the work of an unbeliever is outright cursing and so he who works faithlessly curses twice. While he does his work his thought are occupied with a neglect of God and violation of his law, how to take advantage of his neighbor,how to steal from him and defraud him. What else can such thoughts be but out and out curses against God and man, which makes one's work and effort a double curse by which a man curses himself. In the end they are beggars and bunglers. It is of such continual prayer that Christ says in Luke 11, "Pray without ceasing," because one must unceasingly guard against sin and wrong-doing, something one cannot do unless one fears God and keeps his commandment in mind, as Psalm 1:1, 2 says, "Blessed is he who meditates upon his law day and night."
Yet we must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer.
Praying the Lord's Prayer
When your heart has been warmed by such recitation to yourself (of the Ten Commandments, the words of Christ, etc.,) and is intent upon the matter, kneel or stand with your hands folded and your eyes toward heaven and speak or think as briefly as you can:
"O Heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to raise my eyes or hands toward Thee or to pray. But because Thou hast commanded us all to pray and hast promised to hear us and through Thy dear Son Jesus Christ hast taught us both how and what to pray, I come to Thee in obedience to Thy Word, trusting in Thy gracious promise. I pray in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ together with all thy saints and Christians on earth as he has taught us: Our Father who art, etc., through the whole prayer, word for word.
The First Petition: Hollowed By Thy Name
Then repeat one part or as much as you wish, perhaps the first petition: "Hallowed by Thy name," and say: "Yes, Lord God, dear Father, hallowed be Thy name, both in us and throughout the whole world. Destroy and root out the abominations, idolatry, and heresy of the Turk, the pope, and all false teachers and fanatics who wrongly use Thy name and in scandalous ways take it in vain and horrible blaspheme it. They insistently boast that they teach Thy word and the laws of the church, though they really use the devil's deceit and trickery in Thy name to wretchedly seduce many poor souls throughout the world, even killing and shedding much innocent blood, and in such persecution they believe that they render Thee divine service.
Dear Lord God, convert and restrain them. Convert those who are still to be converted that they with us and we with them may hallow and praise Thy name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life. Restrain those who are unwilling to be converted so that they be forced to cease from misusing, defiling, and dishonoring Thy holy name and from misleading the poor people. Amen"
continued with # 2 - The Second Petition: Thy Kingdom Come