What I Learned from Martin Luther about Daily Prayer
This year is the 500th Anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, which began with Martin Luther posting his lecture series points inviting the town to hear 95 reasons they should not pay the Pope for “Indulgences.”
The Reformation was an international upheaval that changed the world. Luther and hundreds of others worked tirelessly to re-teach the average Christian and train new pastors, and reform priests who left the Roman ministry, about the Christian faith from the Bible. It was an enormous effort we can’t imagine, taking decades just to get started.
One of the ingenious ways Luther and others helped the average person understand and live by biblical truth was by writing and using catechisms for daily and weekly discussions. Catechisms are what we call “curriculums” today. They use a question and answer format that leads to discussions by a class or small group that wants to learn what Christians believe and practice. Catechisms are a good way to organize and share a large amount of information, like the bible.
Writing and using catechisms became the main method Protestant Churches used for several hundred years. It was so effective that the Roman Catholic Church did it too, in order to counter what the Reformed Churches were doing. Many older adults remember “having to go to catechism” and remember not liking it. Catechisms are great tools, children and teens are not always interested students.
The genius of the Catechism system was that over time Christians came to see that everyone should know three basic statements that summarize the truth of the Bible and the Christian faith and practice. Martin Luther wrote a catechism to help farmers, and moms, and civil servants, and pastors to be clear about the core statements of the Christian faith as taught in the Bible. His catechism, and all those since, is built around the three statements of the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer.
Martin Luther said in the Introduction to his Catechism that he recited these three statements every day as part of his devotions. This man was a scholar of the highest level, with a memory that few people possessed. Yet, he recited the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer every day.
I was skeptical at first, thinking Luther just had leftover habits from the monastery. But as I thought about it, and about how we think it’s good to say the Lord’s Prayer every day, and I decided to try it. So, for the last few weeks I have been reciting the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer as a unified part of daily prayer. I’m actually reading the Ten Commandments because I have to improve my memory of them. It is a great plan!
What I learned from Martin Luther is the strengthening help to my spiritual life in Christ by simply reciting these three statements almost every day. Sometimes I’ll recite the Apostles’ Creed while in slow traffic, or all three if the traffic is really slow! Many mornings I use my copy of the Heidelberg Catechism to slowly read them, and then try it all from memory. The first effect is how my mind is better focused on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The second effect is calmness that helps me linger in prayer, since the Lord’s Prayer is the third statement. Give it a try and see if it helps your prayer practices and strengthens your faith. I’m thankful for the insight of Martin Luther, a brother in the Lord who faithfully followed Jesus 500 years ago.
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