Don’t Build Prayer into Your Life, Build Your Life Around Prayer

We all know that prayer is supposed to be a regular part of our lives, but how do we cultivate a greater, more robust prayer life? On this matter, I can think of no better example than Martin Luther. Luther spent years developing his prayer life; he saw prayer as the “daily business of a Christian.” In 1535, Luther’s barber, Peter, asked him for advice on how to pray. Luther, who had spent many years preparing resources to train pastors, parents and children in prayer, promptly wrote him a letter, The Way to Pray. What’s astounding about this letter is the “secret” of Luther’s prayer life is so simple. First, Luther writes:

…when I feel that I have become cool or 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 assembles and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Lord’s Prayer, 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.1

“How do I pray more effectively,” we ask? According to Luther, whenever prayer is joyless and cool, pray through the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments and the Apostles’ Creed. But this does not mean mere repetition, but personal application as Luther urged deep meditation on each, focusing on instruction, thanksgiving, confession and petition.

Secondly, Luther urged that believers set and maintain specific times of prayer:

{It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business in the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas that 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 out of prayer for that day.2

“How do I pray more effectively,” we ask? By determining the time and place in which to pray and sticking to it. Don’t build prayer into your life, Luther says; build your life around prayer.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Martin Luther, “The Way to Pray,” as reprinted in A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer
  2. ibid