Want to grow? Engage in three practices regularly:
- Read or listen to the Bible.
- Commit to worship and community within a local church.
These three practices are simple but not easy. Practice them well, and you’ll set yourself up for a lifetime of growth.
Here are some simple instructions on prayer.
Martin Luther Writes to His Barber
Martin Luther was a colorful character. He launched the Protestant Reformation, translated the Bible to German, and became one of the most influential figures in church history.
He also made time to write to his barber on prayer. “I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray,” he wrote. “May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.”
I love this first sentence! We learn two things.
First, prayer is for everyone. Prayer isn’t just for theologians and church leaders like Martin Luther. It’s for barbers. It’s for all of us.
Second, we all struggle with prayer. When he writes, “May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I!” most of us can relate. Few of us feel that we’ve mastered prayer. We’re all learners when it comes to prayer.
Some Simple Instructions
As you’d expect, Luther’s instructions on prayer are simple and practical:
- It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night.
- When your heart has been warmed…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…
- You must always speak the Amen firmly. Never doubt that God in his mercy will surely hear you and say "yes" to your prayers.
- It is of great importance that the heart be made ready and eager for prayer.
Luther instructs the barber on how to use the Lords’ Prayer, The Ten Commandments, and the Creed to build a simple habit of prayer.
Prayer for the Rest of Us
No matter how experienced we get, we’ll always be beginners at prayer. Nobody feels that they’ve mastered prayer. It will always seem a little hard to us.
At the same time, prayer is simple. As I read Luther’s instructions, I’m reminded of how simple prayer actually is. God has given us a model prayer we can use as an example. We can follow its pattern, adapting it for the circumstances of our lives. Bring everything in your life before God. Be honest before him. Hold nothing back. Tell him about everything that’s on your mind.
The biggest challenge seems to be our hearts. It’s hard to believe that God wants to hear from us. It’s hard to believe that he’s listening. It’s hard to believe that there aren’t better things to do. “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,” Luther writes. “It is of great importance that the heart be made ready and eager for prayer. As the Preacher says, ‘Prepare your heart for prayer, and do not tempt God.’”
So pray. Prayer is for everyone: great theologians, and barbers too. Even the great theologians find it hard to pray sometimes! “May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I!” said Luther. Now there’s a prayer worth praying.