23 October 2007

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

Pious prayer offered in faith is familiar conversation with God. It is a salutary remedy to all the difficulties of life. It is the key to heaven and the door to paradise. It shows us how much we depend on God, and it is a ladder of ascension to God. It is a shield for our defense and a faithful messenger of the ambassador. It is refreshment in the heat of misfortune; it is medicine during illness. It is a winch, drawing us to heaven, and a vessel that draws water from the font of divine kindness. It is a sword against the devil and a defense against all misfortune. It is a wind that blows away evil and brings earthly benefits. It is a nurse that nurtures virtue and conquers faults. It is a great fortification for the soul and gives free access to God. It is a spiritual feast and a heavenly delicacy. It is a consolation for the dejected and a delight for the holy. It grants knowledge of the secret things of God and acquires His gifts. It upholds the world and rescues people. It is a joy for the heart and a jubilation for the mind. It follows God's gift of grace, and it leads ahead into glory. It is a garden of happiness and a tree full of delights.  It calms the conscience and increases our thankfulness. It sends demons running and draws angels close. It is a soothing remedy for the misfortunes of this life and the sweet smell of the sacrifice of thanksgiving. It is a foretaste of the life to come and sweetens the bitterness of death. - Johann Gerhard, *Meditations on Divine Mercy* pp. 21, 22


Anonymous said...

I think Gerhard may have overstated himself here. Many of his identifications should be greatly qualified, if not rejected, e.g., "key to heaven", "grants knowledge of the secret things of God". In our day when many misunderstand "the power of prayer", we must be careful about such statements.

William Weedon said...

Pastor Trouten,

I am not sure I agree. One of the saddest things I have observed as a pastor is how little the life of prayer shapes the contemporary parish. I think Gerhard's extolling of prayer is a good antidote for any down-playing of the role of prayer in the life of the baptized child of God.


Anonymous said...

Luther, Gerhard and Arndt are compleately at home with the mystical dimensions of prayer. This quote reeks of mysticism! Yet many contemporary Lutherans are alergic to mysticism. It is this anti-mystical hangover from rationalism that inhibits the life of prayer in contemporary Lutheranism.

William Weedon said...


I agree. In fact, the quote from Gerhard was really a paraphrase of Arndt (Gerhard's pastor)!

Anonymous said...

Lutheran Pastor Frank Senn, very much an evangelical catholic, wrote some fine articles on how Lutherans need to recover the concept of sanctifying time with prayer, which ideally is rooted in the "Easter event" that is celebrated Sunday and sustains us throughout the week.

Aside from the Divine Office, for me as a Catholic the Roman Missal with its sanctoral cycle of prayers throughout the liturgical year and daily readings from Sacred Scripture have become a spiritual bedrock that sustains me throughout the day.

Lutherans have a beautiful heritage of prayer. They need to make it more readily available to the laity.

Mike Baker said...

Gerhard's statements about the true value of prayer are clearly in oppostition to many modern misunderstandings regarding the power of prayer:

"It is a winch, drawing us to heaven"

I think his "winch" analogy is sublte, but very telling. Many among us today would like to say that prayer (and modern worship in general for that matter) is indeed a winch. But we have it backwards. We want to believe that prayer draws heaven down to us. Many want to say that the mystical power of prayer gives us access to heaven by means of conforming the divine to interceed on our behalf as we see it. We can use prayer to drag God to our way of thinking. Our prayers are the magic words that give us what we want. It is a tool to nag God into granting us all of our temporal desires.

Gerhard teaches just the opposite: the mystical power of prayer draws us to heaven. We are the ones who move; who conform.

Prayer connects us to both temporal AND eternal benefits from the "font of divine kindness". This truth stands against the power-of-positive-thinking errors found in the prosperity gospel.

"Prayer pleases God, but it must be offered in the appropriate way. Therefore, whoever desires to be heard should pray wisely, ardently, humbly, faithfully, steadfastly, and confidently. Pray wisely, that is pray for that which serves divine glory and the salvation of neighbors. God is omnipotent. Therefore, do not set restrictions on Him by the way you pray. God is omniscient. Therefore, do not prescribe an order for responses. Do not issue prayers without due respect, but let them flow from the faith that precedes prayer—the faith that respects the Word. Whatever God has thus absolutely promised in the Word, you may pray for absolutely. Whatever he has promised conditionally, such as temporal things, you may in like manner pray for conditionally. What he has in no way promised, that also you should in no way pray for. Oftentimes God gives us in his anger what he denies us in his mercy. Therefore, follow Christ who resigned himself completely to God’s will (Matthew 26:39,44)." -Gerhard, Sacred Meditations XXV