Category Archives: Martin Luther
Devotional Thoughts for the Day
Then Jesus told them, “Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God.” CEV Matthew 22:21
See, now you understand the meaning of the term “to hallow” and “holy.” It is nothing else than withdrawing something from misuse and dedicating it to its proper godly use, just as a church is dedicated and appointed solely to the service of God. In like manner we must be hallowed in our whole life, leaving nothing but the name of God to dwell in us, in other words, nothing but kindness, truth, justice, etc. Hence the name of God is hallowed or profaned not only with our lips but also with our soul and all the members of our body.
Second, God’s name is defiled by robbing and thieving. Although wise men will at once understand what I mean, it will be too subtle for the simpleminded, since we are here referring to the arrogant ones who regard themselves as righteous and holy and do not feel that they are profaning the name of God as those in the aforementioned group do. While they dub themselves righteous and holy and truthful, they freely and fearlessly pilfer and purloin God’s name
551 Flee from routine as from the devil himself. The great means to avoid falling into that abyss, the grave of true piety, is the constant presence of God.
As I read the words Luther wrote nearly 500 years ago, I knew I had to write on the first paragraph, and what holiness/perfection truly is. I’ve mentioned this before, but it cannot be spoken about enough. We hear, “44 I am the LORD your God, and you must dedicate yourselves to me and be holy, just as I am holy. (Leviticus 11:44 (CEV)) and we get to work, trying our damndest to become what we think holy means, or when we fail, working equally hard to maintain the illusion of holiness.
It is the latter action that leads us to be convicted of robbery, trying to steal what is not ours. We profane God’s name, Luther writes, when we pretend to be something we are not when we put up the charade that we are perfect, that we are righteous, that we are holy. For not only do we not understand holiness, but we also take the responsibility that is God’s alone when we declare we are. What a scam the devil has laid upon us, to get us to think that we determine whether or not we are righteous, and others are not! Falling for it, we try to determine what is good and what is evil, unaware of our own spiritual blindness.
Holiness is as simple as what Luther notes, taking something misused and redirecting it towards its purpose. Whether it is God’s name, no longer used to swear, condemn or falsely justify ourselves and others, or whether it is our lives, created in His image in order to spend time with Him. This is the truth that St. Josemaria talks of, in regards to being pious and holy, the key is simple. Being constantly in the presence of God. Finding out that we are int he presence of a loving, merciful, gentle God who will gently (and firmly) heal our brokenness.
Stop trying to be righteous, stop putting on an act that presents you as holy and perfect. Instead, spend time talking to God, letting Him do the work that only He can do. Look to Him, focus on His love, spending as much time aware of His presence as you can.
Holiness will be taken care of, He promises.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 29.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 4 I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalm 63:1-5 (NLT2)
In a nutshell one could say that the goal of Asiatic contemplation is the escape from personality, whereas biblical prayer is essentially a relation between persons and hence ultimately the affirmation of the person.
We know God aright when we grasp him not in his might or wisdom (for then he proves terrifying), but in his kindness and love. Then faith and confidence are able to exist, and then man is truly born anew in God.
Luther’s words in green above come from a pamphlet (the forerunner to the blog) on the contemplation of the suffering of Jesus. It is a pretty difficult read, as he takes us through contemplating the incredible power of sin, that breaks us down, the crushes us…
that we to often choose.
It is painful, and though I hate to say it, it should be. We need to be horrified by the actions we have done, the words we have said, both in anger, and simply to do damage to those we dislike or are jealous of, we need to take a moment, and examine our thoughts to realize how little we control them.
And then, find relief, not in our own resolve, or our ability to make things right, or even survive our brokenness, but in the presence of God, in the Holy Spirit’s comfort and gentle careful cleansing of our lives, our hearts, minds, souls… all of it.
This is the meditation that Pope Benedict XVI discusses, the relationship we have with God, and He with each and all of His people. It is what affirms us, this new birth in God that we have to really contemplate – that we really have to sit and discover.
And in that contemplation, as we gaze on the power of God, as we realize what He has done and is doing, we can cry out praise, much as the Psalmist does.
It is in those quiet moments, contemplating the riches of God, revealed in Christ so that they may be revealed in our lives, that the desire for God’s work becomes stronger and stronger.
So take some time, not just a moment. Consider the cross and the grave… let the Spirit help you know the entire picture, how you’ve been broken, and how you’ve been healed…
For the Lord is with you…
(no matter which side of the Tiber you are, or whether you are on the bridge)
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 24.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 13.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everyone who does wrong or causes others to sin. 42 Then he will throw them into a flaming furnace, where people will cry and grit their teeth in pain. 43 But everyone who has done right will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. If you have ears, pay attention! Mt 13:41-43 CEV
Properly speaking, true repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin, and yet at the same time to believe the Gospel and absolution (namely, that sin has been forgiven and grace has been obtained through Christ), and this faith will comfort the heart and again set it at rest.1
6 Amendment of life and the forsaking of sin would then follow, for these must be the fruits of repentance, as John says, “Bear fruit that befits repentance” (Matt. 3:8).
We must give ourselves wholly to this matter, for the main benefit of Christ’s passion is that man sees into his own true self and that he be terrified and crushed by this. Unless we seek that knowledge, we do not derive much benefit from Christ’s passion……..
No meditation or any other doctrine is granted to you that you might be boldly inspired by your own will to accomplish this. You must first seek God’s grace and ask that it be accomplished by his grace and not by your own power. That is why the people we referred to above fail to view Christ’s passion aright. They do not seek God’s help for this, but look to their own ability to devise their own means of accomplishing this. They deal with the matter in a completely human but also unfruitful way.
Star Wars would not be beloved the way it is, unless Luke and his family had to deal with their dark side. The Lord of the Rings would not be the same unless you experience the dark journey of two Hobbits, Smeagol and Frodo. We even see it in the old classics like The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables, as the hero’s are survive their own darkness,
Every good epic tale had those dark times. Time s that some survive, some do not, and yet all bear the scars of throughout their lives. This is called a meta-narrative, a truth seen in God’s general revelation, that becomes clear in His specific revelation in scripture.
What these stories touch on is our own spiritual walk, what they illustrate is our own spiritual journey.
And just like Luke is afraid to face the darkness, like Frodo has to get used to his darkness calling him to wear the ring, of Val Jean dealing with his own brokenness, we have to face our own.
We have to face our sin. We have to own it, and the pain of the brokenness. As Luther writes about mediating on the cross, he goes ballistic on this point, ( I am hoping he is equally powerful about grace – but I have gotten there yet!)
Our sin does need to have an impact on us, crushing us, terrifying us at first, but as the Augsburg Confession discusses we have to believe in the gospel, that we’ve been forgiven, healed.
The weeds of Matthew 13 don’t want to admit they need that care. They go about doing wrong and encouraging others to do wrong. They refuse to see their brokenness, and therefore see no need for the cross, and the God to die upon it, bearing the weight of their sin.
They are Smeagol/Gollum, Vader and they Emperor, Javert, and those who betray the young sailor. They find their place in the darkness, and are afraid to deal with the evil they see within themselves.
But the main characters do not find their redemption in their heroics, they are almost surprised they survive, as they consider how close they came to embracing hell. There is a sense of joyous relief, even awe, as they look to their surviving the journey into darkness.
This is truly what happens to the sinner, drawn to the cross, where Jesus is lifted up. To get there, we need to see the brokenness sin has cause in our lives. We need to consider what would have happened if Jesus wasn’t sacrificed, and realize how incredible the love of God is that saves us from what we earned.
It isn’t all hell, fire and brimstone, for we know, we are fully confident in our deliverance. Yet… that confidence comes from realizing the painful emptiness that is the the effect being imprisoned by sin, and being rescued, the bonds shattered as the nails pierced Jesus’ wrists and ankles.
We have survived, in Christ overcoming our sin, we have endured. He has seen our darkness, more clearly that we ever have… and loved us more than despising the darkness.
May our lives reflect that love.. that would not let us go…
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 34–35.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 10-11
Devotional Thought of the Day:
9 but the LORD himself takes care of Israel. 10 Israel, the LORD discovered you in a barren desert filled with howling winds. God became your fortress, protecting you as though you were his own eyes. Deuteronomy 32:9-10 (CEV)
Consequently, in our efforts to work out the theological and anthropological basis of prayer, it is not a question of proving the validity of Christian prayer by the standards of some neutral reasonableness. It is a case of uncovering the inner logic of faith itself, with its own distinct reasonableness.
Yet the mass was not instituted for its own worthiness, but to make us worthy and to remind us of the passion of Christ. Where that is not done, we make of the mass a physical and unfruitful act, though even this is of some good.
I have often heard people criticize the church by saying the Christianity is a relationship, and not a religion. I have to disagree, or at least qualify it.
If by religion you mean something man can study as an observer, measuring its logic, finding ways to make it more productive through analysis and basically controlling it, I agree. I think this is clearly the point Pope Benedict XVI made, when writing back when he was a Cardinal
If by religion you mean doing things for their own value, and not because they interact with God, then, yes, religion is nearly worthless. Luther makes this point clear with his comments about the worship service, what he calls the mass or gathering.
But neither would define “religion” that way, as if it could be simply studied by anthropologists and statisticians. They would, despite their differences, define religion, true religion, as the relationship God arranges for us, and draws us into, a life with Him.
Prayer then, isn’t something to be dissected, in order to prove the validity of it as a practice. It is something we engage in, a discussion with the One to whom logic and reality are a creation, and more than we can understand. It is beyond the ability to study, this form of divine communication. One can’t measure the peace it brings, or the comfort given by God, as we dialogue with Him.
In the same way, a mass or worship service is worthless when we expect it to be special on its own, we we simply become spectators, listeners, those who can critique and make value judgments on it, as if the congregation was an Olympic medal judge, and the pastor and other leaders were competitors. ( which means i have to be careful asking my wife to “grade” my sermons! I should know better!)
Prayer and worship matter because of the interaction, the conversation where God makes us worthy to interact with Him, the interaction when we hear Him respond as we pray and meditate on His word. As we realize His care, His nurture, His was of guiding and protecting us, even in the hardest times.
These times are precious, because He draws us out of our life and into His, even as He invades our life, to create in it something wonderful, something that is so awe-inspiring that He is glorified. This is the religion He formed, the practices He has given us to make sure we know that He is active in our lives.
Without His active presence, spiritual disciplines and gathering together around the Him and the blessings He bestows in the sacrament is nothing. Yet, the ironic thing is, He is active even when we are not aware.
Religion, the Christian Religion, is not empty and worthless, we just need to open our eyes… and see the One who has drawn us into it.
Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 18.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 8.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
Jesus turned. He saw the woman and said, “Don’t worry! You are now well because of your faith.” At that moment she was healed. Mt. 9:22 CEV
29 Jesus touched their eyes and said, “Because of your faith, you will be healed.” Mt. 9:29 CEV
5 Jesus could not work any miracles there, except to heal a few sick people by placing his hands on them. 6 He was surprised that the people did not have any faith. Jesus taught in all the neighboring villages. Mark 6:5-6 (CEV)
Some people meditate on Christ’s passion by venting their anger on the Jews.1 This singing and ranting about wretched Judas2 satisfies them, for they are in the habit of complaining about other people, of condemning and reproaching their adversaries. That might well be a meditation on the wickedness of Judas and the Jews, but not on the sufferings of Christ.
We are taught, by past experience, that the more simply we depend upon the grace of God in Christ, and wait upon the Holy Spirit, the more we shall bring forth fruit unto God. Oh! to trust Jesus for fruit as well as for life.
Their faith made them well.
And their lack of faith stopped Jesus from working in their midst.
We hear so much about faith, and yet we have such a vague understanding of it. We say we practice our faith, we have statements of faith, we know we are saved by faith (through grace – but what does that mean?) There are faith healers, and people who promise that you will have an ever increasing faith. SOme will say faith is a noun, something we base our lives upon, some will say it is a verb, and our life sucks because we don’t have enough of it.
WIth all these ways the word is used, it is no surprised we are confused!
Luther starts his meditation on Christ’s passion by talking about the ways people screw up meditating on Christ’s passion by meditating on everything else but the passion of Christ. I included one example above, but he will include several. In the same way, we screw up faith, talking all around it, but never engaging in it, never engaging in Christ, never depending upon Him as Spurgeon urged us to do, with our lives, with the mission and vocation God has laid on us all.
Faith is simply a description of the relationship we have with God, where we depend on Him, recognizing He is God and we are His beloved people. It is a relationship where we are confident of His presence, and confident of His work in us, and being patient to let it happen.
It is not easy to do, in fact it is impossible to do!.
It is simply a way we live, knowing His presence, taking time to remember that, and being grateful for what He did to create this relationship, to reveal Himself and His love. You can’t do states of existence, any more than you can force a relationship. But existing in it defines you in relation to the “Other”, the You to your I. Everything we are, defined by that relationship where He provides all we need.
So be still, know He is God, then move, guided by Him through life. AMEN!
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 7.
C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).
Devotional Thought of the Day
28 And that’s not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. 29 When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 (MSG)
519 Serviam!—“I will serve!” That cry is your determination to serve the Church of God faithfully, even at the cost of fortune, of honor and of life.
Were they to take our house
Goods honor child or spouse
Though life be wrenched away
They cannot win the day
The Kingdom’s ours forever
(From “A mighty Fortress is our God” by Martin Luther)
Yesterday, after a memorial service, one of the people there asked me how I can be there for people in times where the emotional pain is so evident, so dominating, so crushing. I shared one or two of my secrets, and the irony(?) that I have discovered, the more I can embrace their pain with them, the more I can laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry, the more that I see God at work, comforting them.
Funerals and weddings are not the hard part of ministry, nor are the other times when a pastor, priest or even a lay minister is able to make the presence of the Holy Spirit known to people. In those moments, the tears the grienf it is worth it.
But the challenge of being in the institutional church is when it seems not to be worth it. When you are in a meeting and people have hidden agendas. When people struggle with each other, and do not see the answer is struggling together.
When the brokenness of lives so blinds them to the healing that is found in Christ, the healing He does within the church, and through those He has called and given to the church.
When the church is forced to change its focus from the Jesus to dealing with the problems that are threatening to tear it apart. Such stuff happens in the institutional church, but it also happens in the house church, and in our families. As long as there is one sinner in the room, it will happen. And if you are there, or I am, there is a sinner there.
Yesterday, we ended the service by singing Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress”. Not as a triumphal anthem, but as a song of need, a song of despair, and yet hope as he finds that God has him (and the church) THe part of the verse quoted above struck me again, especially given the loss the people were experiencing endured. It is echoed in St Josemaria’s words.
We usually think of such threats as external, or they should be. The people who for one reason or another hate the church, or feel threatened by it. But sometimes they are internal, as people do fall into sin, as people do deal with stress and brokenness. Paul easily recognizes the stresses that can occur when people are brought together, are drawn together in to the presence of God.
So if we are going to face that within or without the institutional church, why bother to belong to one? Why bother to deal with the added stress, why deal with the extra pain, the extra betrayals, the extra anxieties and fears? Why would someone who struggles with social constructs and the complications they bring ever dare enter into this willinging, and serve the church?
Why bear the cost of the trauma, the pain, the disagreements, the dishonour?
Simple. The eyes of a widow that full of tears, reaches out for a hug and whispers, “Yes, I know God is with me.” The grief that is shared, but the hope of the resurrection to life together in the presence of God. Watching God at work, reconciling people together. The joy, the quiet simple joy that comes as the people of God find themselves celebrating their forgiveness and their adoption as God’s co-heirs at the altar of mercy and peace.
Everything endured is worth that….whether the injury is external to the church or internal.
Seeing God at work is that priceless, and seeing Him at work in and through me and the people I struggle alongside, (and sometimes with) is nothing compared to the glory and healing found in Christ. AMEN!
Escriva, Josemaria. The Way (Kindle Locations 1258-1259). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Thought of the Day
8 Be alert, be on watch! Your enemy, the Devil, roams around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 9 Be firm in your faith and resist him, because you know that other believers in all the world are going through the same kind of sufferings. 10 But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation. 11 To him be the power forever! Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 GNT
Nineteenth, let no one presume to perform such things by his own power, but humbly ask God to create and preserve such faith in and such understanding of his holy sacraments in him. He must practice awe and humility in all this, lest he ascribe these works to himself instead of allowing God the glory. To this end he must call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel,13 the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints,14 especially since God has granted him exceptional zeal for this. However, he dare not doubt, but must believe that his prayer will be heard. He has two reasons for this. The first one is that he has just heard from the Scriptures how God commanded the angels to give love and help to all who believe and how the sacrament conveys this. We must hold this before them and remind them of it, not that the angels do not know this, or would otherwise not do it, but to make our faith and trust in them, and through them in God, stronger and bolder as we face death. The other reason is that God has enjoined us firmly to believe in the fulfilment of our prayer [Mark 11:24] and that it is truly an Amen.
Today, in the Roman Catholic Church, they celebrate the Memorial of the Guardian Angels, and as I started my devotional reading, that sat in the back of my mind. Not as a major thing, but I had seen on facebook for or five references to it.
Given some of the things I am dealing with, the idea of a heavenly warrior having my back is quite… comforting. But I dismissed it, until I got to my reading in 1 Peter 5, and the warning that Satan is still out there, trying to drag us away from Jesus.
That isn’t myth, that is reality.
And as Satan exists and demons exist, so do angels. Not as heavenly beings to worship, but rather as servants of God who minister to us. Reading the Book of Daniel you see this as Gabriel and Michael do battle on his behalf.
The key is found in what Peter says after , that as we endure, God himself perfects us. That is what Martin Luther points out in his sermon on preparing for death above as well, as we look to God for the strength, and ask for intercession in our ability to grow in faith, to depend on God’s work, and give glory for what is being done.
The end game is sure, God’s work guaranteeing it, His command to those He sends to serve confirm it, as they point us to Jesus, to the promises the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of, as we dwell united to Christ’s and to His death and resurrection.
This is something to take serious, this spiritual battle we are involved in, to recognize it for what it is, and yet, to have confidence in our endurance, which God provides.
Heavenly Father, help us to realize that we are no in this life alone, but that you surround us with Your people, the church, and with the angels you send to protect us, to point us to Christ. In Jesus name we pray, AMEN
Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42: Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 113.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
This fills us with a living hope, 4 and so we look forward to possessing the rich blessings that God keeps for his people. He keeps them for you in heaven, where they cannot decay or spoil or fade away. 5 They are for you, who through faith are kept safe by God’s power for the salvation which is ready to be revealed at the end of time.
6 Be glad about this, even though it may now be necessary for you to be sad for a while because of the many kinds of trials you suffer. 7† Their purpose is to prove that your faith is genuine. Even gold, which can be destroyed, is tested by fire; and so your faith, which is much more precious than gold, must also be tested, so that it may endure 1 Pet 1:3-7 GNT
Lord Jesus Christ, we seek your aid; Come mediate for us, we pray. Without you are our works in vain,Deserving naught else but pain. Lord have mercy.
One of the speakers at the pastor’s conference I just attended spoke words that are both prophetic, and that caused me more than a bit of anxiety.
He noted that there is a pattern in life, that whenever there is a moment of great joy, of great substance in our lives, invariably Satan will do something soon after that is an emotional train wreck. Really it is a roller coaster, but the speed of descent and the depth make us believe it is a train wreck, on that will break us, if even we are alive at all.
He was of course, accurate, and I came home to over half-a dozen potential train wrecks. A couple of them have already followed the track up to the next hill, some are still racing into the darkness, and I can only pray that they don’t go off the rails and crash. In my mind, honestly I don’t know. Which causes my mind to cycle with how to help those caught on the roller coaster.
And though it may not be me in that car (think that my car is bottomed out and on the way back up – hopefully??) I care about those flying down the tracks.
So how do we survive such times, and why does God allow our “downs” to be such?
St. Peter’s answer, while absolutely true, is hard to comprehend when on the fast descent. It isn’t time to talk to them about how God will use this in the future, though it is true, It isn’t time to give them a lecture on the role and purpose of suffering. (though we should often talk about it pro-actively!) It is time to do what Luther advocated in his explanation of the 10 Commandments.
We need to seek His aid, to beg Him, to realize that without Him all there is is pain, and He is our hope, and our comfort, Clinging to the promises of eternity, we find Him hanging on to us, His promises securing that which we need, that which He has guaranteed to us at the cross.
With Luther, who also had a struggle or two, we need to learn to cry out to God, to seek His intervention, to see His help, even as Him to bless us with the faith we need to do so..
We have to learn to count on this – even in the darkest decline, even in the times where hope fails, He is there with us…caring for us..making sure we make it to the point where we get off the roller coaster in the presence of God our Father. AMEN.
Martin Luther, Luther’s Spirituality, ed. Philip D. W. Krey, Bernard McGinn, and Peter D. S. Krey, trans. Peter D. S. Krey and Philip D. W. Krey, The Classics of Western Spirituality (New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2007), 236.
Devotional Thought of the Day:
11 Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, would remain behind in the Tent of Meeting. Exodus 33:11 (NLT2)
We might even venture to say that what God does is always an answer to this kind of appeal from someone who prays. This does not mean that God is like the potentates of this world who want to be asked before they bestow a favor. No—it is so because it must be so by the very nature of things, because it is only when we pray, when we transcend ourselves, when we surrender ourselves, when we recognize God as a reality, when we open ourselves to him, only then that the door of the world is open for God and that space is created in which he can act for and on us men. God is, it is true, always with us, but we are not always with him, says Saint Augustine. It is only when we accept his presence by opening our being to him in prayer that God’s activity can truly become an action on and for us men.
THE SECOND PETITION (of the Lord’s prayer)
“Thy kingdom come.”
7 What does this mean?
Answer: To be sure, the kingdom of God comes of itself, without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may also come to us
One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in 2 Kings 6, where Elisha’s servant had no clue what is going on around him. He sees what the prophet and he will face, and not realizing the power of God, falls into despair.
We do this often, for our faith is weak, and our memory of God’s presence is not so good. We struggle in the face of the problems, the trauma, and the self-doubt that is caused by sin and temptation. We may not want to admit it, but everyone struggles with that self-doubt. For if we can’t do what we want to do, what is right, and we can’t stop the self-defeating sin that has ensnares us, we end up living in a world that is broken, and we can’t find a way to cope with it. Deny it, get distracted from it by our addictions, we just keep going.
Elisha’s servant hadn’t learned what to do yet, but Elisha did. He simply prayed. The servant then saw the truth, and what was real! He found out what was really going on, and it was a different story.
THat’s why Luther and Pope Benedict talk about prayer the way they do. If we don’t pray, it is not that God isn’t active, for He is. What is missing is our awareness of what God is doing.
It is impossible to know what is going on around us, if we don’t see what God is doing.
Prayer is the beginning of that, as we talk with God, much as Moses did, or Enoch or even David. Blunt conversations, face to face, as we would have with a friend. Allowing God to, with all His wisdom and power, to intervene in our lives, as He reveals His love and the mercy which forgives and heals us. That is what Benedict XVI is talking about, as we transcend ourselves in prayer, and meet with God and talk. It is what LUther referred to when he talked of God’s kingdom coming among us.
We see His reality then, as it is revealed at the speed and fullness He knows we can take. We see His love, His concern, we see the power of God at work reforming us into a masterpiece.
Lord, help us to talk with You, as Moses did. Not just face to face, but as a friend talks to a friend. Lord Jesus, help us depend on You, not neglecting You and talking with You. Open our eyes to the work of the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. AMEN!
Joseph Ratzinger, Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year, ed. Irene Grassl, trans. Mary Frances McCarthy and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 286–287.
Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 346.