“Pray then in this way:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the
time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one.’”
In the spring of 1535 Martin Luther was sitting in Peter Beskendorf’s barber chair in Wittenberg, Germany, when Beskendorf asked Luther how to pray. The barber thought there was a connection between Luther’s devotion to prayer and his spiritual power. Luther responded by writing and then presenting to Beskendorf the booklet, A Simple Way to Pray. The booklet on how to pray went ‘viral,’ published in four editions in just the first year.
In A Simple Way to Pray Luther characteristically ties prayer to the Bible. He shows how to connect spontaneous prayer with Scripture. Luther’s simple way to pray is meditating on a brief line of Scripture, then praying the meditation to God as “a garland of four twisted strands.” Each of the four strands is a twisting together of Scripture and prayer. Each strand derives from asking the four following questions of a Scripture passage:
- What INSTRUCTION is there for me?
- What cause for THANKSGIVING is there?
- What CONFESSION is evoked?
- What PRAYER petition is appropriate?
In A Simple Way to Pray Luther also taught to pray these four questions by using the Lord’s Prayer. As I pray in this way, I find myself asking for more than physical ‘bread’ when saying, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yes, I know that God is concerned about our daily physical needs and has promised to provide ‘bread’ (Philippians 4:6, 19). See last week’s eVotional! But I also know that Jesus talks about “the bread of God” that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Jesus offers Himself to us announcing, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:33, 35).
So as I pray this fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” I also pray for God to feed us on Christ, the Bread of life. Like the old hymn I pray, “Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven, /Feed me till I want no more.” Yes! Feed us! Feed us in our churches, our homes, our Bible studies, our small groups!
I like how Saint Augustine and other church Fathers also expand beyond the physical bread. Augustine prays it on a deeper level, saying:
“If, however, a person chooses to take this sentence as referring to food necessary for the body, or to the sacrament of the Lord’s body, then, all three may be taken together. That is to say, in the same bread that is necessary for the body, for the consecrated visible bread of the sacrament, and for the invisible bread of the Word of God.” (Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, II. 27)
Knowing Jesus as the Bread of life, we ask God to feed us as we read and listen to Scripture. And as we drink of the Cup and eat the Bread of Communion we ask God to feed us with the food of heaven!
Thank you Martin Luther, Augustine, and others who help us “twist” together Scripture by presenting to our Father a wondrous “garland of prayer.” “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Grace and peace,