Sunday, April 3, 2011

FW: On Learning How to Pray



Feed: Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison
Posted on: Saturday, April 02, 2011 8:23 PM
Author: Rev. Matt Harrison
Subject: On Learning How to Pray


I continue to learn how to pray. Over the Christmas break I usually try to make some saw dust. This Christmas past I built a litany desk/kneeler for my office. Best thing I've ever done for my prayer life. Sitting at my desk it's so easy to become distracted. There are a couple of computers, stacks of documents, notes, to-do lists, books and other miscellanea. It's awfully easy to get distracted. Last October I made a visit to Germany. While in Berlin I stayed with my old friend and dear colleague in Christ, Bishop Em. Jobst Schoene. As we perused his venerable home office, replete with vellum tomes - each with a story - I noted his kneeler. It's simple. What struck me right away was the well worn indentations from his knees, the leather pad worn dark. It struck me. I need to begin to learn to pray like this man. The kneeler project was born.


I searched the web for photos and designs I like and could reproduce in my home shop. I decided to make it inexpensively and so pounced upon some marked down lumber laying in large pile outside my local Lowe's store. For 20 bucks I got enough board feet of 2 x 12 pine to make a whole pew. The project was done in about a week and half.


I carted the contraption over to the International Center on a Sunday afternoon, and placed it in a spot in my office which cried out for it. Now, every morning, it beckons, first thing. I've been praying the litany since day one, and I simply can't in good conscience proceed with any of the day's business without hitting my knees. Copying Schoene, I've also added a couple of candles to the ritual. I'm not that great at praying. I've got much to learn and the Lord teaches prayer most intensely through trials, but I'm learning. The Litany has been a fabulous guide. How profound to pray it's petitions for the support of pastors in faithful teaching and holy living, for the needs of the church, the government, the world in times of disaster. There is not a day that goes by where one of the petitions does not strike me because of the events swirling about. How marvelous to know that each word is grounded deeply in Holy Scripture and the promises of God who asks us to pray, and promises to hear us.


There is much work ahead. There is great anxiety for the future of the church. There is a deep need for us to be on our feet, among the people of our congregations and out in the communities around our parishes. The world beckons us to come and share Christ. But none of that will happen finally, or perhaps happen in a way that truly expands the church, if we don't start it all, each and every day, from our knees, praying for our people, our pastors, our congregations, the spread of the gospel, for our families, the whole church of God on earth, and our Synod.


I'm struck by Sasse's comments in Ecclesa Orans (Letters to Lutheran Pastors V):


Our American brethren in the faith will also learn this through painful experiences. Instead of setting up a church office in Washington, it would have been better had they equipped some place somewhere in the solitude of their immense country, where prayers would be offered day and night for their government and for the peace of the world. For the church of Christ is not a church that is always busy holding conferences, nor is she a church that does business with politicians and the press. She is ecclesia orans. And this is her main calling. Either she is ecclesia orans, as indeed she showed herself to be already in the catacombs,—or she is nothing.

Let no one say that prayer is self-evident. After all, we have services once or twice a Sunday. No, that prayer of the church which we find everywhere in the New Testament where the life of an ecclesia is spoken of, unfortunately, is not something self-evident. Who would maintain that prayer is offered in our Lutheran Churches today with a fervor, which even approaches that with which the church of the New Testament prayed "without ceasing?" (Acts 12:5.) Where today is Luther's mighty praying with its visible answers? Where is the prayer of those pious people, of which Luther spoke in his explanation of the Lord's Prayer in the Large Catechism, the prayer which in those days held the Devil back from destroying Germany in its own blood? Yea, despite all the criticism which the Reformation has directed at the mumblings of Catholic prayer and which the modern liturgical movement within the Catholic Church undertook (quite independently from an entirely different viewpoint) must we not finally ask where, in which church, prayer is being offered with more fervor and perhaps also with better training—for prayer too must be learned? Will the answer be the Catholic Church or the churches of the Reformation?

Pastor Matthew Harrison

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