Scripture is clear when it comes to prayer. God desires us to come before him in supplication and intercession. Each Sunday we gather together around the Word and Sacrament and join together in the prayer of the church. All of these things are good, right, and salutary, yet we often fall short in our time in prayer when we are alone. Personally I love the wholeness of praying the Litany. However there is a four stranded Schema written by Martin Luther, pointed out in Dennis Nglen’s book, “Luther as a Spiritual Advisor,” that I have found very useful.
After praying the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed it is helpful to read over these four-strands to gather together your prayer and devotion.
The Strands are:
1) Instruction “Here I earnestly consider that God expects and teaches me to trust him sincerely in all things and that it is His most earnest purpose to be my God. I must think of Him in this way at the risk of losing eternal salvation. My heart must not build upon anything else or trust in any other thing, be it wealth, prestige, wisdom, might, piety, or anything else.”
2) Thanksgiving “Second, I give thanks for his infinite compassion by which he has come to me in such a fatherly way and unasked, unbidden, and unmerited, has offered to be my God, to care for me, be my comfort, guardian, help, and strength in every time of need. We poor mortals have sought so many gods and would have to seek them still if he did not enable us to hear him openly tell us in our own language that he intends to be our God. How could we ever – in all eternity – thank him enough!”
3) Confession “Third, I confess and acknowledge my great sin and ingratitude for having so shamefully despised such sublime teachings and such a precious gift throughout my whole life, and having fearfully provoked his wrath by countless acts of idolatry. I repent of these and ask for his grace.”
4) Petition “Forth, I pray and say, ‘O my God and Lord, help me by thy grace to learn and understand thy commandments more fully every day and to live by them in sincere confidence. Preserve my heart so that I shall never again become forgetful and ungrateful, that I may never seek after other gods or other consolation on earth or in any creature, but cling truly and solely to thee, my only God. Amen, dear Lord God and Father. Amen.’”
In these strands we find the truth of our sinful human nature, a loving God, and a plea for a right heart. Taking advantage of this practice is edifying and salutary. God has promised to hear our prayers as Christ said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Praise be to Christ who answers our prayers with His grace, mercy, and peace. As we enter into the penitential season of Advent may we repent and be absolved as we await the coming of our Lord!