Martin Luther on Prayer

In a letter to his barber, Martin Luther recommends that Christians pray the Ten Commandments, Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer.  Yet beyond reciting these traditional texts, he suggests that after each line or phrase of these texts we meditate upon them in a “four-fold garland” method of praying:

  • Instruction: seek what these words have to teach you;
  • Thanksgiving: give thanks for these words and the goodness of God conveyed through them;
  • Confession: humbly confess to God your failure to live up to or accept these words;
  • Prayer: pray for help and strength to embrace these words.
– See A Simple Way to Pray in Luther’s Works, vol. 43, pg. 200

In his Small Catechism, designed as a family devotional and instructional booklet, Martin Luther gives a simple order of prayer for morning and evening, consisting of invoking God's Trinitarian name, a recitation of the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and a prayer for morning or evening.

These methods of prayer – the "fourfold garland" and the simple order from the catechism – are wonderful in their simplicity, based on texts that are familiar and easily memorized.  Simplicity is very important for popular prayer practices, as most Christians are not going to consult liturgical books to follow a form of personal daily prayer that was developed in monastaries and intended to be used as corporate prayer.  Yet any prayer that uses any of these texts (Ten Commandments, Apostles' Creed, Lord's Prayer) is deeply connected to the faith communities that use these texts on daily and weekly intervals.

The following order of prayer is based on Luther’s order in the Small Catechism, with slight modification to include a recitation of the Ten Commandments (as Luther recommends in A Simple Way to Pray, and elsewhere), and an opportunity to read Scripture.  Used together with Luther's "fourfold garland" method, this order provides a simple yet powerful pattern for daily prayer.

The Morning and Evening Blessing
Under the care of God the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The Ten Commandments

  1. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of bondage.  You shall have no other gods but me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself any idol.
  3. You shall not invoke with malice the Name of the Lord your God.
  4. Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not commit murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not be a false witness.
  10. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The Apostles’ Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
    creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
    who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
    born of the virgin Mary,
    suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    was crucified, died, and was buried;
    he descended to the dead.
    On the third day he rose again;
    he ascended into heaven,
    he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
    and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy catholic church,
    the communion of saints,
    the forgiveness of sins,
    the resurrection of the body,
    and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name,
    your kingdom come,
    your will be done,
        on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
    as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
    and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
    and the glory are yours
    now and for ever. Amen.

Scripture may be read.

Prayers for the church, the world, those in need, may be offered, concluding with the appropriate prayer:

For Mornings
We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected us through the night from all harm and danger. We ask that you would also protect us today from sin and all evil, so that our life and actions may please you. Into your hands we commend ourselves: our bodies, our souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels be with us, so that the wicked foe may have no power over us.  Amen.

For Evenings
We give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected us today. We ask you to forgive us all our sins, where we have done wrong, and graciously to protect us tonight. Into your hands we commend ourselves: our bodies, our souls, and all that is ours. Let your holy angels be with us, so that the wicked foe may have no power over us.  Amen.

You may conclude with a hymn or another form that would serve your devotion.

The translation for the Ten Commandments comes from the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Eucharist, Rite Two, where the decalogue is sometimes said immediately prior to the confession of sins.  Each commandment can be followed by a response, such as "Amen. Lord have mercy," (from BCP Rite Two) or "Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law" (from BCP Rite One).

English translations of The Apostles Creed and The Lord's Prayer (c) 1998 English Language Liturgical Consultation (ELLC).  Used by permission.

Translations of the morning and evening prayers, written by Martin Luther and found in his Small Catechism, are from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pew edition, pgs. 305, 318.

Liturgy, Copyrights, and the Internet, revisited

Two years ago I was denied permission to publish an edited version of Responsive Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW) on my blog, and was forced to take down the order of prayer that I had been posting for several months (see past post, Daily Prayer Permission Denied – note that some links in that two year-old post are now broken). 

I chose to use Responsive Prayer, with slight amending, because that order of prayer largely follows Martin Luther's instructions for morning and evening blessing in the Small Catechism.  I amended that order to include a recitation of the Ten Commandments, in order to conform to Luther's instructions in the Large Catechism drill oneself in the catechism daily (an instruction echoed elsewhere, including in his letter to Peter the barber, A Simple Way to Pray). The form I used for the Ten Commandments came from the Book of Common Prayer, which has no copyright protections and thus is free for any to use and publish online.  The order that I posted at the time included attributions and links to sources.

Recently I wrote back to Augsburg Fortress Publishers, who administers the copyright for the materials in ELW (copyright is actually held by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, however), asking them under which circumstances liturgical material from ELW could be published online.

Are there any circumstances under which the text of a liturgy (not the music) from ELW could be posted online, such as Responsive Prayer or Morning Prayer?  To what extent can collects or litanies be posted online (with attribution, of course)?  Would it make a difference if these texts were posted on a personal blog or on a congregational website?  We have such liturgical riches, and it is a shame that they stay under copyrighted lock and key rather than be freely shared via Facebook, email and blogs in a congregation's ministry.

I received a quick response, saying that my questions have been forwarded to their worship team for discussion.  So, we'll see, I guess.

However, there are some things I can post online, thanks to the less restrictive copyrights of the daily lectionary (held by the Consultation on Common Texts) and the copyright-free material found within the Book of Common Prayer.  In the coming week or so I will repost an order of prayer, based on Luther's instructions, and including readings from the daily lectionary and liturgical texts borrowed from the Book of Common Prayer.

Online Daily Prayer

I commend to you The Daily Office

After the disheartening experience of being denied permission to publish a modified version of the simple order of Responsive Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship, I’ve been posting a bare bones order of prayer with daily lectionary readings from the Revised Common Lectionary.  My hope is to eventually develop an order of prayer based on the church’s grand tradition of daily prayer yet intentionally informed by Lutheran practice and theology.  But that is a project for the summertime, perhaps.

In the meantime I will probably soon suspend my Daily Prayer Delivered blog until I can re-fashion it into something that is truly a substantive Lutheran order of daily prayer.  Until then, please pray with our sisters and brothers in Christ over at The Daily Office.

Let us pray.

Thinking About Prayer

I am very satisfied with my order of daily prayer, which I can no longer post online due to copyright restrictions.  Yet this experience – and the comments on that post – has encouraged me to reflect further about what a particularly Lutheran approach to prayer looks like. 

Back in September I pushed back against Lutherans who severely criticized the form of the Daily Office that appears in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.  In that post I suggested that we Lutherans do not have a tradition of praying the Daily Office, and I began articulating what a natively Lutheran form of prayer might be.  That’s about when I began posting my form of Daily Prayer on my blog (adapted from Responsive Prayer in Evangelical Lutheran Worship). 

I will now continue exploring what a natively Lutheran form of daily prayer might be.  As work, family, and Candidacy responsibilities allow, I will read through Luther’s writings – particularly his catechetical and devotional works – to tease out his suggestions for a practice of daily prayer.  Based on this reading I hope to compose an order of prayer rooted in our Lutheran tradition yet fresh in its articulation.  This will be a long process, but I hope by summertime to have a rich order of prayer available to be used, shared, adapted, and prayed by anyone who stumbles upon this site.

For now I have posted a simple and truncated form of Daily Prayer over on my Daily Prayer page.  Daily Prayer with daily lectionary citations will be posted by day’s end over at my Daily Prayer Delivered blog.

Let us pray.

Daily Prayer Permission Denied

Augsburg Fortress has denied me permission to publish my Order of
Daily Prayer online (here and here) due to copyright issues.  I am not surprised, but I
am disappointed. 

My Order of Daily Prayer is an amended form of Responsive Prayer from Evangelical Lutheran Worship.
It incorporates each Sunday’s prayer of the day, and prayers for
commemorations and festivals (when appropriate).  It also references
the church calendar of commemorations and festivals.  All of this
material is copyrighted by Augsburg Fortress and the ELCA, and subject
to restriction.  I’ve been posting it online for about six months or
so, without permission.

I have been granted permission to continue posting the daily
lectionary (which is copyrighted by the Consultation on Common Texts).
The CCT has a much more broad licensing policy, as does the National
Council of Churches, who holds the copyright to the NRSV translation of
the Bible.

From the email I received in response to my request:

for contacting us, and thanks also for your patience in waiting for a
reply. Online postings of copyrighted material are a new and often
problematic area of publishing. The ease with which material may be
copied from one source and pasted into another document without prior
permission or proper attribution is the largest of the problems, though
not the only one. Another problem your request poses is the ease with
which copyrighted material may be edited by an outside source and
presented as though it is material original to the copyright holder, or
that the amended material is done with the willing approval of the
original rights holder. Finally, the ease with which material is copied
via Internet posting makes it all too likely that the rights holder
will lose control of its intellectual property. For all of these
reasons, your request to use Responsive Prayer online is problematic
for us.

We appreciate that you are trying to bring to your readers an
edifying and spiritually satisfying form of daily prayer with a
Lutheran perspective. However, due to the problems mentioned above, and
also due to the confusion that is all too likely to be caused by your
changes to our material, and your readership’s likely conclusion that
your changes are sanctioned by the ELCA, we ask that you refrain from
posting material from Evangelical Lutheran Worship on your site either
in its altered form or as it appears in ELW. We feel it is best at this
time to reserve the right to post that material at either Augsburg
Fortress sites (such as or through sites
controlled by the ELCA itself in order to best monitor and control how
the material from our sources is presented to the church at large.

What do I think about this?  I disagree that anyone would "likely
come to the conclusion that" the material on my blog is "sanctioned by
the ELCA" – there’s not an ELCA logo on my blog, and my
Fine Print Disclaimer page makes clear what this blog is about.  But
as I wrote above, I am not surprised that Augsburg Fortress would want
to exercise its right to control its own intellectual property.  Even
though the material I was posting is quite, dare I say, simple and
brief – Apostles’ Creed, Lord’s Prayer, a litany, a few collects for
the time of day, and collects for Sundays, festivals and commemorations
– it is copyrighted.  The production, publication and sale of
such material is how Augsburg Fortress stays in business.  Augsburg
Fortress does not receive financial support from the ELCA or its
constituent congregations.

[Note: The Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church has no restrictive copyright.  It is in the public domain.]

In terms of sheer volume, the material I was posting was not very
significant.  But volume is not the point.  What if someone wanted to
post the far more substantive Eucharistic Prayers for each Holy
Communion setting online, or the copyrighted Confession of Sins or
Prayers of Intercession from Sundays and Seasons that change
each season?  Why not hymns?  Granting permission for free, online
publication of my simple Order of Daily Prayer begets a slippery slope
that becomes more and more problematic for the Publishing House.
Again, those who produce and publish this material need to be
compensated for their work.  Posting this material for free online does
not allow for that.

But . . . as was stated in my previous post on this topic – Liturgy and Copyrights – and in the comments on
that post, to what extent should liturgical material be available under
much fewer restrictions to be used and shared by the whole church (and not just the church’s formal 501(c)(3) expressions)?
How do we, in the church, encourage liturgical approaches to prayer if
the liturgical material is costly and its use is restricted?

There’s a Napster vs. the Music Industry analogy to be made here.
Consumers wanted to share music online, the Music Industry resisted.
Napster found a way to do it, the Music Industry shut them down, and
then Apple figured out a way to make money by selling music online and
distributing it via iTunes and playing music on iPods.  Eventually, a
compromise was found that allowed music to be distributed via the
internet, in a way that compensated the Music Industry. 

I’m doubtful that the market exists for downloadable Daily Prayer @
$.99 a pop.  But at the the intersection of internet and spirituality –
a sprawling interchange of websites, email services, free and
subscription-only content – do our Main Line churches (and their
publishing houses) have a place?  Augsburg Fortress has made various
online services available to congregations – Akaloo and Here We Stand Confirmation – which in turn grant access to their members to a variety of online resources.  The ELCA website has some prayer and spirituality resources available.  But is this enough?

In the scope of things, my little Daily Prayer page is/was
incredibly small – 10 or 20 visitors a day.  Those visitors will find
other places for online prayer resources – and perhaps they’ll purchase
their own copy of Evangelical Lutheran Worship,
which includes the daily lectionary, church calendar, Responsive
Prayer, and various other resources suitable for a personal discipline
of daily prayer. 

But how is and how will the church provide tools for prayer and
spirituality apart from a bound book or limited-use licenses?  Do we
not help our cause by offering these materials for free – a la
AOL’s free distribution of software throughout the 1990s – so as to get
prayer and scripture into the hands, onto the computer screens, onto
the blogs, and into the PDAs of our people?  A lot of the "spirituality" stuff that’s out there is a bunch of
junk, but what we have in our (restricted use, copyrighted) liturgies
is good.  Too bad we can’t get the good stuff out there for more to
see, more to use, more to pray.

In the coming days the Daily Prayer material will come down from my blog and be
replaced with a simpler page offering only the Daily Lectionary. 

Finally, in your comments please do not blast Augsburg Fortress’
decision.  Be critical, if you like, but be constructive and
respectful.  I’ll remove any comments that go too far.  Augsburg
Fortress is a very good ministry doing some very good work under some
challenging conditions.  I know, because I used to work there.


Daily Prayer for Lent 4

The Daily Prayer page has been updated to include the readings and prayers for the week leading to and flowing from the Fourth Sunday in Lent.  In addition to the Fourth Sunday in Lent, George Herbert (March 1) and John & Charles Wesley (March 2) are commemorated this week.

Note: The Daily Prayer page will no longer be updated after Easter.  My new Daily Prayer Delivered blog will be the new source for Daily Prayer in the Lutheran Zephyr mode (with daily RSS and email subscriptions available).

Let us pray.

Liturgy and Copyrights

I have requested permission from our friends at Augsburg Fortress Publishers to post some liturgical material from Evangelical Lutheran Worship on my Daily Prayer Delivered blog.  Specifically, I have requested to publish an amended version of Responsive Prayer (pg. 328-331 ELW pew edition) along with Propers from the Church Year (including Lesser Festivals and Commemorations – pg. 14-61) and citations from the Daily Lectionary (pg. 1121-1153).  That is, I’m requesting permission to post what I’ve already been posting for several months.  Shame on me for not doing this sooner.  It’s a lot of material that many people worked hard to create, edit, and publish.

This morning I received an email saying that my request was being reviewed.  I am a bit nervous about this, and I anxiously await their response.

Copyright law is serious business, and too many of our churches violate copyright every week.  From photocopying sheet music rather than purchase enough copies for each choir member, or reprinting hymns in bulletins without proper licenses, we violate the Seventh Commandment all the time.

The Seventh Commandment
You are not to steal.
What is this? Answer:
We are to fear and love God, so that we neither take our neighbors’ money or property nor acquire them by using shoddy merchandise or crooked deals, but instead help them to improve and protect their property and income.
[From Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, in The Book of Concord: The confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kolb & Wengert translation, (c) 2000, pg. 353.]

When we copy or distribute copyrighted material without proper licenses – licenses that provide payment to the creators of the material – we are stealing.  Click here for Augsburg Fortress’ Copyrights and Permissions page.

That being said, I agree with Father Chris who writes that liturgical material should be protected under a less restrictive system than our current copyright laws allow.  Liturgical material is for the whole church – congregations, church institutions, and the people themselves who constitute the Body of Christ – and as such I would hope that liturgical material could be shared and distributed in generously permissive manner.  If liturgical material is being created to facilitate the prayer and devotion of the People of God, we should seek out ways to distribute this material in as many and useful ways as possible.  This blog is one such way.

Nonetheless, I wouldn’t fault Augsburg Fortress for requiring me to purchase a license to publish the material on my Daily Prayer Delivered blog.  It’s their material and they need to charge a fee for their work – I know!  I used to work in sales for Augsburg Fortress!  But I also wouldn’t be upset if they granted me permission to publish without any fee, with certain conditions or citations.

We’ll see.  I’ll let you know when I hear from the folks in Minneapolis.

Life, Blog Updates

This weekend Northern Virginia is expecting an ice storm.  Oh, to live in a climate where rain is rain and snow is snow, and ice appears only in the freezer.  Oh well.  That’s not where I live.  The storm is supposed to be pretty bad – they’re calling for freezing rain to fall all day, on top of 1-2 inches of snow that will fall tonight.  Ice skating, anyone?

My lovely wife is sequestered in a hotel through Sunday, making a concerted and focused effort to get her (insert expletive here) dissertation done.  She is so close, but with a new full-time job and three children at home it is tough for her to find the time to write.

Two out of three kids in my family are sick enough to make sleeping difficult, but not sick enough for the doctor to be able to do anything for them.  Did I mention that my wife is in a hotel this weekend?

I’ve applied for copyright permission from Augsburg Fortress Publishers to use an amended form of Responsive Prayer on my new Daily Prayer Delivered blog.  A friend reminded me that I was probably violating copyrights by posting this material online, so I made my petition to my former co-workers at Augsburg Fortress.  I’ll let you know what they say to me.  (For a good, short plea for a new approach to copyrights and permissions for liturgical material, check out this post – The Church and Copyleft – from Father Chris, an Independent Catholic priest who was raised in the Lutheran Church.)

I’ve been dabbling with a custom theme on this blog, but Typepad doesn’t make it easy for amateurs like me.  If this blog looks funny to you, it’s entirely my fault.  But I’m tired and I’m not fixing it for a few days.  Here’s the banner I was toying with:

Banner44 Have a good weekend.  For all who are battling ice and snow, please be safe!

Daily Prayer Updated for Lent 3

The Daily Prayer Page has been updated for the week’s worth of readings around the Third Sunday in Lent. 

However, to receive a daily dose of prayer via email or RSS feed (ie, on your My Yahoo!, myAOL or iGoogle page), please visit my new Daily Prayer Delivered blog, where each day the prayer of the day, daily lectionary, and order of prayer is posted online and available via email subscription.  To subscribe to daily prayer, visit the sidebar over at the Daily Prayer Delivered blog.

Let us pray.

Daily Prayer Blog

For any who are interested and missed the initial announcement, the Order of Daily Prayer is now available at its own daily-updated blog, Daily Prayer Delivered.  Subscribe to it via email, RSS feed, or simply bookmark it for regular reference.  Prayer of the Day for Sunday and readings from the Daily Lectionary are included in each day’s posting, along with an order of prayer based on Luther’s suggestions for prayer.  Click on the link for more information.

Peace to you!