Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Luther's Bible Reading and Cranmer's Collects

Luther on Bible Reading and meditating on Scripture.

Luther provides us with an incredibly helpful way to meditate on, study, and pray through Scripture.

Stage One — 'instruction'
          What is the essential meaning of the passage - what does it ask us to believe, what does it tell us about God, about ourselves, about the world.  What truth does it put across?  A good way to see this is to 'summarise' the teaching of the text in your own words once you have studied it.  You cannot do this if you don't understand a text so Study Bibles, good commentaries, and speaking to ministers are needed. 
Stage Two — 'adoration and thanksgiving'
          How does this teaching lead us to praise and thank God?  What good things about God and His work does it show.  How do our lives compare favourably to that portrayed.  What gives us cause to rejoice and be thankful?
Stage Three — 'confession'
          Having understood the teaching and praised God with thankful hearts we turn to ourselves and how we have failed to live up to or believe the teaching.  So if we looked at 'Our Father' from the Lord's prayer we may confess a coldness in our relationship with God our Father, or our failure to prayer together—our Father.
Stage Four — 'prayer'
          Having confessed our shortfalls we lift up our lives and the lives of others or the church to God in prayer asking Him to teach us and mould us into following the teaching of the passage.

Luther's method forces us to deal with the Bible not only 'theoretically' or 'philosophically' but on how every passage also should lead to something changing in us and our behaviour—how it should lead us to adoration and thanksgiving, confession, and supplication. 

Thomas Cranmer on 'Collect  Prayers'

          Collects generally follow  a specific pattern and method which draw us to adore God, reflect on HIs truth, ask rightly, request humbly, and pray in the name of Jesus.  The prayers follow this pattern:

1) The address—a name of God - who are you praying to?
2) The doctrine—a truth about God's nature that is the basis for the prayer
3) The petition—what is being asked for
4) The aspiration—what good will result will come if the request is granted
5) In Jesus' name—this remembers the mediatorial role of Jesus

For example, the Preparatory Collect from the Lord's Supper:
1) Almighty God,
2) unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden,
3) cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
4) that we may perfectly love  you, and worthily magnify your holy name,
5) through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. 

Point 4 is important as it leads us to consider why we are praying for something—it stops us just making bland prayer lists.  Why do we want a person to be healed, what would it benefit the Kingdom?  When we pray we should tell God why what we have asked for seems to us to be for the best, in light of what we know of God's own goals.  This reflection on our prayers will help us to go deeper in our relationship with God and help to reveals the truths of our own hearts—it allows us to truly cast our burdens on God (Psalm 55.22; 1 peter 5.7)  It also leads us to reflect on what our prayer practically might mean for us praying it—if we pray for the sick it should compel us to visit them and put our actions where our words are.   This helps reveal our motives, our own loves, and even our own sins and weaknesses.  


The material in this post is condensed from elements of Tim Keller's PRAYER and the books he mentions, especially those on Cranmer's collects: The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by Zahl and Barbee + The Devout Prayers of Thy Church by Peter Blake.  All three of these books should be read, the latter two are amazing resources.

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