Structure for Daily Prayer
Q: A lot of times my mind wanders during my morning prayer. Is there a rough outline to follow that makes it more organized, especially when asked to give the blessing or other public prayer?
A: As a pastor, I find that my “best” prayers are the prayers of the Church. That is, I prefer to use those prayers already written, that are being used by others throughout Christendom. I use various prayer books, devotionals, missals, hymnals, and the like both to provide the “skeleton” of my prayer life and to supply much of its fullness. To this, I add the special requests and needs of myself, my family and friends, my flock, my nation, and my world.
Even in this, I often write things out ahead of time so that I don’t forget or start wandering from the central thoughts of my prayers. If I had only one or two sources, I’d use one of the Lutheran hymnals, which include daily, weekly, and seasonal prayers in various forms, as well as suggested Scriptures. Singing the prayers (either as chant or as hymns) is a way to get more into (and out of) them. Finally, don’t forget the true basics of Christian prayer: You can never overuse the Our Father, the Creeds, and the Psalms as the backbone of your prayer life.
Another outstanding little reference comes courtesy of Martin Luther. When his friend and barber Peter Beskendorf complained similarly to you, the reformer “interrupted” his busy schedule to write a brief (for Luther) set of instructions on Christian prayer. Of course, Luther couldn’t just make a list of things to do; he also filled in the background and theology of prayer. This work is translated in the Luther’s Works series from Fortress Press and Concordia Publishing House. A stand-alone translation, titled A Simple Way to Pray, may be ordered through this link.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess 5:16-18)”
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.