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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






02 November 2005

Help with Prayer


Q: I have a very hard time praying verbally (or even silently, in head and heart). Is it still praying if I write it out? I do so much better writing. Out loud, I usually get tongue-tied and can’t think of what to say. Writing gives me so much more. Is this okay or is there something I am missing by not praying out loud or in my head?

A: If writing out your prayers helps you express your thoughts, then by all means write them. You might also use the existing prayers of the Church, such as are included in hymnals, liturgies, prayer books, and also the Small Catechism of Martin Luther. Not only do these existing texts offer you solid, meaty prayers, they also join you in prayer with your fellow believers around the world and even across time!

Just writing our prayers down without verbally expressing them may lead our thoughts toward ourselves or toward the work we are creating. We might forget to direct them completely to God who hears and answers for Christ’s sake. Instead, the prayer becomes more of a literary work than a talk with God.

Thus, even if you have difficulty in verbalizing, speaking a prayer helps remove it from your own possession and into the “ears” of God. Silent or “mental” prayer is difficult except for the most focused individual. If not verbalized, our thoughts tend to wander and roam, often far afield from true prayer.

Jesus PrayingRemember: Even a hesitant, stammering oral prayer — especially one from a fixed text — has purpose and focus. And even if we don’t say what we should or speak poorly, Paul reminds us in Romans 8:26 that “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Furthermore, when John writes that “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, (1 John 2:1)” this means that Jesus speaks with us as well as for us when pleading our case with the Father.

We have further evidence of this each time we pray the pray Our Lord taught us. When we say, “Our Father,” the “our” isn’t just us and other Christians praying, but we Christians join with the Eternal Son of God in prayer.

Added: You might also read an earlier post, Structure for Daily Prayer, to help focus your prayer life.

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.

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