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PREFACE OF MARTIN LUTHER
THESE my homilies concerning the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, which St. John has delivered down to us in his seventeenth chapter, I not only saw with pleasure printed and brought forth into public, but myself requested my particular friend, M. CASPAR CRUCIGER, to undertake the labour of collecting them and reducing them into a regular form, (for I had not time and leisure to do it myself,) that he might put them into the hands of others. For I was fully persuaded, that this crumb and this cup of cold water would be useful and acceptable unto godly Christians who hunger and thirst after righteousness; whom alone I desire to serve in these labours. But as to those full and over-wise spirits who loathe my writings, they have more than enough already, and do not want my help; whom in this labour of mine I do not study to gratify one jot; excepting it be, that they might have something new, to furnish them with an occasion for exhibiting some flaming specimen of their own great teaching abilities. But, these homilies I commend to be read by all the beloved members of Christ, commending myself to their prayers. The grace of God be with us!
SEVENTEENTH CHAPTER OF THE GOSPEL BY ST. JOHN.
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up heaven and said, Father, the hour is come; Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee, &c.
his eyes to glorify thy
AMONG all the works of our Lord Jesus Christ, we ought to have a desire to know what state of body, or what gestures he used, when he prayed and spoke with his dearest Father. For, in other respects, many particulars are committed to writing and handed down to memory, how he preached when he addressed the people, and how he wrought his signs and miracles; but very few particulars concerning the manner in which he prayed. But this very manner is here described in many words, which he made use of in praying to the Father for his disciples, and which he left them, as it were, for a memorial; which, nevertheless, are not regarded by them. Whereas, if the same did not stand recorded in writing, we should perhaps be ready to go in search for them even to the ends of the world, if it were possible, without weariness. For this prayer is fervent, and proceeding from the inmost soul; wherein he opens and wholly discloses to us the secret recesses of his own heart, and the will of the Father most sweetly inclined towards us. The words of this very prayer, however, are such, that if heard in our ears without the Spirit, sound like childish nothings; and as having neither power nor savour, nor being worthy of mention. For reason and human wisdom accounts all those things that are not sounded forth in grand and great expressions, and that
do not with their grandeur rivet the minds of all with admiration, as nothing at all. But if we could but see and duly conceive of the authority and greatness of the Man here praying, and the majesty of him who is prayed to, together with the importance of the things prayed for, we should not look upon them as so trifling and worthless, but should find, in the plain proofs of felt experience, how much power and consolation these simple words contain.
For, Christ is here himself a diligent observer of his own rule, which he has delivered to us concerning our prayers, that there is no necessity for using long and pompous words, but, that simple words coming forth from the heart are the most effectual. Wherefore, let no one be offended at this prayer, nor let him through sleepy unconcern negligently disregard it, nor pass it by without heed, as containing words that are useless, or commonly spoken by men. For it may appear to any one, that he could make a much better prayer; whereas, if he were to attempt it, he would soon feel that the matter, the words, and the manner would fail him.
But the sum and cause of this introductory head is to shew, that a good prayer ought to follow a good sermon or discourse: that is, that, after the Word is sown among the people, we are to groan and humbly beg of God, that the Word heard might be effectual, and might bring forth fruit. For when Christ had discharged his office, and had consoled and refreshed his disciples with a long sermon, and had taken his leave of them, it remained for him to pray both for his disciples and for all Christians; in order that he might in all things fulfil his office as our high and only Priest, and might leave nothing unfinished that was necessary for their confirmation and support; since he was to leave them in the world behind him. And hence I have ever sedulously testified, how necessary Christian prayer is; without which, faith cannot subsist and endure.
For, those who teach, or hear, or know the Word, and yet pray not, sufficiently declare, that they are yet secure and presumptuous, and are as though they needed
not divine grace, and see not their necessities and perils, but think that all their affairs shall be established, and that they have enough and an abundance of all that they want. And then it comes to pass, that the devil creeps on them slily and overturns them before they are aware. It is for this reason, that Christ by his own. example, in his office of teaching and prayer, instructs us to take heed that the Word be not preached without fruits. But what power and virtue there is in this prayer, I fear I shall never be able sufficiently to set forth: for the more simple the words are in which it is clothed, in the more deep, rich, and full mysteries does it abound; so that no one can fully enter into its contents.
First of all, when the Evangelist says,
These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said,
he gives an honour to the using of external gestures in prayer whereby he stops the mouths of fanatical praters, who affirm that these external things are of no moment. But in this place, you plainly perceive that Christ himself not only prayed with his mouth for his disciples to hear him, but used certain gestures, which persons in prayer are wont to use, of whom some pray with bended knees, some fall on their face to the ground, some stand and lift up their eyes to heaven: and these three forms or manners of praying are all exemplified in the scripture. For how King David fell on the earth and prayed for his son seven days, is recorded 2 Sam. xii. And Christ himself prayed both on his knees and on the earth in the garden. And Peter with many others cast themselves down at the feet of the Lord. Again, Luke xviii. speaks of standing.
But it matters not much, whether we stand, or bend our knees, or fall on the ground: for they are external forms that are neither rejected, nor commanded as being necessary to be observed: and there are many other forms of the same kind, such as lifting up the head and eyes to heaven, folding the hands, and striking the breast, &c. which indeed are not to be