Praying like Luther


In a sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) I have been using an idea derived from Martin Luther’s letter to his barber on how to pray.  This is available as an article fro Inter Varsity Press in a booklet called “Martin Luther’s Quiet Time.”

Luther’s four fold strand of prayer in response to scripture is put into the acronym S*T*A*R  

The following extract from a sermon explains….

I have also shared and modeled a way of praying through the Lord’s Prayer. This comes from Martin Luther’s teaching on prayer.   He said that we can take a part of scripture, such as the 10 Commandments or the Lord’s Prayer and turn it into a pray by these easy steps.  First to State the teaching, “Lord you have taught us that we can come to your as our Father.”  Then we can thank him, “Lord we thank you for the privilege of prayer that we can come to you and you will welcome us and delight in us as a parent delights in a child.”  Then we can Admit our wrongs, “Lord we act as orphans in the world. We act as if we are on our own and do not look to you for guidance or for help in times of trouble.”  Then we can Request. “Lord, please let our lives be a reflection of your love and personal care for us.”

 This STAR outline can help us in our prayer. We can use it whenever we respond to Scripture.  I have modeled it in each sermon of this series so far, and will do it again today. 

We will:

  • State the teaching
  • Thank God for it.
  • Admit our failings
  • Request God to act on it.

Wisdom and Blessing – Mt 5:1-11

The Beatitudes

This week i am attending a workshop for pastors on preaching the Wisdom Literature.  My texts to prepare are Matthew 5:1-11 and Psalm 1.  These share the concept of a Blessing. 

Matthew 5:1-12 –  ESV
    Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
    [2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
    [3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    [4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    [5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    [6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
    [7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
    [8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    [9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
    [10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    [11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 Some see a progression of the individual in the “Beatitudes” of Matthew 5.  Each blessing is seen as a step in the path.  The interpretation has a long history, but it seems weak to me for three reasons.  First of all, there is an “inclusio” the 1st and 8th beatitudes share the same goal “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  So a circle or switch back is happening here.  Second, is the goal of the disciple to be persecuted?  Third, the words are plurals (those who mourn, etc), so the progress of the individual soul appears to be an import.

I have experimented with a chiastic structure.  Verse 1-2 and 11-12 are Intro and Exit (teacher/disciple; prophet as example) then the beatitudes break out in this pattern.  B = Beatitude

A A’  v. 1,2, 11-12      Intro/exit – Teacher/way

B B’   v. 3,10               Poor/Persecute

C C’  v. 4,9                  Mourn/Peacemaker

D D’  v. 5, 8                Meek/Pure

E E’   v. 6,7                 Righteousness/Mercy 

The E/E’ verses at the center might then be the emphasis – and that gives the follower of Jesus the goal to seek Righteousness (or Justice) and to give Mercy.  All of which is an echo of

Micah 6:8
    He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness(mercy),
        and to walk humbly with your God?

   I will let you know how this develops.

Sermon On the Mount Outline

Once after a long sermon series a member wondered why there was not a summary at the end.  So this week, at the end of the SOM, here is a summary.  It also fits the final verses of the text which call the reader not only to be aware of the words of Jesus, but to listen to them.

Sermon on the Mount Outline  is here: summary-of-the-sermon-on-the-mount   The texts of the sermons are available at under “recent sermons”.

What I am now going to work on is a 50day study, suggested by the comments of U. Luz that the Lord’s Prayer is the center of the sermon.  It would see that a study of the 7 parts of the prayer by means of the various parts of the sermon would be a good spiritual exercise.  Stay tuned.  An outline of that idea is here:  lprayerdiagram

Matthew echoed in James

H. Shepherd* claims that there is a strong connection between James and Matthew – especially the Sermon on the Mount.  Here are his 8 divisions of James (key verse in italics) and the passages from the Sermon.   

James 1:1-18 –        Matthew 5:11,12

   v.12                          Matthew 6:13

“Trials”                         Matthew 7:7


James 1:19-27    Matthew 5:23

   v. 25                         Matthew 7:21

“Listening & Doing”     Matthew 7:26


James 2:1-13       Matthew 5:1-16

   v. 5 or 10                  Matthew 5:17-20



James 2:14-26    Matthew 7:21,26

   v. 20 or 26

Faith & Works”


James 3:1-12      Matthew 7:16-20

   v. 2

“The Tongue”


James 3:13-4:12 – Matthew 5:1-12

   v. 4                           Matthew 6:24

“Humility”                     Matthew 7:1-5

                                    Matthew 7:7


James 4:13-5:6    Matthew 6:19-24

   v. 17



James 5:7-20       Matthew 5:33-37

   v. 20-24


*H. R. Shepherd,”Epistle of James and the Gospel of Matthew” JBL (75) p. 40-51




Don’t judge dogs?

So we wonder, how do we understand Matthew 7:1, often quoted at someone else who seems overly rigid in their denunciations of others?  “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”  It is memorable and pointed.

Notice in verses 1-6 there are some judgments made – v. 5 says “You hypocrites” and v. 6 says, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or cast your pearls before pigs.”  So do not “dogs”, “pigs”, “holy” and “pearls” involve judgments?

We think that the structure of the passage is like this

A  – v.1  Proverb

B – v. 2 Judgment is reciprocal

C – v. 3  Start with yourself

C’ – v. 4 Start with yourself

B’ – v.5 Removal is reciprocal

C’ – v. 6 Proverb

If this is fair, then verses 1 and 6 are proverbial sayings that together make a balanced teaching.  Do not judge in the sense of declaring a final condemnation.  but do discern the reality of a situation.  The line between judgment and discernment is a fine one. 

There is a lot that is reciprocal – that is what is good for the other is good for me.  Before I judge others, I should be judged.  When I judge, I will be judged.

Like the Hebrew wisdom teachings these are not Laws but proverbial in nature, require considerable care and wisdom in their application.  A wooden “do not judge in any manner at all” would not capture the teaching.  Since there are situations where judgments need to be made about teachers as is seen in the remainder of chapter 7.

If we follow the chiastic structure to its logical end, the point of the passage is much more about starting with yourself, than it is in not judging at all.


Lords Prayer in the Sermon on the Mount

U. Luz, in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Bible, is cited as saying that the Sermon on the Mount has been built around the Lord’s Prayer as its centerpiece.  Not having his work, this week our intrepid adult class will use the text, some scissors and tape to attempt to correlate sections of the Sermon to the 7 phrases of the Prayer.

Do you want to play? 

The phrases of the Prayer: 1.  Our Father in heaven 2.  hallowed be your name 3. your kingdom come  4.  your will be done… 5. give us ….bread 6.  Forgive us…as we forgive 7.  Lead us not…but deliver.

The units, based on NIV divisions:

(5:1-12; 5:13-16; 5:17-20; 5:21-26; 5:27-30; 5:31-32; 5:33-37; 5:38-42; 5:43-48; 6:1-4; 6:5-8; 6:9-15; 6:16-18; 6:19-24; 6:25-34; 7:1-6; 7:7-12; 7:13-14; 7:15-23; 7:24-29)

Have fun, I will post my results next week.