#62 We Have Our Hands Full with Spiritual and Temporal Needs

Thus the highest temptations involve the service of God and the Word of God. We also have the common and temporal need of this life on earth. We should pray God to grant us the blessing of peace and a good government and to protect us from all kinds of trouble, from sickness and pestilence, from famine and bloodshed and bad weather. You are not beyond the reach of death yet, nor have you eaten up all your daily bread; hence you dare not stop praying for Him to give it to you daily. Similarly, because daily you have to watch so much shameful behavior everywhere, you have to go on praying in support of the government and in opposition to vices of every sort and the tendency of people to rob and steal from one another. Over and above all this you have your wife and children and servants to control at home. Thus you have your hands full; for whoever intends to keep and observe both Christian and imperial righteousness throughout his life has taken on more than one man’s task and assignment. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 231).

#61 The Devil Seeks to Extinguish the Word

Those are two great temptations that hinder us inwardly in our prayer, and outwardly try to chase us away from it. Therefore all we can do is to go on crying to God, asking Him to strengthen and advance His Word in us and to restrain the persecutors and the sects so that it is not extinguished. Now, the third enemy is the strongest of all, the devil himself. He has us at a great disadvantage for two reasons: by nature we are not good; and in addition we are weak in faith and in spirit. Thus he invades my own castle and baffles against me. He also has the world on his side, and he incites all the sects against me. Through them he shoots his flaming, poisonous darts (Eph. 6:16) at me, to wear me down, to extinguish the Word in me again and to smother it, and to establish his control as he once had it, without any danger of being expelled. There, you see, are three troubles that press us down hard and will not get off our neck as long as we have life and breath. Hence we have continual reason for prayer and invocation. This is why He adds the words “ask,” “seek,” and “knock,” to indicate that we do not have everything yet but that our situation is one of shortcomings and needs everywhere. If we had everything, we would not need to ask or seek; if we were already in heaven, we would not need to knock. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 230-231).

#60 Our Own Sinful Flesh and The World Tries to Drag Us Away From Prayer

We have already spoken of the need that prompts Him to give this admonition and should prompt us to ask. Once you have the Word of God right and have made a good start in both doctrine and life, then inevitably temptation and opposition arise, not one kind but thousands of kinds. In the first place, there is our own flesh, that rotten old bag. It quickly becomes bored, inattentive, and indifferent to the Word of God and the good life. Thus we always have less of wisdom and of the Word of God, of faith and love and patience, than we should. This is the first enemy hanging around our neck so heavily every day that he keeps dragging us that way. Next comes the second enemy, the world. It begrudges us the dear Word and faith and refuses to put up with anything in us, no matter how weak we may be. It goes ahead and condemns us, it tries to take away what we have, and it gives us no peace. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 230).

#59 Our Own Desperate Need Should Make Us Pray

Our own desperate need should be enough to make us pray. But in addition, as though that were not enough, He seeks to draw us to it by means of the beautiful analogy of every father’s relation to his son. Though the son may be a good-for-nothing scamp, still he will not give him a serpent when he asks him for a fish. From that he draws these consoling words: “If you can do this, though you do not have a good nature or a single good trait in comparison with God, will not God, your heavenly Father, whose nature is completely good, give you good things if you ask Him for them?” This is the most sublime attraction by which anyone can be persuaded to pray, if we just looked at these words and took them to heart. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 230).

#58 First, Prayer is a Commandment of God

Therefore every Christian should pay attention to this admonition. It is, in the first place, a commandment, as much as the previous statement, “Judge not” is a commandment. He should know that he is obliged to practice this Christian work. He should not be like that peasant who said: “I give grain to my minister, and he prays for me”; or like the people who think: “What is the use of my praying? If I do not pray, others do.” We must not suppose that it is no concern of ours or that it is left up to our free choice; but I have given more detailed admonition on this elsewhere.15 In the second place, you have here the comforting promise and rich assurance that He attaches to prayer, to make it evident that He cares about it and to teach us to think about prayer as something dear and precious before God, because His admonition is so serious and His invitation so friendly, and He promises that we shall not ask in vain. Even if we had no other reason or attraction than this rich and friendly word, it should be enough to prompt us to pray. I shall not even talk about how dear His exhortation is or how sublime His command or how desperate our need. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 229-230).

#57 You Have Need of Prayer against Transgressions and Offenses

Now, what He intends to say is this: “I have given you instructions about how you ought to live and what you ought to watch out for. In addition, it is necessary that you ask and that you have the confidence to go right on seeking and knocking without becoming lazy or lax in it. You will have need of asking, seeking, and knocking. Though doctrine and life may both have begun all right, we shall have to suffer from all sorts of transgressions and offenses that hinder us daily and keep us from progressing. We battle against these continually with all our might, but the strongest shield we have is prayer. If we do not use that, it is impossible for us to hold our own and to go on being Christians. We can plainly see now not only the sort of obstacles that oppose the Gospel every day, but also our own neglect of prayer and our attitude, as though this warning and admonition did not refer to us and we did not need prayer any more, now that the useless chattering and muttering of the rosaries and the other idolatrous prayers have stopped. All this is not a good sign, and it makes me afraid that some great misfortune which we could have prevented will overtake us. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 229).

#56 Prayer is the Chief Work of the Christian

Matthew 7:7. Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  8. For every one who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  9. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10. Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11. If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?

After teaching His disciples and instituting the office of the ministry, telling them what they are expected to preach and how they are to live, Christ, the Lord, now adds an admonition to prayer. By this He intends to teach them that, second only to the office of preaching, prayer is the chief work of a Christian and an inseparable part of the sermon. He also wants to indicate that because of all the temptations and hindrances we face, nothing is more necessary in Christendom than continual and unceasing prayer that God would give His grace and His Spirit to make the doctrine powerful and efficacious among us and among others. That is why, in the words we quoted from the prophet Zechariah (Zech. 12:10), God promised that He would pour out upon the Christians a Spirit of grace and of supplication. In these two items He summarizes all Christian existence. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 228-229).

#55 True Preachers Seek to The Welfare of their Hearers

Similarly, true and pious preachers will faithfully seek only the welfare and the salvation of all people. They will not impose any burden on them, either in their consciences or even outwardly in their temporal possessions and physical existence. Whoever despises them should know that he is not a Christian and that he has lost the treasure once more. Our preaching and admonition is for everyone who will accept it and agree with us. Whoever refuses to do so and yet uses the name of the Gospel or the pretense of Christian brotherhood to despise us and to trample us underfoot, against him we use the art of letting him keep the pretense but actually taking everything back, so that he has nothing left at all. We have the command to separate ourselves from such people. We do not enjoy doing it, and we would have preferred to have them stay with us. But since they refuse, we must let them go and not let them ruin our treasure or trample it underfoot.  (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 228).

#54 Christians Do Not Seek Preachers to Do and Say What Pleases Them

All they deserve is to have such tyrants of whom they have to be afraid, as they had the pope. He was the sort of government they need. Our crazy princes have just started to learn this. What they have in mind is to be unrestrained and unafraid of the pope. They are beginning to protect the clergy, not for their sakes but to subordinate them to themselves and to make them live by their good pleasure. They are protecting these clergy in such a way that it would be better for them to join sides with us, whom they consider to be their enemies, than to let their feathers be picked by the princes in the name of protecting them. But this is how it should be and must be, and it serves them both right.

It must not be this way among Christians. Those who have honest and pious hearts should highly esteem their ministers and preachers in all humility and love, for the sake of Christ and of His Word. They should regard them highly as a gift and jewel given by God, more precious than any temporal treasure or possession. (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 227-228).

#35 God Forgives and Pardons Your Log

The grim sentence that Christ pronounces here ought to make us tremble at this vice. As I have said, the one who judges always has a log in his eye as far as God is concerned, while the one who is being judged has only a speck. Now, the log is an infinitely graver sin than the speck, that is, the kind of sin that damns altogether and leaves us no grace. However great our sins and transgressions may be otherwise, He can forgive all of these, as He shows by calling the neighbor’s sin a “speck.” But you spoil everything when to these sins you add the abomination and the filth of judging and condemning someone else on account of his faults and when you refuse to forgive the way you want God to forgive you. You go ahead refusing to see the log, and you imagine that you are without sin. But if you recognized yourself, as has been said, you would also refrain from judging your neighbor. Thus your log would be called a little speck, and it would obtain the forgiveness of sins. You would also be willing to forgive and tolerate and excuse someone else’s speck, in view of the fact that God forgives and pardons your log.” (Luther’s Works, v. 21, pages 222).