Luther on prayer and the Holy Spirit (2)

In my previous post, we saw how the Holy Spirit helps us pray, not by overruling our prayers, but by fashioning true prayers out of the rough material of our innermost desires. As David Scaer continues (see previous posts 1 | 2), in doing so “The Spirit gives a new and larger dimension to our prayers”.

It is not that we pray for “foolish and harmful things” (this would not even qualify as true prayer, “because it would not flow out of a converted will”). Rather, it is that we pray for too little. As Luther observes, St Paul describes the Spirit as helping us in our weakness, not our “iniquity”. It is not that we ask for the wrong things, “rather that we do not ask for enough”:

Luther writes, “Therefore in heeding our prayers and coming to grant our requests God destroys our weak thinking and our still too humble ideas, and He gives us what the Spirit demands for us. It is as if a son wrote a letter to his father asking for silver and the father disregarded the letter and prepared to give the son gold. Since the son did not receive the silver which he requested, he was concerned that the father had disregarded the letter.

The Holy Spirit prays with us not because we are getting stronger in the Christian life, but because we are still weak (contrary to those who might present being “Spirit-filled” as a more exalted state of spirituality):

Our weakness prevents us from receiving the good which God intends for us. We would continue to flee from the good which God wants to give us if the Spirit did not prevent us.

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3 Responses to Luther on prayer and the Holy Spirit (2)

  1. joel says:

    A good selection of words. Powerful indeed. Your post made me think of George MacDonald’s observation: “Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because he would give the best, and man will not take it.”

  2. Phil Walker says:

    What a helpful perspective, that when we talk about God saying “No” to a prayer, what we miss is that he’s saying “Yes” to something better for us.

  3. Paul Landgraf says:

    Very nice. This reminds me of the comments in the Large Catechism when we pray for the kingdom to come.

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