Why We Should Pray with Someone Else’s Words

On February 22, 1546, Melanchthon gave a eulogy for Martin Luther, who had died a few days before on February 18.

In a poignant passage, Melanchthon recounts happening upon Luther in prayer. This is what he saw–and heard:

What should I say about the rest of [Luther’s] virtues? I myself often happened upon him when he, weeping, spoke his prayers on behalf of the whole church. For he had the habit of taking for himself a certain time almost every day for the recitation of some Psalms, with which he, groaning and weeping, used to mix together his own prayers. And he often said that he was inflamed with rage at those who–either because of ignorance or because of busyness–say that it is enough to pray by groaning alone. “Forms have been prescribed for us by the divine wisdom,” he said, “so that reading aloud might light a flame in our minds–indeed, so that our voice, too, might profess what God we are invoking.”

The text is found in Corpus Reformatorum 11, 731. The translation is my own.

There is much sense, it seems to me, in what Luther says. If you buy it, use someone else’s words when you pray–and do it out loud. God has given us mouths and ears for a reason; we should use them.


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