Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yeah, but really?

"I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours' prayer" -Martin Luther
So it's a great quote, right? This is one of those quotes that finds itself in a sermon in every church in America at least once a year. Then we all say "Wow," and then start hating Martin Luther. Seriously, what kind of pompous jerk says something like that? If someone I knew said that, they would be destroyed. So why does Martin Luther get a free pass? Does he just have enough spiritual credit built up to say really pious things like that?

Two things disturb me about my response to this quote:
  1. I've realized that, if someone says something especially pious, I automatically assume they are lying.
  2. I actually don't believe doing this sort of thing as a practice is possible, beneficial, or important.
It worries me that I am so comfortable being so universally cynical, mostly because this is not loving behavior, but partly because it doesn't make for a really happy, hopeful demeanor.

I'm a fairly upbeat person, but I tend to be fairly sensitive to malarky. Heavy handed use of cliche drives me a little bit crazy; it doesn't feel authentic. But I don't necessarily have the liberty to assume that people, especially those who I consider part of my spiritual family, are inauthentic.

But perhaps more disturbing is the realization that I don't believe it's possible to pray three hours every morning. Of course I know it's possible, but I think it's crazy and unreasonable. But why? Why do I think radical devotion to spiritual guidance is so bizarre? Perhaps I am really just discouraged that I can't say the same, and I've tried.

I don't care to create an impossible legalistic standard, but I do think there is some value in reevaluating what we, or at least I, consider "normal" or "adequate" behavior as Christians.Instead of feeling ashamed and defensive when I hear crazy statements like Luther's, what if I was just happy that someone had that kind of spiritual discipline? What if I actually set my standard for normal behavior on God? What if I sought the kind of lifestyle that He has for me?


  1. I know it can be hard to live up to standards like that.

    I have recently revolutionized my prayer life by setting my mind to pray through most of the mundane tasks I do every day. I blogged about it on Monday. Instead of grumbling over folding clothes, I am praying through the task.

    Sure, sometimes I find my mind drifting, but still. I think I have spent more time in prayer in this last week than I did all of last month. It is working for me, in my life right now. :D

    (And, I'm not aiming for pious or pompous, but sharing something that has been incredibly rewarding for me lately!)

  2. Haha, I don't think your pompous or pious, but then I probably wouldn't have thought Luther was pompous or pious if I could have actually spoken with him.

    Your example made me think of Practicing the Presence, by Brother Lawrence...which I have not read, but I have it on deck. :)

    I struggle with prayer because it requires so much spirit stillness. My mind and my life exist in a natural state of chaos, it's just how I'm wired. But communing with God requires a rest that, sadly, is not natural for me.

    That's my excuse, and it's not really a good one!