The other day I posted this to "The Sacrament is the Gospel" (see sidebar) to this thread:
What I’m wondering about is the “prayer is not a means of grace.” I’ve heard this plenty before. But. Whenever prayer is right and scriptural we should believe that we will receive. In that sense it is not work but receiving from the Word. Such as “Forgive us our trespasses.” Every day we can pray this (daily bread) and expect to be forgiven again, as it is a right prayer, straight from Christ’s mouth.
Jim Pierce in yesterday’s interview (Issues, etc.) also said, that the liturgy “sings forgiveness” to him. When growing up the theology was highly variable from preacher to preacher, but I got my bearings from the Lutheran hymns and Bach Cantatas. Bach wrote in his Bible how great songs brought in the Spirit. Of course, this would be via the Word.
Another one: every night we prayed: “Deine Gnad und Jesu Blut machen allen Schaden gut.” "Your grace and the blood of Jesus, make all the damage good.” (it rhymes in
German). This is the most memorable Gospel to me.
--Nobody replied to this, which usually means that one is not completely off one's rocker, or else, everyone is on holidays, or everyone has decided you are a complete nut.
What is true is that we cannot make a beginning in faith ourselves. The beginning is with the Word and the effectiveness is through the Spirit via the Word (and Sacrament), but a prayer can certainly be "Word". That's all I'm saying.
When Luther stresses Word and Sacrament he does it against the "enthusiasts", against the "whore" of reason, against thinking God talks to you individually in your "Kaemmerlein" (your own little room), outside of the Word.
The Moral of the story is, whether in preaching or in prayer, we must always stick with the Word and what's revealed.
The other day I also posted Luther, and that's what got me going on this. Here it is again.
First, he must know what he should and shouldn't do. Second, when he sees that he isn't able to do good or refrain from doing evil in his own strength, he must know where he can find the strength. Third, he must know where he should look for this strength. It's similar to being sick. To begin with, a sick person needs to know what his illness is and what he can and cannot do. After that, he needs to know where he can find the medicine that will make him well. Finally, he must want this medicine, obtain it, or have someone bring it to him. So the Ten Commandments teach a person to recognize his illness. They help him see why he cannot do or refrain from doing. They help him see himself as a sinner. Then, the Apostle's Creed shows him were he can find the medicine--the grace--to help him become faithful so that he can keep the commandments. The Apostle's Creed points out that God and his mercy is offered in Christ. Finally, the Lord's Prayer teaches a believer how to desire and obtain all this through orderly and humble prayer. In this way, he will receive the cure and be saved. (my emphasis)
It is not because of the making of the prayer that grace is given. But the prayer contains the word of truth and this word of truth saves.
This is how as children we first believed the Gospel cognitively in our growing mind, saying the prayers over and over that our parents taught us, from the simplest one onward.
When I get my hands on children, (VBS), etc. that's what I focus on, beside the stories and the verses, that they have a little book of excellent prayers to keep. This is also an excellent ministry to mothers. Teach them to pray and sing good things to their little children.
In fact this praying and singing with children and assuring them of God's love and grace in Christ is quite the opposite of telling them "you must make a decision somewhere down the road." Regular prayer does not equate decision theology, rather it shows the opposite. It shows that we know we are children who should ask good things from their dear heavenly Father, who will surely not deny them what he has promised.