Dr. Carl Schalk
While he [Jesus] was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. (Luke 11: 37-41)
Many people think of Lent as a time to “give up” something—a favorite dessert or too much television. Such superficial examples usually make little difference in our life. Martin Luther in his Small Catechism suggests “adding” a daily discipline of prayer he calls Morning and Evening Blessing. Both follow the same outline, are simple, direct, and consist of four points:
- Make the sign of the cross, invoking God’s name into which we are baptized: “God the Father, Son (+), and Holy Spirit, watch over me. Amen.’”
- Say the Apostles Creed and/or the Lord’s Prayer.
- Say the prayer for Morning and Evening Blessing
Luther concludes: “You are to go to your work joyfully” [Morning Blessing] or “go to sleep quickly and cheerfully.” [Evening Blessing].
This spiritual exercise begins with acknowledging the God in whose name we were baptized, leads to confessing the faith of the universal Church, and proceeds to the prayer in which our Lord teaches us how to pray, concluding with a prayer of thanks for the day and /or protection through the coming night. This regular discipline moves us beyond an understanding of prayer as simply asking for things. Instead, it moves us to understand prayer as being shaped to God’s ends and purposes, not something which we use to shape God to our ends.
Luther’s Morning and Evening Blessings may be used individually or as a family devotion. Recited aloud at a modest pace, they allow time for the words to penetrate our thoughts. They are a rich spiritual exercise for Lent or, as Luther suggests, for every morning and evening.
Prayer for morning: I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that you would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please you. For into your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me. Amen.
Prayer for evening: I give thanks to you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have graciously protected me today, and I ask you to forgive me all my sins, where I have done wrong, and graciously protect me tonight. For into your hands I commend myself: my body, my soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the wicked foe may have no power over me. Amen.