Ritual has an important part to play in our prayer lives. Think about it. We always use ritual to make sure important things get done. We have a morning ritual that includes brushing our teeth, combing our hair, etc. Those are things that need to get done daily. The ritual helps us to make sure that we do them faithfully. We should consider prayer to our loving heavenly father a vital aspect of our lives. We know it important to say a ritual “good morning” to people as we first meet them in the day and “good night” as we leave them at the end of the day. Shouldn’t we also find ritual prayer proper in our relationship with God.
Martin Luther was surprisingly expert in the matter of Christian Prayer. Here is how he approaches this matter:
It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, “Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.” Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day.
The importance of prayer is to talk to God, just like greeting a co-worker in the morning. Commonly, human beings use rituals to do this. Luther suggests that we start our day with rising and making the sign of the cross to remind our selves that this day stands under the grace of Christ. Then, we can say the Lord’s prayer and perhaps the creed or the ten commandments. Even though we are using words that others have written, we still find the ritual a way to connect to God and to be confident of what we are saying to him.
This also extends to sharing grace at meals and bedtime prayers. We teach our children to pray before eating and going to sleep. We often use ritual prayers to give them the words to say. As we grow older we sometimes feel like we have out grown those prayers. Sometimes we replace them with more mature prayers that enable us to talk to God in a more natural fashion. But, if instead we have simply stopped praying at those times, wouldn’t it be better that we used the prayers of our childhood to say “thanks” or “goodnight.” After all Jesus praises the childlike as being fit for the kingdom of Heaven.
Let ritual prayer be the foundation of your prayer life. A foundation is only a beginning, but it is perhaps the most necessary part of a house. On the foundation of ritual prayer, you can build a beautiful life of prayer that connects with God on many levels. But never neglect the foundation. Let it stand firm to establish your daily relationship to God, confident that he is near whenever you call.
(To provide some resources for enhancing ritual prayer in your life I am including here Martin Luther’s beautiful morning and evening prayers. I am also linking a little pamphlet he wrote on prayer, called a Simple Way To Pray.)
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.
I thank You, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have graciously kept me this day; and I pray that You would forgive me all my sins where I have done wrong, and graciously keep me this night. 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.