Prayer, Meditation, and Suffering – the Path to Understanding

October 19th, 2008 | Add Comment | General Topics Prayer, Meditation, and Suffering – the Path to Understanding |  Facebook

Martin Luther’s Rules For How to Become a Theologian
From Taste and See by John Piper

Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Germany. He died February 8, 1546. In those years he preached over three thou­sand sermons and wrote fifty thousand pages. From his Bible professorship at the University of Wittenberg, he played the decisive human role in creating the Reformation.

He gives profound counsel to us about getting the most from the Bible. Don’t be put off by the word “theology.” What he has in mind is good solid read­ing and thinking about what God says. It is for everybody: “I want you to know how to study theology in the right way. I have practiced this method myself…. The method of which I am speaking is the one, which the holy king David teaches in Psalm 119…. Here you will find three rules. They are frequently pro­posed throughout the psalm and run thus: Oratio, meditatio, tentatio [prayer, meditation, trial].” (All quotes from Ewald M. Plass, compiler, What Luther Says: An Anthology [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959], vol. 3, 1359f.)

1. Prayer

“You should completely despair of your own sense and reason, for by these you will not attain the goal…. Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God through His dear Son, gra­ciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding. As you see, David constantly prays in the psalm….”

Psalm 119

Verse 18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law.”

Verses 27,33: “Make me understand the way of Your precepts…. Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes.”

Verses 34—37: “Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law…. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to dishonest gain…. Revive me in Your ways.”

“He uses many more words of this nature, although he knew the text of Moses well and that of other books besides, and heard and read them daily. Yet he desires to have the real Master of Scripture in order by all means to make sure that he does not plunge into it with his reason and become his own master.”

2. Meditation

“Second, you should meditate. This means that not only in your heart but also externally you should constantly handle and compare, read and reread the Word as preached and the very words as written in Scripture, diligently noting and meditating on what the Holy Spirit means— Therefore, you observe how in this psalm David always says that he will speak, think, talk, hear, read, day and night and constantly—but about nothing else than God’s Word and Commandments. For God wants to give you His Spirit only through die exter­nal Word.”

Psalm 119

Verse 11: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, mat I may not sin against You.”

Verse 15: “I will meditate on Your precepts, and regard Your ways.”

Verse 48: “I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Your statutes.”

Verse 24: “Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my coun­selors.”

Verse 47: “I shall delight in Your commandments, which I love.”

Verse 93: “I will never forget Your precepts.”

Verse 97: “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.”

3. Trials

“Third, there is the tentatio, the trial [Anfechtungl. This is the touchstone. It teaches you not only to know and understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God's Word is: it is wisdom supreme. This is why you observe that, in the psalm indicated, David so often complains of all sorts of enemies.... For as soon as God's Word becomes known through you, the devil will afflict you, will make a real [theolo­gian] of you.”

Psalm 119

Verses 67-68: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good and do good; teach me Your statutes.”

Verse 71: “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.”

Perhaps you say you do not want to be a theologian. Don’t stumble over the word. Luther means: a true knower of God. Do you want to know God? Do you want to know his ways in the world and in your life? Do you want to be able to understand and apply the Bible to your situation? Do you want to be a good soul doctor for the hurts of others? Then this is good counsel. Ponder the Word of God day and night, Pour out your heart in prayer for illumination and love. Be patient in suffering. Do not let its lessons fall to the ground while you grumble over God’s hard gifts. Trust him and learn the deepest things of all.

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