Martin Luther’s Doctrine of Prayer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Systematic Theology


The Thesis proceeds on the assumption that Luther's Doctrine of Prayer is central to his theology, and a convenient key to the essentials of his Whole theological outlook. In PART 1 (PRELIMINARY) , certain broad theological categories are examined , which the writer claims as necessary ’Pre-suppositions of Prayer', in Luther's view; vis. the primacy of the religious relationship, the ’Word of Promise', Faith, 'Justification', and the principle of 'Gloria Dei'.

PART II is concerned with an examination of Luther's Doctrine of Prayer in relation to certain other prominent doctrines , as these are expounded by Luther. Chapter II shows the connection between Prayer and the 'Word' - this term being considered (for convenience) under three distinct headings : Christ the Word (the primary meaning) , the Written Word (Scripture) , and the Spoken Word (Preaching). Prayer is objectively grounded in this 'Word'.

Chapter III considers Prayer in relation to Luther's notion of the Holy Spirit , the broad conclusion reached being that prayer 'In Christ' (the 'Word') is substantially the sane as prayer 'in the Spirit , and that "without the Holy Spirit » no prayer can be made". In this , as in all chapters , careful comparisons are made between the pre-Reformation view and that of Luther

The complex relationship between Prayer and the Sacraments is then considered , it being noted that , for Luther , there is an intimate connection between them , since both Prayer and the Sacraments are 'forms' in which God presents Himself to human experience. The place of Word and Sacrament , the place of Faith , and the Religious Significance of the Sacraments , are all considered with dual reference to Prayer and Sacrament ; and the chapter concludes with a study of the liturgical relationships which obtain between the two. The general conclusion reached is that , in Luther , there is a striking emphasis upon the place of prayers in celebrating the Sacraments , and that the external parts of the rite are , in comparison , of relatively small importance.

Chapter V offers a survey and assessment of Luther's doctrine of prayer in relation to his distinctive conception of the Church. Prayer is not only one of the chief 'marks' of the Church ; it is also an activity which cannot genuinely be affected apart from the Church (i.e. the 'whole company of believers'). Personal faith in the Word must be linked to the faith of the Church ; personal prayer must be linked to the prayer of the Church. After showing the complementary nature of 'private' end 'public' prayer , the Thesis proceeds to outline one of Luther's most important emphases - the Centrality of the Congregation , in its bearing upon a rightly conceived theology of prayer.

The final division of the work - PART III - is concerned to locate and assess the importance of the various types of prayer to he found in Luther's own practice of prayer , vis. Thanksgiving , Confession , Petition , and Intercession - this latter including (for the sake of completeness) his attitude to Prayer for the Dead. All these 'types' (with the exception of Prayer for the Dead , of which Luther offers a severe 'critique') find their common justification in the that that they express man's homage to God , which Luther regards as the basic religious necessity.

A short CONCLUSION is concerned not so much to summarize the whole work as to emphasize the fact that this fundamentally religious interpretation of theological categories is Luther's greatest service to theology.


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