A few weeks ago, I was reflecting on my time back in DC when I was learning the Jewish Amidah prayer. I joyfully attempted to sing it from my Hebrew prayerbook each day for a time. I loved praying from my heart with the help of my Jewish prayerbook.
That made me wonder...do Christians have a prayerbook?
I took a look at our Lutheran hymnal, to see what content it might have, especially with regards to prayer. It has the liturgy of the service, the Creeds, many hymns, a few Scripture reading schedules, but not many prayers. Hm. There has to be a place where I can find the rich tradition of Christian prayer...
Dad loaned me some of his books on Martin Luther - The Book of Concord, Luther's Works: Volume 26: Lectures on Galatians, and I also dug up my Catechism textbooks. The Catechism has a section of teaching about the Lord's Prayer, but that was all I found. In the full Small Catechism, though, I found a section on Daily Prayers. I was fascinated to find that Luther taught the sign of the cross in this section. I didn't know Lutherans did that.
Next, I started researching the origins of some of the church's prayers and liturgy. How far back does the sign of the cross go, for example. It's encouraging to reconnect with the tradition of Christian faith. Here are some dates that I found:
The Lord's Prayer, Scripture (Matthew chapter 6, Luke chapter 11)
The Apostle's Creed, possibly as early as the Apostles
Doxology (Gloria Patri), c. 2nd century
The sign of the cross, by 3rd century
The Nicene Creed, 4th century
Jesus Prayer, 5th century
Dad and I have also been watching a history of the Early Church, produced by Ligonier Ministries. We're learning about some of the early Church fathers - Justin Martyr (2nd c.), Irenaeus (2nd c.), Tertullian (2nd c.), Origen (3rd c.) - and some of the heresies that the early Church had to overcome. I've also been reading a book called The Creed: Professing the Faith Through the Ages. It traces the development of Christian statements of belief, particularly in the Nicene Creed.
Something I'm discovering is that there is a rich tradition of prayer in the Christian Church. I'm beginning to incorporate some of these into my own private devotions and prayer time. Yes, I think these were things that I needed to discover...