Throughout the history of the church, prayer has been seen as an indispensable spiritual discipline, and this remained true during the era of the Reformation. In this encouragement to prayer, Lutheran pastor Johann Spangenberg (1484-1550) calls on his audience to reach out to the Lord, knowing with confidence that he is listening and ready to answer even in the most difficult times.
Knock on God’s Door with the Hammer of Prayer
Who is the traveling guest? The guest who comes at night and calls on us for hospitality is the various trials and temptations, adversities and afflictions, anxiety and sickness which can come on us suddenly and unforeseen. For we also take care to say, if one has a bad tooth, an ulcer or a pustule: “I have an evil guest who will not let me rest day or night.” And who is the sleeping friend or neighbor?For the prayer that flows from a faithful heart is such a hammer that it will be heard loud and clear in the highest heaven. This sleeping friend is God our Lord, for when we call on him in times of trouble or danger and he does not answer us so quickly, he seems to us to be asleep. And so we continue to knock on the door of his fatherly heart with the hammer of prayer. For the prayer that flows from a faithful heart is such a hammer that it will be heard loud and clear in the highest heaven. The prayer of the distressed pierces the clouds and does not cease until it has come to God, and it does not stop until it reaches the highest places. But we go to him in the night, under our cross, in fear and affliction, for the three loaves of bread, that is, help and comfort from God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But how does God, the heavenly master of the house, present himself? He lets us say many words and cry loudly, but he keeps silent and acts as if he were sleeping and does not hear us. And as the master of the house presents himself, so also do all his children and servants. And so he already gives us an answer, and he refuses us any help, saying, “Don’t trouble me! The door is locked, and my children are with me in the chamber. It isn’t right for me to disturb their sleep on your account. I cannot get up and give you the help that you want.” That is a hard blow for a poor, troubled heart; yes, obviously a hard blow, but it is also at the same time a great comfort that Christ says, “I say to you, although he will not get up and give it to him because he is his friend, yet he will get up because of his shameless begging and give him what he needs.” And even more, he says, “If one person can obtain something from another person through ill-timed knocking, begging and pleading, how much more will a person receive from God with his heartfelt prayer?”