Prayers of the Reformers

On Friday, February 18th we celebrate the 461st anniversary of the death of Martin Luther, that great theologian and reformer of the Church. We know so much about the bold deeds and writings of this man and his many contemporaries who changed the world, that they have become almost legendary for us. But thankfully, we also know them just as men – people, sinners saved by grace like you and I – who clung to a relationship with God the Father and Christ their Savior, wrestling with their faith, and fervent in their prayer. On this anniversary of Luther’s death, and indeed throughout this important anniversary year of the Reformation, let us join Luther – not as Reformers, or theologians, but simply as men and women seeking to know more about God, and more about ourselves, through prayer. Paraclete offers this new book, Prayers of the Reformers, as a help and guide. And as Luther himself is credited with saying, “Grant that I may not pray alone with the mouth; help me that I may pray from the depths of my heart.”

From the Introduction

Prayers of the ReformersSome historical events have such a profound impact and such a multitude of consequences that the world is changed forever in their wake. The Protestant Reformation must certainly be counted among such events. Given the loud repercussions—social, theological, cultural, liturgical (among so many others)—that have continued to echo through the centuries, even to our own day, it might be easy to forget that behind the forces that brought about such change were devout people of faith, whose everyday lives were marked by times of prayer. The Protestant “reformers,” as they have come to be known, were also, and perhaps most importantly, “pray-ers.”

Certainly we learn much from the writings they have left, as well as the many records of their lives. But they have also left us their prayers, like windows into their own souls, and in their prayers we can meet them and learn from them. The prayers of the Protestant Reformers are filled with some of the central themes of their faith, perhaps first among them being an unshakable confidence in God’s supreme authority over all time and space. History is God’s workplace.

He does not stand afar off, but actively and intimately participates in the lives of people in order to show his love and bring about his will. Many of the Reformers’ prayers reflect this conviction as, again and again, they seek for God’s will to be done on earth, and in themselves. Asking for the grace to be obedient to God is not so much an expression of servility as it is an expression of hope—the hope that my ordinary life can play a part in God’s extraordinary plan. The Reformers were convinced that we are all God’s instruments for the working of his purposes, and so we pray for what we need in order to serve him faithfully.

A second recurring theme follows directly: utter dependence on God for everything needed to live for God. Here are prayers for wisdom, guidance, perseverance, protection, and for daily bread in all its forms, offered in the certainty that God alone is the source of such gifts. Turning to God with confidence starts by acknowledging one’s own weakness and helplessness, beginning with the confession of one’s own sin. Our dependence on God is never more profoundly apparent than when we stand (or fall) in need of his grace, mercy, and forgiveness, all of which are generously given through the shed blood of his only Son. For the Reformers, every prayer we offer is built upon the foundation of Christ’s saving Cross and Resurrection.

Third, implicitly and sometimes explicitly, these prayers express our need for illumination by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. In the writings of the Reformers there often appears an almost seamless movement between quotations from the Bible and phrases of prayer. As students of God’s word, they conversed with God using his own “language.” They believed that one must pray in order to understand the Scriptures, and that one must read the Scriptures in order to know how to pray. And, in both cases—when reading the Bible and when praying—they taught that we depend upon the Holy Spirit to shed God’s light upon minds and hearts that would otherwise be left blind to God’s handiwork. Praying for light is as important as praying for bread, for the Christian cannot live without either.

Fourth, trust in God stands as the chief motivator for prayer. Just as he is all-powerful, God is also all-loving. We express our needs and desires, sometimes cheerfully and sometimes despairingly, but always believing that God’s answers will spring from an eternal love that is as unchangeable as it is mysterious. We ask of God because we trust in God, that he is faithful to his promises, that he is always ready to hear and to answer, and that he never will turn away when we call out to him. All of the Reformers expressed this kind of trust through their prayers, and some of them showed it even in the moment of their violent deaths.

Finally, for the Reformers, the ultimate goal of praying was the same as it was for living—that God may be glorified.

Thanksgiving for God’s goodness is directed to the same end as asking for God’s forgiveness. In both cases, and in every case between, God’s answer will elicit praise from our hearts as well as from our lips. If our aim is to live “to the praise of his glory,” then woven through all of our prayers is the ultimate hope that, in Christ, God will unite all things in heaven and on earth, including us, into his everlasting kingdom. So we pray in order that his kingdom may come now, in whatever way it can, and that we will always be part of that coming.

Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice. . . Here the cry of the poet is directed to his only hope in a time of loneliness and desperation. “Even unto the Lord” he makes his supplication. The superscription suggests that it was written by “when he was in the cave.” The exact circumstances are unclear, but the two incidences we have recorded in Scripture—1 Samuel 22:1 and 1 Samuel 24:3-4—refer to the time when David was fleeing for his life from a jealous and vengeful King Saul. Not all who pray this psalm do so out of such dire conditions, though even today, in many parts of the world, faith in God is still lived at the risk of losing one’s life. Such desperate words as these can be prayed in the name of those who suffer such persecution.

On a more personal level, however, there are two significant elements to this psalm that anyone can understand. The first is the utter sense of loneliness, even of abandonment. Not only is the psalmist in trouble, but no one cares. He looks for someone to offer compassion, but “there was no man that would know me,” he laments (v.4), “and no man cared for my soul.” However self-sufficient we may consider ourselves to be, the human heart in such bitter times yearns for a companion.

In fact, the psalmist does have company in his condition. Despite his fear, he knows that there is one who “knows his path.” For the psalmist, this is no theological platitude. Placing his hope in the Lord is the conviction of his heart. Notwithstanding his vacillation between despair and trust, he expects God to “bring his soul out of prison.” The psalmist uses an interesting word when he describes the Lord as his “portion” in the land of the living (v.6). This is the same Hebrew word used to refer to the “inheritance” of land apportioned to the twelve tribes of Israel. As one lives off the land the psalmist “lives off” God. The psalmist’s very life depends upon the provision given him by the Lord.

Finding Words of Healing

Words of healing coloring book

When the spirit or body needs healing, creative resources can bring peace to those who are ill and their family members.  For years Paraclete Press has provided grief and bereavement care materials to hospices, churches and funeral homes in the form of video and book resources.

Now we also have Words of Healing – A Coloring Book to Comfort and Inspire. This is a meditative coloring book with words of healing, prayer and comfort,  paired with scripture verses and a letter to color.

Last year, one of our employees stood by his brother’s side as he battled brain cancer. Simple, strong scriptures were an anchor for him.  Creative outlets were important for both him and his brother as they travelled a challenging road. He experienced firsthand the importance of spiritual strength as a much-needed friend  on the journey through the life-threatening illness and, ultimately, the death of a loved one. His experience became the inspiration for this book.

Words of Healing is also available in a coloring book / CD set, paired with the music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina.


What is the purpose of art?

New from Paraclete Press!

“Why is there inside man the desire, even the burden, to create? What is the source of this desire?…May a Christian devote his life to the creation or study of music, painting, literature, and the other arts? Are the arts dangerous to the spiritual life?”   From Chapter 1

“Thousands owe to this giant of Wheaton their ability to hear literary voices with Gospel-tuned ears.” — Jeremy Begbie, Professor of Theology, Duke Divinity School

Beauty, art and aesthetic are being embraced and discussed by Christians of all denominations and indeed people of faith from many different traditions. This volume will introduce a new generation to the work and influence of Clyde Kilby who, more than fifty years ago, was an apologist ahead of his time.

“Now a new generation has the chance to experience the sparkle, wit, aesthetic insight, and deep Christian commitment that made Kilby such an unusually captivating teacher. . . his words remain a true inspiration.”
—Mark A. Noll, author and Professor of History, University of Notre Dame

Dr. Clyde S. Kilby  (1902–1986) was a Professor of English at Wheaton College and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center, a research center including a collection of materials by Inklings authors.

Publicity roundup!

Some of our favorite book reviewers have been doing what they do best, and we’re the proud recipients of several wonderful reviews. Here is a taste of the most recent and best:

All Creation WaitsAll Creation Waits – Author Gayle Boss was a featured guest blogger on Krista Tippett’s On Being blog. You can read that post here.

The Paraclete Poetry Anthology was featured in the Chicago Tribune today, in a weekly round up of religion titles. Barbara Mahaney said: “Consider this a short course for the soul. Or, perhaps, the syllabus to last a lifetime. . .

Paraclete Poetry AnthologyGathered here we find selected and new poems from a contemplative monk or three, an Episcopal priest, a rabbi, a protege of Thomas Merton, an Iranian-German poet, a theologian, a flock of English professors, and poets from Ireland, Poland, West Virginia and Tennessee. Tucked amid the poets’ roster, we find Rainer Maria Rilke, considered one of the most lyrically intense German-language poets, in new and previous translations by Burrows.

You’ll wear out the pages and the binding before you’re ever ready to put down this book.”


Charles of the DesertWe also had a wonderful mention on “The Millions” for Charles of the Desert: A Life in Verseas part of Nick Ripatrizone’s Year in Reading. “Each year I read more books than I can possibly review — here are. . . the finest and most memorable of that bunch. They are worth your money, your time, and your attention.

Beautiful verse, full of pieces like “The Pangs of Wanting:” “I deliver my body to the church, / though I cannot imagine what penance might relieve / these pangs of wanting.” Later: “I take first communion…My tongue licks up the bread: a whisper / of paper on my teeth…His torn body in my stomach, / his blood in my spit, I almost vomit; I almost sing.” More collections about God like this one would be very welcomed.”

A “brilliant” introduction to the Inklings writers

well-of-wonder-e-mail-5Just in and currently only available from Paraclete Press is A Well of Wonder: Essays on C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Inklings by Clyde S. Kilby (Professor of English at Wheaton College and founder of the Marion E. Wade Center, a research center including a collection of materials by Inklings authors.)

“Clyde Kilby opened the door on beauty and put us in the hands of a whole set of wise, holy, and imaginative guides.” — from the Introduction by Loren Wilkinson

Listen to an excerpt from the chapter “Into the Land of the Imagination” on C. S. Lewis and how The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came to be.

Listen here

This book is a brilliant introduction to the themes of themes of myth, theology, and imagination in the fiction and prose of the Inklings writers!

All Creation Waits – Stunning, for Advent


Looking for something new this Advent?

This December, reach for a truly beautiful and unique Advent companion! In this book are twenty-five fresh images of the foundational truth of the Christ story. Portraits depicting how wild animals of North America ingeniously adapt when darkness and cold descend allow us to see and hear, as if for the first time, the ancient wisdom of Advent: The dark is not an end but a doorway to a new beginning.

“Each of the beautiful creatures in this little book is a unique word of God, its own metaphor. . . they announce the Good News of Advent: that through every dark door the creating Love of the universe waits.” — Richard Rohr, OFM

Short, daily reflections that paint vivid, poetic images of familiar animals, paired with charming original woodcuts, will engage both children and adults — a wonderful gift!

A Spiritual Odyssey

path-revealed-e-mail-header-1Just days after turning fifty, Martha Maddux is told she has Alzheimer’s disease. As Martha and Carlen navigate this new alien world, their faith is challenged and they experience spiritual transformation – the “journey from a conventional faith to a stunningly real relationship with God.”

A Path Revealed is a deep spiritual memoir. As Carlen seeks healing for his wife, he encounters God in a new way and finds growth and healing for himself. For anyone coping with a crisis, this book tells the story of finding a spiritual path through the darkest of hours.

“You or a loved one may be staring your own crisis – cancer, stroke, job loss, diabetes, heart attack, home foreclosure – you name it. Regardless of the crisis, the potential for emotional and psychological upheaval is much the same . . . but this is not a story about hopelessness. Rather, our story traces a different path.” — Carlen Maddux

“The reader who travels with Carlen into the mysterious depths of human life, human tragedy, and human relationships will be led to reflect, to ponder, and to expand.  .  .  . I urge [you] to move into the maze and the mystery that is Carlen’s story, which may also lead you into deeper reflection on the maze and mystery of your own story.” — Rev. Dr. Arthur Ross III, from the Foreword