The Praying Church

Our American brethren in the faith will also learn this through painful experiences. Instead of setting up a church office in Washington, it would have been better had they equipped some place somewhere in the solitude of their immense country, where prayers would be offered day and night for their government and for the peace of the world. For the church of Christ is not a church that is always busy holding conferences, nor is she a church that does business with politicians and the press. She is ecclesia orans. And this is her main calling. Either she is ecclesia orans, as indeed she showed herself to be already in the catacombs,—or she is nothing.
Let no one say that prayer is self-evident. After all, we have services once or twice a Sunday. No, that prayer of the church which we find everywhere in the New Testament where the life of an ecclesia is spoken of, unfortunately, is not something self-evident. Who would maintain that prayer is offered in our Lutheran Churches today with a fervor, which even approaches that with which the church of the New Testament prayed “without ceasing?” (Acts 12:5.) Where today is Luther’s mighty praying with its visible answers? Where is the prayer of those pious people, of which Luther spoke in his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Large Catechism, the prayer which in those days held the Devil back from destroying Germany in its own blood? Yea, despite all the criticism which the Reformation has directed at the mumblings of Catholic prayer and which the modern liturgical movement within the Catholic Church undertook (quite independently from an entirely different viewpoint) must we not finally ask where, in which church, prayer is being offered with more fervor and perhaps also with better training—for prayer too must be learned? Will the answer be the Catholic Church or the churches of the Reformation?

From Ecclesia Orans, in Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Eastertide, 1993pp.28-33.

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