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Praying Luther's Small Catechism

by John T. Pless

Item #: 124490 / 2016 / Paperback / 182 Pages


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That little book called Luther’s Small Catechism is the one you see stacked in church classrooms and tucked under teenage arms, filled with their scribbles and spiritual growth. Decades later, the same small book is often collecting dust on shelves in Christian homes around the world.

Praying Luther’s Small Catechism
 invites you, your family, and the church to return to the riches of this treasure. Beyond its purpose as a handbook and outline of Christian teachings, Luther’s Small Catechism is also a prayer book for every age. Not a textbook, a homework assignment, or a friend for children only.

Far from limiting and restricting your prayer life, Luther’s Small Catechism anchors you in God’s Word where the expansive skies of His mercy in Christ are wide and wonderfully never-ending. The carefully written words of the catechism offer both depth and simplicity for your meditation, accessible to the beginner learning the ABCs and valuable for stirring the hearts and minds of the wisest.

Journey through the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism as well as the Daily Prayers and Table of Duties, and discover how these scripturally sound words (2 Timothy 1:13) shape our praying for a lifetime.


“What a wonderful treasure chest John Pless has given us! This little book is filled with rich reflections on Luther’s Small Catechism, drawn from wide reading and also from Pless’s own wise reflections. It is a book that is not only to be read, but also to be used—and used not merely in private devotions, but also in instruction within the church. It is a fantastic resource. I hope and expect that it will capture the hearts of many and bear its fruit there.”

—Mark A. Seifrid, Professor of Exegetical Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO

“Giving voice that the Catechism not only teaches true doctrine but also Christ-centered spirituality, John Pless reminds us that the Catechism was designed not only to be taught but also to be prayed. Many find prayer challenging because they have a hard time focusing. This book not only offers model prayers grounded in the Catechism, but shows how the Catechism itself can structure the life of prayer and so help those who are easily distracted in prayer. Sound doctrine, consistent practice, pastoral wisdom, all held together by a passion for the Gospel, constitute the richness of this book.”

—Mark Mattes, Grand View University, Des Moines, IA

“Few theologians and pastors have reflected on and meditated upon Luther’s catechisms over the past few decades as deeply as John Pless. Few are also as well acquainted with the scholarship on these Reformation treasures as is John. He picks up Luther’s proposal for using the catechetical texts for meditation and prayer and models it for us with brief meditations and prayers that go to the heart of Luther’s insights. This book can admirably serve those who are simply looking for a readable text that can help them teach the catechism. But even more, it can serve as springboard for developing a life-long devotional practice with the catechism that will deepen one’s faith in the Triune God who has given himself and all his gifts to us.”

—Charles Arand, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO
Professor of Systematic Theology; Dean of Theological Research and Publications; Director at the Center for Care of Creation

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Praying Luther's Small Catechism

by Pless, John

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Wonderful resource

I have been working through this book in my own devotional and prayer time, and I recommend it to others as well. Luther always intended for his catechism to be used as a prayer book throughout one’s life, not just relegated to a confirmation textbook. Indeed, his answers are written in such a way as to be easily modified into prayer form by rephrasing them slightly. This is a wonderful tool for my prayer life. By working through one section a day (2-3 pages each), I can focus on a different Commandment, article of the Creed, or petition of the Lord’s Prayer. I encourage you to consider adding this resource to enrich your own prayer life. It is well worth it! My only criticism of this book is the way it is formatted with the footnotes. To me, they are quite distracting. Some pages have numerous footnotes, and not just for references. There are extra quotes there as well, which breaks up the reading of the main text. I think I’d prefer just inserting those extra quotes into the body of the text, then putting the references into an appendix at the end of the book. Still, the content of the book far outweighs the distraction of the footnotes, and I will be coming back to this book again and again.

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Begin a new, breathing chapter of your life

Luther’s Small Catechism is a prayer book. It is “a spiritual companion on a man’s journey from cradle to grave; the Christian’s daily prayer and meditation.” (Gottfried Krodel ) “First and foremost the catechism is meant to be prayed, as a daily exercise, as Luther wished it to be.” (Werner Klän) John T. Pless rediscovers this for our time. In his new book, Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, Pless reveals how you can pray the Small Catechism. You can speak to God about the most important things in life and death, in time and eternity. You can do it with simplicity and with a sound form of words. Amazingly, this is much easier than one would think, because in catechetical prayer, God takes the initiative and puts into our mouths the very words He loves to hear. In this kind of prayer, even the commandments are promises, and we pray with faith in God’s promises to give us all things, especially his promises to give us himself. In chapter 1, Pless introduced the basics of praying the catechism. In chapters 2 through 9, he moves through the Six Chief Parts, Daily Prayers, and the Table of Duties. Four appendices treat the Catechism as the handbook for the vocation of the laity in worship and prayer, Luther’s morning and evening prayers as reflections of the Our Father, the Psalms organized according to the Lord’s Prayer, and preparation for Confession and Absolution according to the Ten Commandments. Each section begins with material from the Small Catechism followed by a prayer developed out of that material. Then commentary on the teaching of the passage shows how the teaching shapes praying. Here are a few example prayers in the book. On the Third Commandment: "By Your Word and Spirit, draw us away from our restless labor that we might find rest in You alone, merciful God. Grant that, fearing and loving You above all things, we may never despise the preaching of your Word of Life, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it; through Jeus Christ, our Lord. Amen." On the Second Question concerning Baptism: "Lord Jesus Christ, by Your death You have purchased and won for us forgiveness of sins, rescuing us from death and the devil and obtaining eternal salvation which You now work in Baptism. Give us Your Spirit that we may believe what You have said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” and so receive these gifts of forgiveness of sins, victory over death and the devil, and eternal salvation, as Your words and promises declare. Amen." On how bodily eating and drinking of the bread and wine can do such great things: "Lord Jesus Christ, as we eat Your holy body and drink Your holy blood, draw our hearts to trust in your promise that Your body and blood were given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Give us the confidence that whoever believes Your words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sin”; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever one God. Amen." Praying to God from the catechism

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