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date: 29 April 2017

Martin Luther and the Lord’s Prayer

Summary and Keywords

Martin Luther critically engaged with tradition in his interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer. As a result, he occasionally departed from a line of interpretation even in later years because he had taken up an idea from the traditional canon. His spiritual approach to prayer, reflected in his interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer, was also developed in critical dialogue with tradition. Luther’s spiritual treatment of the Lord’s Prayer either remained within its linguistic realm or became an element in a practice that reinterpreted the classical model of lectio—meditatio—oratio—contemplatio. When he established the three rules of the study of theology with his oratio, meditatio, and tentatio, this was informed by the fact that he identified existential need as the context for this exercise. Regarding the inner qualities of the spirituality of prayer, Luther called for prayer to be made up of words within a dialectic of law and the gospel rather than deliberately imagined internal images. This also held true when it came to Luther’s view on the particular experience of the Holy Spirit. For him, the only difference was that the petitioner should actively pray with his own words before and after experiencing the Spirit, but remain passive during the actual experience, shifting into a listening mode and praying with the words that flowed into him through the Holy Spirit from the Word of God Himself. This experience represented the pinnacle of this complex spiritual practice, being a specific form of contemplatio. Luther also developed his understanding, with regard to the theology of repentance, of the Lord’s Prayer in particular and of prayer in general by critically engaging with tradition. The fact that he interpreted other petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in terms of the fifth petition, confession, was a sign of his rethinking of the theology of repentance. This reevaluation was the result of Luther’s taking his doctrine of justification as the basis for the doctrine of prayer at the same time as adhering to the framework, in terms of the theology of repentance, for the interpretation of prayer that was defined by tradition.

Keywords: interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, Johannes Tauler, Gabriel Biel, lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio, tentatio, God, Holy Spirit, doctrine of justification, theology of repentence, study of theology

Martin Luther in the Late Middle Ages

In order to understand Luther’s interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer as well as the spiritual approach to prayer reflected in these interpretations, it is helpful to look at the late medieval context within which he lived. Only a few examples of authors or works that Luther verifiably or very probably encountered as a young man can be cited here. For him, they represented particular traditional directions and acted as catalysts to varying degrees. It is of course not certain that these actually were decisive in his development of specific aspects of his teachings and practice of prayer.

At the beginning of his time in the monastery, Luther would probably have remembered the Vita Christi written by Ludolph of Saxony1—a former Dominican turned Carthusian monk2—between 1348 and 1368. He might even have encountered it during his time at school in Magdeburg, when he participated in the spiritual life of the Brethren of the Common Life,3 since in the reform movement of the Devotio Moderna, to which the Brethren belonged, this work was a standard text.4 When Luther entered the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits in Erfurt on July 17, 1505, he met Johannes von Paltz there. The latter probably left Erfurt for good in the second half of that year.5 Since he was a significant theological teacher in Erfurt, it is likely that Luther read his Supplementum Coelifodinae6 from 1503/1504. In preparation for the first celebration of Mass, on May 2, 1507, Luther delved deeply into Gabriel Biel’s commentary on the Canon of the Mass,7 the Canonis missae expositio, first published in 1488.8 In his first reading of the Psalms, the Dictata super Psalterium, which Luther held in Wittenberg from 1513 to 1515, he approvingly cited the Rosetum exercitiorum spiritualium et sacrarum meditationum of Jan Mombaer,9 published in 1494 and reworked later.10 It cannot be ruled out, however, that he took his citations from a secondary source. Because of the popularity of the Guide to Contemplative Living,11 one can assume that Luther used it as a primary source. Luther probably knew Nicholas of Lyra’s commentary to the Bible, Postilla literaris super totam Bibliam, published in 1471/1472 together with his Postilla moralis,12 even before Luther entered the monastery, when he lived in a students’ hostel in Erfurt. What was recorded for one Erfurt hostel is likely to be true of the others too, namely that Bible passages and interpretations by Nicholas of Lyra were read at table.13

Luther wrote glosses14 to the surviving German sermons of Johannes Tauler15 around spring of 1516,16 and since that time he seems to have had a great interest in Tauler.17 The significance of the Hortulus animae for the spirituality of the 16th century is not to be underestimated; a prayer book from the end of the 15th century, it had been published in Latin, Upper German, and Low German since 1498.18 Numerous copies contained the so-called Brigittengebete,19 fifteen prayers on the passion of Christ falsely ascribed to Birgitta of Sweden,20 since around 1513. In his foreword to his own Betbüchlein (small book of prayer) from 1522, Luther strongly disapproved of the prayer books of his time, in particular the Hortulus animae and the lesser-known Paradisus animae.21 He decided that “they were in need of a thorough reworking or otherwise should be done away with entirely.”22 This clearly shows that Luther was familiar with these texts. He referred to them as early as 1519 in his German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, questioning the value of prayers that promised good health and prosperity or indulgence in titles printed in red ink.23 Such titles above black text and featuring red initials can be found in the German edition of Hortulus animae published in Mainz in 1513,24 for instance.

Martin Luther as the Interpreter of the Lord’s Prayer

None of the late medieval texts mentioned above lay quite as much emphasis on the significance of the Lord’s Prayer as does Gabriel Biel’s commentary on the Canon of the Mass. That widely read work not only documented the central position that the Lord’s Prayer held concerning prayer within church life, but also reinforced it. In lessons 61–63 Biel first discusses prayer (the oratio) in general terms in order to then explore the Lord’s Prayer in greater detail in lessons 64–79. Thus, Luther followed what he had been taught when he first began to interpret the Lord’s Prayer, undeterred by his preoccupation with Tauler. Luther saw Tauler as a particularly close companion on the path that led to his interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer, while knowing well that the Lord’s Prayer only played a subordinate role in Tauler’s form of mysticism.

Luther began writing his own interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer early on. The first that has a coherent literary form is from the year 1516. Georg Spalatin recorded the interpretation in a manuscript entitled Oratio dominica enarratore F. M. Eleutherio Aureliano,25 and it was translated into German and published under the title A Short and Accurate Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer before Oneself and behind Oneself26 in 1519, as a supplement to Luther’s German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer for Simple Laymen … Not Intended for Scholars27 and his Sermon on Prayer and Processions in Rogation Week.28 Luther interpreted the Lord’s Prayer in sermons in the fasting period leading up to Easter 1517.29 Johann Agricola, one of his students, published those in 1518, having made changes to the text. Luther himself was so dissatisfied with this Interpretation and Explanation of the Holy Lord’s Prayer30 that he tried to replace it with a revised version, the aforementioned German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, published in 1519.31 Unfortunately, it is not clear whether he sought to distance himself from the earlier stages of his reasoning or blamed Agricola for not quoting him accurately; it may well have been both. It is difficult to tease out Agricola’s editorial contributions by comparing the text with Luther’s revised version, so the text dated 1518 has only limited importance for reconstructing Luther’s development. In 1519 Luther also published A Short Form To Understand and Pray the Paternoster for Young Christian Children,32 which gained great popularity. Luther prefaced it with a Short Form of the Ten Commandments and a Short Form of Faith and republished it in this form33 in 1520.34 He reworked this version slightly, adding his reinterpretation of the Hail Mary as well as eight psalms and the Epistle to Titus, publishing everything under the title of Betbüchlein35 in 1522. This book proved enormously successful, and a number of further texts were added to it in the following period.36 The aforementioned interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer forms the basis of all editions published in Luther’s lifetime.37

Luther started working on an order for a German Mass at the end of September 1525,38 which was introduced at Christmas of the same year in Wittenberg. Some copies must have appeared in December 1525, and the remainder were printed at the beginning of January 1526.39 An integral part of Luther’s German Mass was “a public paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer”40 after the sermon, followed by an “admonition to those wanting to take the sacrament.”41 The wording of this succinct interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer42—as well as the admonition—could be revised at will, but the published version should then be adhered to for pedagogical reasons.43 Luther applied the systematic relationship that he saw between the Ten Commandments, the Articles of Faith, and the Lord’s Prayer in his Large and Small Catechisms, both published in 1529. He did not, however, simply draw on the Betbüchlein for his interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer and other parts of the Catechism, but rather used his sermons on the Catechism from 1528.44 On the subject of his interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer in his sermons, one should also mention the weekly sermons on Matthew 5 to 7 that he delivered between 1530 and 1532, and which appeared in print as early as 1532.45

In 1535 Luther published a comprehensive interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, this time as part of a very personal prayer booklet dedicated to Peter Beskendorf, entitled A Simple Way to Pray for a Good Friend.46 Luther recommended following his example and seeing prayer as a spiritual practice in the main part of which the Lord’s Prayer is recited in full and then meditated upon section by section. It was left up to the individual how many sections of the Lord’s Prayer he decided to focus on.47 While Luther’s main concern here was to encourage independent and individual prayer, he turned again to collective recitals of the Lord’s Prayer in church in 1538, building on the paraphrase from his German Mass in terms of content. The result was easier to grasp than this paraphrase and even easier than the Small Catechism, as it was a hymn that had rhyme and rhythm. It was printed in 153948:

  • Our Father, Thou in heaven above,
  • Who biddest us to dwell in love,
  • As brethren of one family,
  • To cry in every need to Thee,
  • Teach us no thoughtless word to say,
  • But from our inmost heart to pray.49

In response to the Ottoman Empire’s rapid expansion into Europe, to which a large part of Hungary had already fallen victim, Luther composed and published An Admonition for Prayer against the Turks at the request of Elector Johann Friedrich in 1541.50 This guide to prayer differs from Peter Beskendorf’s in several ways. Luther expresses himself in a more emotional and outspoken manner, calling for active atonement in order to end ecclesiastical and social abuses, and addresses both individual and collective prayer. It resembles the first in its wish to guide individual prayer through an interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. While this interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer51 is not as comprehensive as the one in the first guide, only treating the first three petitions, it is nevertheless important because it shows how Luther himself applied his general suggestions and recommendations on how to meditate on the Lord’s Prayer to a concrete situation.

It is clear from Luther’s early interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer and the central place he accorded it in his devotional writings of the period that followed that he held it in very high regard. In the preface to his Betbüchlein of 1522, he emphasizes that he is sure that “a Christian has prayed abundantly if he recites the Lord’s Prayer in the right manner, as often as he likes and whichever part he likes.”52 In his Advent Postil from the same year, he calls it “the highest and noblest prayer under the sun.”53 He continues to praise it in the Large Catechism of 1529, stating that “no nobler prayer can be found on earth.”54 In Peter Beskendorf’s prayer guide from 1535, he compares it with the Psalter, the oldest and most important Christian prayer book, dating back to the 8th century,55 saying it “is the best prayer even beyond the Psalter, which I admire very much.”56 Luther’s lament that “the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest martyr on earth, just as the Name and Word of God is, for everyone abuses it, few comfort it and make it happy through using it correctly,”57 also shows his high regard.

Formal Aspects of the Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer

The style and composition of the interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer in the aforementioned late medieval literature resurface in part in Luther’s own work. Ludolph of Saxony closes his chapter on the Lord’s Prayer in the Vita Christi with an oratio, as he does in all his other chapters. That’s why his so-called Expositio brevis orationis Dominicæ per ternas particulas (“A brief interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer section by section in three parts”) is in the form of a paraphrase which adopts the style of a prayer: Pater noster, excelsus in creatione, suavis in amore, dives in hereditate58 (“Our Father, highest of creation, sweet in love, rich in legacy …”). This short, paraphrase-like interpretation in three parts was probably composed by Ludolph himself,59 and both the Latin and German versions became widely known in the late Middle Ages.60 In his commentary on the Canon of the Mass, Gabriel Biel recommends to those readers who accuse him of circuitousness a brevissimam cuiusdam expositionem (“very brief interpretation by a specific person”) at the end of his wide-ranging explanation of the Lord’s Prayer. He then cites Ludolph’s paraphrase,61 yet also reformulates it at a crucial point. What is striking is his seven-part explanation of the fourth petition for daily bread—the central petition of the seven—instead of a three-part explanation. Thus he makes a theological statement by using the symbolism of numbers: the bread stands for the all-encompassing abundance of God’s gifts, which the prayer focuses on in essence—the theology of grace, one might say. In his Rosetum, Jan Mombaer also puts a variation of Ludolph’s paraphrase62 at the end of his own interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, keeping its three-part structure in each section as well as its characteristic linguistic style, and names his source: “Ludolphus Carthusiensis” (Ludolph the Carthusian). The Hortulus animae also features a variation of Ludolph’s paraphrase63, but this is the only interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer in the whole book, and moreover is falsely ascribed to Bernard of Clairvaux. Although this German version is consequently in three parts section by section, it is in the tradition of Biel, not Mombaer. Unlike Ludolph’s and Mombaer’s versions, it contains an interpretation of bread as the earthbound form of nourishment, as well as an explanation of the “amen” like that in Biel’s version. It also refers to the original source of temptation as diabolus (“devil”), as does Biel, and not as dæmon / demon.

Like Ludolph, Biel, and Mombaer, Luther also added a paraphrase64 to his first comprehensive interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, the German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer for Simple Laymen (1519). It was supposed to be brief and to summarize matters, as tradition dictated, and was accordingly entitled “Brief Summary of Everything Previously Written.”65 Luther went his own way, however: he was not interested in attaining formally perfect brevity in the interpretation, for this might have led the petitioner to enjoy the form and remain attached to the self. He was far more interested in freeing the petitioners from self-reference and leading them into an encounter with God. This is why he chose the form of a rhythmically structured dialogue instead of a monologue. He created a dialogue between the soul and God, in the context of which the soul paraphrases the individual parts of the Lord’s Prayer. God speaks as the just judge who confronts the soul with his law, but he stops doing it when the soul says that he “taught and bade us to pray and promised we would be heard.”66 The soul can thus go from initially calling him “Our Father”67 to “O beloved Father”68 after the “amen.”

Biel’s and Mombaer’s interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer also feature paraphrase-like prayers where smaller sections of the Lord’s Prayer are considered. In Biel’s Canonis missae expositio he explains each section of the Lord’s Prayer—salutation, all seven petitions, and the amen—to some extent in the form of individual, more or less detailed, paraphrase-like orationes,69 letting himself be guided entirely by the text of the prayer. He dispenses with metric rhythm as well as the formal guidelines to compose a prayer. The opening of the prayer is not even always at the beginning.70 The “amen” at the end only comes in the paraphrase of the first, fourth, and fifth petitions.71 Mombaer is even freer with the language of prayer in the Rosetum. He intersperses his short commentary to the opening salutation as well as the seven petitions with small paraphrase-like orationes.72 Thus, his entire interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer gains a spiritual dimension that a scholar like Biel lacks. The interpretation is, as it were, part of a spiritual exercise which consists of lectio, the reading of individual passages of the Lord’s Prayer, meditatio, commentary on these passages, and oratio, prayer, the elements being repeated perpetually in this order. Mombaer’s inclusion of Ludolph’s paraphrase shows his emphasis on the oratio. True to the medieval model,73 contemplatio, the vision of God—the actual goal of the exercise—can follow at any point after lectio, meditatio, and oratio. Mombaer did not mark it in the text because, according to the tradition, it occurs freely and without words.

In many cases, Luther chose to interpret the Lord’s Prayer in a consistent paraphrase style, characteristically maintaining the original form of the prayer, and hereby he showed the reader that the goal of his interpretation was solely spiritual in nature. He wanted to revive the oratio.

First of all, A Short Form To Understand and Pray the Paternoster (1519) must be mentioned in connection with this aspect. In the preface Luther laments, “Some people are so simple that they do not know what the words of the Lord’s Prayer mean or what they ask for, which is why they recite them coldly, superficially and fruitlessly.”74 He sets out to rectify this in a guide in which meditatio and oratio apparently merge into one inseparable entity. The oratio character of the texts is implied through the choice of language, while the meditatio character is suggested through the subheadings. The cited passages from the Lord’s Prayer are typically followed by “The meaning is:”75 as a transition to the paraphrases. This transition is missing only from the “amen.”76 Luther combines the paraphrases of the first five petitions with notes. He ascribes specific types of psalms and prayers to the individual petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.77 Luther here is not be understood as presenting the Lord’s Prayer as one element of an exercise that also comprises psalms and prayers. The spiritual exercise stays well and truly in the linguistic realm of the Lord’s Prayer. Luther, however, expressly denies that there is any obligation to conform to the language of his paraphrases. Anyone can spread the words of the Lord’s Prayer “more broadly or narrowly, according to his own feeling, to what he lacks most, for it is what you lack most that you should pray for the most; if abstinence is a challenge for you, for instance, then you should pray even more earnestly for the abstinence that God’s kingdom can awaken in you during the second petition ‘Thy Kingdom come’ where virtue and piety are asked for, and so on, depending on the other parts.”78

The lectio would then consist in taking note of the Lord’s Prayer, selecting certain petitions, and then using one’s capacity of choice to unite meditatio and oratio on one’s own from the bottom of the heart. The deciding factor would be the lack that burdens one, that “is a challenge for” one, as Luther puts it with reference to abstinence. Tentatio (“temptation”) thus becomes crucial for meditatio and oratio, both of which become possible through lectio. In 1541 Luther gave an example of such a simplified spiritual exercise which uses the language of the Lord’s Prayer for the specific situation at the time, in An Admonition for Prayer against the Turks. He restricted the exemplary paraphrases written in prayer form to the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. The opening lines of such paraphrases show that he recommended a spiritual practice exclusively based on the Lord’s Prayer: “But if someone wants to pray by themselves at church or at home and does not know any better words or better way, they should consider the Lord’s Prayer and let their devotion be stimulated by the words of this prayer or words of the like: Our Father in heaven …”79

A Simple Way To Pray for a Good Friend from 1535 represents another attempt of Luther’s to interpret the Lord’s Prayer through paraphrases while maintaining the form of the prayer. Again Luther takes as his starting point the “coldness” that makes praying impossible in reality. Using himself as an example, he demonstrates what one should do when one feels one has “become too cold and listless to pray because of other thoughts and activities.”80 This time Luther clearly describes a more complex spiritual exercise in which the Lord’s Prayer is only an element among others, albeit the most important one. He begins by “saying to myself, exactly as children do, the Ten Commandments, the Articles of Faith and depending on whether I have time, several sayings of Christ, Paul or the Psalms.”81 This he does “in order to become completely empty, as far as possible, for prayer.”82 Although this act already involves praying, as he says,83 this stage of the exercise serves only as a preparation for prayer. In traditional terms, it is a combination of lectio and meditatio.84 The main part of the exercise, the oratio, follows when “the heart is warmed by such recitals and awareness rests within it.”85 It is made up of several parts. It starts with a short prayer86 in which the petitioner recognizes his unworthiness to pray, and therefore invokes God’s commandment to pray, God’s promise of answering his prayers, and the words, “taught through your beloved son, the Lord Jesus Christ,”87 and last but not least emphasizes the solidarity among all Christians. The Lord’s Prayer is then recited once in full.88 Next, “a part or however much you want”89 is repeated in order to expand on that with paraphrases in the form of prayers. Every one of these paraphrases is ended with “amen.”90 Luther gives an example for each petition while also explaining91 that his paraphrases and the way they are formulated are in no way binding. The direct experience of the Holy Spirit, which takes the place of the traditional contemplatio92 in Luther, is possible during both meditatio and oratio.93 Oratio is clearly shaped by the experience of tentatio, as implied by the prayer’s wording “turn to God and resist temptation” (bekere und we(h)re) appearing in the paraphrases of the first, second, and third petitions.94

Luther also presented complete paraphrases of the Lord’s Prayer that represent prayers in 1525/1526 and in 1539—the Lord’s Prayer paraphrase in the German Mass and the hymn of the Lord’s Prayer based on it. In both cases Luther left the realm of spiritual exercise and moved into the liturgical in order to rethink the oratio there. The paraphrase of the German Mass does not include an address to God in the second person singular, making it a special case in Luther’s body of work. It is nevertheless quite identifiably a prayer, since in his text Luther announces the act of praying, for the purpose of which he offers specific formulations. The paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer and an admonition before communion should follow the sermon—“in this way or a better one.”95 What follows is an example of a text that can be used verbatim for the Mass. The congregation is directly asked in the second person plural “to lift up your hearts to God, to pray the Lord’s Prayer with me, as Christ our Lord taught us to do and promised us that we would be heard.”96 This is then followed by formulations in the optative mood dedicated to God and closed with “amen.”97 God is referred to in the third person singular, but in this way is also addressed directly. For example, it reads: “Let Him give us our daily bread, protect us from the avarice and distress of the stomach whilst letting us expect enough of everything good from Him.”98

Spiritual Practice, the Notion of Need, and the Study of Theology

As discussed above, Luther refers to traditional spiritual practice in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer in A Simple Way to Pray for a Good Friend (1535). What he wrote here clearly shows that he was able to interpret its model of lectio—meditatio—oratio—contemplatio. That is why oratio is shaped by the experience of tentatio here, because Luther firmly placed the practice of praying as a whole in the context of existential need, which even had consequences for his understanding of theology.

Luther would have read about the meaning of need in prayer in a sermon of Tauler’s: “God often leaves men in need so that they are moved to pray, God then helps them and hears their plea and their love for him increases even more as they feel comforted through being heard.”99 In a sermon100 probably delivered on November 19, 1517,101 Luther emphasizes the importance of need as a catalyst for prayer by naming it second in a list of prerequisites for prayer: first the promissio Dei (“promise of God”), second the rei necessariae argumentum (“presentation of what is needed”), third fide[s] (“faith”), fourth sincerity, and last the mediation of Christ.102 Luther particularly stressed the importance of need for prayer in his Large Catechism, published in 1529. In the preface to the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, he states: “A true prayer is one in which we earnestly feel our need, a need that pushes us and drives us to call out and shout. The prayer then comes by itself and in the way that it should, you do not have to be taught how to prepare for it or show devotion.”103 Much like Tauler, Luther here points toward the preparatory function of need for prayer. Unlike the mystic, however, Luther emphasizes that need first has to be recognized, and that is what the Lord’s Prayer is there for,104 “For we all have enough that we lack, however we do not feel it or see it.”105 Accordingly, the greatest need would be to think that one was not in need at all.

Luther used his understanding of prayer to establish three rules for the study of theology. In the preface to the first volume of his German writings from 1539,106 he emphasizes that these rules were taken from Psalm 119, and he actually interprets this psalm using the traditional spiritual terminology: “In it you will find three rules, amply described throughout the entire psalm, and they are called oratio, meditatio, tentatio.”107 The lectio does not have to be named since it is the prerequisite for meditatio and thus subsumed under this term by Luther.108 As a plea for the Holy Spirit, oratio precedes the study of theology, while also accompanying it throughout, and thus takes first place. In making tentatio a theological rule, Luther acknowledges the function of “need” as not only preparing for prayer, but also for the study and teaching of theology. Luther thus does not separate theological existence from the spiritual, but rather makes it part of the latter by merging the two. He chooses the term tentatio for “need” (necessitas) first because tentatio, like oratio and meditatio, denotes a process—albeit a passive instead of an active one—and is therefore more apt than the term “need”; second because any need can become theological and hence a tentatio; and third because this term can be found in the Lord’s Prayer and thus is recommended. Luther highlights tentatio’s preparatory function by very clearly calling it a “touchstone” (Pruͤfestein).109 He also links it to the other two rules, writing: “It not only teaches you to know and understand, but also to experience how just, how true, how sweet, how tender, how mighty, how consoling God’s Word is, wisdom of all wisdoms.”110

Luther here emphasizes two things: first, with the tentatio a process of preparation is completed, of which oratio and meditatio are already part; and second, the process of preparation has a goal that should be separate from the process itself. This goal is not only to “understand” God’s Word, which already happens to a certain degree in meditatio with the guidance of the Holy Spirit111 when oratio is answered as a plea for him.112 It is rather a question of “experiencing” the Word of God bringing about a better and deeper understanding of it. Such an experience must be perceived as the answer to the plea for the Holy Spirit in the full sense, which means: the “experience” of the Word of God is simultaneously the “experience” of the Holy Spirit, given by God through his Son and the external Word. It forms the pinnacle of the study of theology at a time if it is performed in this way, as Luther himself practiced (“geuͤbet”113) it. This encounter with the Holy Spirit while practicing “theology,”114 like that during the practice of prayer (see the guide for Beskendorf) takes the place of the traditional contemplatio.115 The experience of the Holy Spirit is probably one and same, since in both cases the Holy Spirit turns the external Word of God into an inner experience that can be expressed in words. Luther only highlights different aspects of the experience of the Holy Spirit: in 1535 he describes its process—the Holy Spirit “preaches”116—and in 1539 its effect on the soul, when the Word of God tastes “sweet.”117

Praying Inwardly—with Images?

It is revealing to compare Luther’s German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer from 1519 with the Interpretation and Explanation of the Holy Lord’s Prayer published by Agricola in 1518—the text Luther wanted to replace. It shows, among other things, that Luther was interested in rethinking the idea of praying inwardly, drawing on traditional mysticism and at the same time distancing himself from it.

Luther came across the recommendation to create internal images and to use these to pray in texts like Tauler’s. Tauler clearly states in a sermon that imagining Christ’s suffering is an indispensable part of the practice of prayer: “Because man can do nothing by himself he should practice the noble suffering of Jesus in the form of prayer, inwardly throw himself before the feet of the Holy Father and plead with him for help for the sake of his beloved son and for every stage of his suffering, for without him one can do nothing. One should form the habit so that the noble suffering and sweet images of Jesus never leave man’s heart and no other image may find a place there.”118 In another sermon Tauler suggests that it sometimes suffices to imagine certain scenes from the life and suffering of Jesus while praying,119 describing very clearly the inner effect that such a practice of prayer yields: “And through this man’s love should be kindled, as a fire is with much coal and wood, the flame piercing it and soaring in the air, this is how good practice ignites the soul.”120 He also gives instruction on how to act when this inner effect takes hold: “But then one should let the images go quickly and pierce through the center into the most inner part of man with flaming love, for the only work within him is God’s and God’s alone.”121

A striking parallel to this train of thought can be found in the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer from 1518 that Agricola compiled in his own way from Luther’s sermons. The parallel122 surfaces in the interpretation of the fourth petition, perceived to be the center of the seven, in terms of both form and content.123 It is assumed that the fourth petition deals primarily with the daily nourishing of the soul. Under the heading “What the fare of the soul is”124 the following theory is initially proposed: “In brief the meaning is this: the soul is nourished through the words, works, living, suffering, death, bloodshed, crowning and flagellation of Christ, our pious God. Whenever the soul imagines one of these things, it is opened and refreshed, moved to devotion, love, abstinence, penance, piety and the like. That is why Christ calls himself a fattened calf in the scriptures [cf. Luke 15:23].”125 This theory is backed up by a second in the theological terms of justification: “The just man does not live in a multitude of works, but in faith, which means: if I cannot find anything within myself apart from want and poverty, sin, malice, injustice, absence of abstinence, wantonness, impatience, hate and every impurity, then I can console myself with the fact that Christ is rich, mighty, free of sin, pious, just, chaste, humble, patient, peaceful, pure and true and believe that his good works, martyrdom, bloodshed, death and suchlike has become mine.”126

The next lengthy section127 bears the title “The way that the soul is nourished and satiated.”128 In it both theories are recorded, though only the first is expanded upon. Two examples129 are used to illustrate how the pious soul responds to a gospel reading: whether it is a scene from the life or from the passion of Christ, the soul does not actually pray; that is, it does not enter into a dialogue with Christ or God, but rather conducts a monologue, in both examples reproduced in direct speech. There the soul proclaims that it is “moved” to “become like Christ,”130 imagining the life and suffering of Christ with the goal of imitating (imitatio) him and more specifically his virtues: “Thus we see that love, justice, penance and other virtues flow from the wounds of Christ and can be sure that anything that does not flow from his wounds is insufficient and does not please God.”131 After a citation from Cant. 4:10 the author continues: “So we must take from Christ’s wound that which we need, in particular penance …”132

The parallel to Tauler’s thought process surfaces at the point where the author expands upon imagining the life and suffering of Christ; like Tauler, he advocates a smaller focal point of the imagination. Thereupon its positive effects are emphasized, as well as the depth of self-experience it brings with it. This can be found in that section133 of the 1518 interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, the second part of which reads: “It follows that we should not attempt to consider the entire suffering, life or work of Christ every day, but rather only a part of it each day: when he is led away, when he is crowned, mocked, spat at, etc., according to how man wants to arouse his devotion. He should then go into his heart and reflect on it until he is warmed and filled with strength and harmony. But, dear God, how many of us do not know ourselves and in our whole lives hardly ever go into our hearts and explore who we are, thinking that praying with the masses, going to church, living life in the prescribed way, fasting etc. is enough. We betray ourselves if we do not explore and understand our hearts.”134

Praying Inwardly—with Words!

It was the depiction of how the soul was claimed to be nourished in the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer redacted by Agricola that must have moved Luther to write and publish German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer in 1519, in which he very clearly corrects this view. He still maintains that the bread that is prayed for in the fourth petition should be primarily interpreted as daily nourishment for the soul.135 However, he avoids recommending imagining the life and suffering of Christ or any form of imitating the virtues of Christ (imitatio). “All sermons and teachings” should help us “imagine Jesus Christ,”136 of course, and this produces internal images, yet Luther does not expand on them, disregarding them because he is solely interested in doctrinal messages that can never arise from the images of Christ themselves. The doctrinal messages that “imagine” Christ in a non-pictorial fashion are for Luther “why he came, what he brought us, how we believe in him and should act towards him.”137 Luther here suggests that all Christian sermons and teachings should have Christ as their subject so that justification sola gratia (“through mercy alone”) and sola fide (“through faith alone”) may be communicated. He then also describes how he sees the recipient: “You show not with words, but with all your heart and also with your actions that your only solace and salvation is that Christ is given to you by God, in whom you believe and whom you fully appreciate, whose justice alone sustains you because you call on it and rely on it, faith is nothing other than eating this bread.”138

Luther here uses the biblical term “call on” for the act of praying. When he speaks out against using words in the passage above, he is talking about spoken statements that do not come from the heart. Such statements can take the form of the question with which he continues his interpretation in catechetical style: “You say: who does not know that we are sinners and nothing more, sustained alone though Christ?”139 Luther does not want to question spoken prayer as such, the external aspect of praying; rather, he wants to provide guidance on how to develop the inner aspect of it. In the passage above he describes the passive part of the process of praying inwardly as “relying on” and the active part with the term “faith.” He sees faith as an activity, comparing it to eating the spiritual bread. According to his interpretations, this act of eating is made possible through God’s formulation of Christ in words: “But he is of no use to you, you cannot appreciate him, God makes him into words so that you can hear and so recognize him. For if he is in heaven or in the form of bread [this refers to the sacrament given at the altar] how can he help you? He has to be given, served and made into words by the inner and outer word, and this is truly the Word of God. Christ is the bread, God’s Word is the bread, and yet a thing, bread. For he is in the word and the word is in him and to believe in this same word means eating the bread and who receives this from God will live forever.”140

This analysis of Luther’s teachings on prayer in his German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (1519) can be summarized in three points. First, praying is reduced to a basic act of calling on God—a necessary condition for life as a Christian.141 Second, the basic act of prayer is realized in a verbal event, in which Christ or his righteousness is delivered to the petitioner. Third, the act of praying inwardly involves words that are produced by the outer word that men should speak142 and the inner word that God himself speaks, which is itself143 linked to the outer one. Luther indirectly criticizes deliberately summoning images of the life and suffering of Christ in his German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer by not mentioning this process at all in the part where it is described in the problematic text from 1518, strongly emphasizing instead the word of Christ and his righteousness. He also indirectly criticizes imitating the virtues of Christ (imitatio) through the power of imagination by omitting it entirely and instead defining the new goal of prayer through words. The goal of praying inwardly and outwardly should be to strengthen faith in the face of tentatio: “If one preaches Christ and shares the beloved bread with others, then the souls draw on this in times of suffering that God’s will inflicts upon them. They become strong and full of faith that they do not have to fear their sins, their conscience, the devil or death itself anymore.”144

It now becomes clear why Luther concludes the German Interpretation not with a short paraphrase in the form of a monologue, but rather with a dialogue between the soul and God. Luther wants to impress upon the reader the importance of the interaction between man and the Word of God in prayer and to inspire him or her to enter into this dialogue. It is likely that the wording in Luther’s dialogue drew on the language of the text from 1518: the form of direct speech, put in the soul’s “mouth,” in order to illustrate its monologue response to the “clear” gospel. This monologue of the soul only had to be reshaped into a dialogue. In this way, the dialogue also acts as a subtle critique of the earlier text. The dialogue itself shows what has prompted this criticism. Luther constructed it using a strict system: in every petition of the Lord’s Prayer, the soul hears the speech of God as the law of judgment. It acknowledges its guilt before every petition, seeking and finding the salvation of the gospel by reflecting on each one. In this way, the soul finally attains certainty, expressed in the “amen.”145 Luther thus traces the dialectic of law and the gospel in this dialogue, as well as emphasizing the justification of man through faith. Luther had to insist on linguistic form in the basic act of prayer because both the gospel and the law take on linguistic form as the Word of God, and because Luther attached great importance to distinguishing between them. Because of this distinction, he also had to urge his readers to understand this basic act in terms of theological justification.

Praying Inwardly—with Words in the Mode of Hearing

Was a prayer still a prayer for Luther if it came to a direct encounter with the Holy Spirit in the process? His A Simple Way to Pray for a Good Friend (1535) holds the answer. In it, Luther calls on people to be ready for such an experience.

Luther could read about a similar experience in Tauler:

… and then the Lord appears in the blink of an eye, shines light into the ground and is willing to do man’s work. And when one realizes that the Lord is there, then you should leave the work up to him in a passive manner and be idle for him. All strengths should then fall quiet and provide him with silence. Man’s activity and his good thoughts would be an obstacle in the process. Man should do nothing other than experience God in this moment, but when man is left once again to his own devices and is no longer aware of God’s work, not feeling or recognizing it, then man should continue to toil with his holy diligence and holy practice. And so man should at times toil, at times rest, depending on whether he is inwardly driven and summoned by God.146

In Tauler’s eyes, what man experiences in the presence of God cannot be expressed in words. Tauler speaks of God’s work, but this does not mean that in his act God brings a message separate from himself. Rather, Tauler assumes that God communicates himself in such a way that his work is indistinguishable from himself, which does not contradict Tauler’s comment that the petitioner is “driven and summoned by God.” The summons that can be given in direct speech is merely the enabler of the extraordinary situation; it does not happen within it, but outside of it, at the latest a moment before it happens.

Luther’s understanding of the direct encounter with the Holy Spirit differs slightly. He discusses it in the text dedicated to Beskendorf, that is to say, in the depiction of how to pray the Lord’s Prayer and in two other places there, one of which is particularly striking: “And as I said above in the Lord’s Prayer I urge you once again: if the Holy Spirit comes to you in such thoughts and starts to preach in your heart with precious enlightening thoughts, honor it and let go of all composed thoughts, be quiet and listen to the one who knows better. And remember what he preaches, write it down and you will experience wonders, as David says [Ps. 119:18] in God’s law.”147 Like Tauler, Luther emphatically urges the petitioner to shift from an active mode to a passive one in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Luther’s recommendation to let all composed thoughts go did not mean that the petitioner should stop praying with words. It is important to note that the Holy Spirit, in whose presence the petitioner should remain silent and receptive, “preaches.” Luther emphasizes this twice in succession. It would happen with the “precious enlightening thoughts.” Luther thus assumes that these thoughts have a message expressed in words, otherwise he would not have recommended remembering what the Holy Spirit was preaching and writing it down. Of course, one can remember images as easily as words, or ever better, but it is only words that one can write down. Luther also illustrated the inner effect of the Holy Spirit with a quote from Psalm 119. The petitioner would “experience wonders in God’s law.” The Holy Spirit acts as an exegetist of God’s Word, prompting an experience of a multitude of wonders that comes with deep understanding. This experience of multitude in silent communion with the Word of God refers to the abundance of words with which the Holy Spirit delivers the Word.148 Luther was therefore convinced that the petitioner does not remain in wordless silence during his surrendering to the inner effect of the Holy Spirit. Rather, he merely remains silent within himself and in his own wordlessness continues to pray the words that flow into him through the Holy Spirit from the Word of God himself.

Praying with Content in the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

For Luther, the content of prayer in the central part of the complex spiritual practice arose from the Lord’s Prayer and the situation at the time. His interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer was thus always geared to the present moment. His publications on this topic show that he did, however, follow certain lines of interpretation over some years. It becomes interesting to see him taking one direction which he found in tradition but then changing course. A compelling example of this is his interpretation of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer against the backdrop of late medieval tradition.

In the late Middle Ages, the “bread” of the fourth petition symbolized the fare of the soul or the spirit, and secondly the fare of the flesh. Since it was so differently weighted, there were more specifications in the interpretation of the first than of the second. Ludolph of Saxony’s paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer and the abovementioned variations provided by Gabriel Biel, Jan Mombaer, and the Hortulus animae already show how little interest theologians took in the interpretation of bread as the fare of the flesh. Ludolph and Mombaer completely omit this line of interpretation in their three-part interpretation of the fourth petition. It is referred to in the first part in the Hortulus animae as “the sustenance of the body.”149 Biel’s text features a seven-part interpretation of the central fourth petition, and there it is only in the first part that panem materialem150 (“material bread”) is prayed for. In his own comprehensive interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Rosetum, Mombaer differentiates between the petition for panem corp[or]ale[m] … p[er] que[m] intelligit[ur] om[n]is sufficientia victus (“physical bread … as a complete sufficiency of nourishment”) and panes mentales (“spiritual bread”), which he interprets in five different ways.151 Unlike in these examples, Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla literaris super totam Bibliam puts more emphasis on the symbolism of bread as the nourishment of the body by going into a deeper theological interpretation of it. This does not mean that he questioned the reading of bread as the nourishment of the soul—he merely took the same line of interpretation further: … anima non exercet opera meritoria nisi in corp[or]e152 (“… the soul performs meritorious tasks only within the body”). Since the body is necessary to attain beatitudo (“bliss”), everything that sustains it gains in importance. Thus, Nicholas took the idea of bread as the nourishment of the body to its limit: Et in hoc intelligunt[ur] peti o[mn]ia vite necessaria153 (“And so we come to understand that all basic needs of life are prayed for”).

Initially Luther interpreted the fourth petition in full accordance with the late medieval mainstream. Both in his Latin and German versions of the Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer Before Oneself and Behind Oneself (1516 and 1519), he mentions in passing that bread could also be understood as corporalis panis (“physical bread”) without elaborating on it.154 In his German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (1519) he did expand on this point, but only marginally.155 In the customary pars pro toto interpretation he opted for the lowest level of the interpretational scale, describing physical bread as “all kinds of nourishment for the body.”156 He omitted the interpretation of bread as physical bread entirely in the subsequent dialogue between the soul and God157 and did not mention it at all in his Short Form to Understand and Pray the Paternoster (1519),158 nor did this change when he revised the text for inclusion in the Betbüchlein.159 It was only for the 1529 edition of the Betbüchlein that Luther developed a comprehensive interpretation of the physical bread and included it in the appropriate place in the paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer.160 A change in course in Luther’s interpretation of the fourth petition can be observed from the end of 1525 in his German Mass.161 Thenceforth Luther spoke about the fourth petition solely in terms of earthly physical existence in all his new interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer. He did not take back his earlier line of interpretation, however, and still would give much room to it in the later editions of the Betbüchlein.162

Luther’s change in course can probably be explained by a new encounter with his late medieval background. It may be assumed that Luther willingly returned to Gabriel Biel’s Canonis missae expositio in order to reflect on the necessary changes to the Roman format for his German Mass on a basis of such a well-known guide. Notably, a section of Biel’s comprehensive work briefly interprets the Lord’s Prayer in a very original manner. This interpretation strikes every reader because of the deft and compelling manner in which it is framed,163 all the more so because Biel names Augustine as the source of the idea. The latter differentiates between magna, media, and minima bona164 (“large, middling, and smallest goods”) in his Retractationes, which has no direct relation to the Lord’s Prayer. According to Biel, prima bona are prayed for in the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, bona media in the third, and infima seu minima bona (“last or smallest goods”) in the fourth. Similarly, the following petitions pray for the removal of evils (mala): in the fifth petition it is directed against the maximum malum, in the sixth the media mala, and in the seventh the minima mala. Finally, it is also striking that Biel exclusively refers to basic physical needs in his interpretation of the fourth petition, ensuring that the body serves the soul, as does Nicholas of Lyra: Nam panis nomine intelliguntur omnia corpori necessaria, per que corpus spiritui subservire potest, sive concernant corporis sanitatem, sive victum et amictum165 (“For the term bread should be understood as all basic needs of the body, through which the body can aid the spirit, be it the good health of the body or sustenance and clothing”).

Luther’s paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer on the one hand and the admonition before communion on the other that he composed for the German Mass both form an explanation of the Mass that is striking for the official liturgical function that he accorded it. In it he also interprets the fourth petition solely in terms of basic needs of the body, praying against the “avarice and distress of the stomach”: “Let Him give us our daily bread, protect us from the avarice and distress of the stomach whilst letting us expect enough of everything good from Him.”166 Instead of highlighting the body’s function of serving the soul, as Biel does, Luther addresses issues of a social nature with the term “avarice.” Unlike Biel, Luther sums up the basic needs of the body in one phrase—“enough of everything good”—creating a contrast with the “avarice and distress of the stomach,” perhaps because he needed to be brief. However, Luther might have wanted to say here that the fourth petition is about more than just the basic needs of the body. Luther’s phrase “enough of everything good” fully corresponds to Nicholas of Lyra’s statement “all basic needs of life” on which it could be based. Luther would then have been expressing a point of view not found in his previously published interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer. The greatest and really fundamental difference from Biel’s text is that Luther links the fourth petition to the petition for faith, which “expects” that God will provide. It is in fact faith that is rethought in terms of the theology of justification, since it is understood as the answering of a petition and thus entirely as God’s gift (“letting us expect”). The petition is in turn understood as completely directed towards God in the unbounded expectation of his doing. The fact that Luther here implicitly critiques both scholastic theology and possibly Gabriel Biel’s work in particular167 does not mean that Luther did not draw on Biel’s commentary on the Canon of the Mass when he wrote history of liturgy and developed the German Mass.

The following does speak for Luther’s use of Biel’s Canonis missae expositio: After he finishes his remarkable brief interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, Biel accounts for it with these words: Et hec sufficientia et divisio respicit planissimum sensum litteralem, qui a simplicibus ac popularibus comprehendi potest et debet168 (“And this sufficiency and arrangement gives the clearest literal meaning which can and should be understood by simple folk”). The two methodical principles that Biel uses in his interpretation—clear literal meaning and intelligibility particularly for uneducated readers—were already fully endorsed by Luther. Since his 1515/1516 reading of the Epistle to the Romans, Luther had become increasingly convinced that in the interpretation of the Bible the primary task had to be to derive from it the literal meaning, though this did not stop him from occasionally composing allegorical interpretations.169 It was also Luther’s express wish to write the German Mass primarily “for simple folk and the young,”170 as emphasized in his preface to the text.171 Luther thus needed only a little encouragement to finally apply both methodical principles to his interpretation of the fourth petition. Since one can assume that Luther was reading Biel’s commentary on the Canon of the Mass while composing his German Mass, it is reasonable to conclude that he received this impulse from it.

Luther independently continued this new line of interpretation in his writings on the Lord’s Prayer from 1525/1526 onward. He related the fourth petition to God’s entire worldly realm like no other before him172 in his Large173 and Small174 Catechisms (1529), in the extension175 of the Brief Form for the 1529 edition of the Betbüchlein, in the guide to prayer176 for Beskendorf (1535), and in the hymn of the Lord’s Prayer (1539).177

The Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer as a Form of Confession

Luther developed his spiritual approach to the Lord’s Prayer and the form and content of his interpretations of it by critically engaging with existing traditions while also taking into account the theology of repentance, to which his meditations on the Lord’s Prayer must have been linked. Statements that show Luther’s understanding of the Lord’s Prayer, or of prayer in general, in the light of the theology of repentance are particularly relevant here. Once again, Luther takes up an existing tradition and develops it further.

As Luther would have read in the Supplementum Coelifodinae, Johannes von Paltz represented the traditional medieval view: the oratio was to be subsumed under the category of poenitentia (“repentance”) or more specifically of satisfactio (“satisfaction”) as part of poenitentia, with satisfactio consisting of three parts, scilicet in eleemosyna, ieiunio et oratione178 (“namely alms, fasting, and prayer”). Paltz underpinned this explanation by referring to Hugh Ripelin of Strasburg’s Compendium theologicae veritatis179 (1260/1268).180 With the help of this text Paltz showed that oratio could only be understood as part of satisfactio in a particular sense. Strictly speaking it has to be dupliciter (“twofold”): aut pro impetratione bonorum, et sic est pars contemplationis, aut pro amotione malorum, et sic proprie est pars satisfactionis181 (“either it achieves good and so it is part of contemplation or it removes evil and so is in fact part of satisfaction”). Thomas Aquinas took a different approach than the Compendium, one that Paltz ignored completely. Thomas represented the point of view that the two different intentions behind prayer did not result in two different types of prayer, but instead are present in every prayer. His Supplementum to the third part of the Summa theologiae states the following in response to those who believe that prayer is duplex (“twofold”), existing in two types: … quod quaelibet oratio habet rationem satisfactionis, quia, quamvis habeat suavitatem spiritus, habet tamen afflictionem carnis182 (“… for every prayer serves the purpose of satisfaction because no matter how sweet the soul is it is nevertheless bound to the distress of the flesh”).

Luther adhered to the tradition represented by Paltz, but not entirely. He did subsume oratio under the category of satisfactio in his Resolutiones on the theses on indulgences in 1518,183 speaking quite matter-of-factly in the resolution on the third thesis on indulgences of the tres partes satisfactionis, ieiunium, oratio, eleemosyna184 (“three parts of satisfaction: fasting, prayer and alms”). His differentiation thereof, however, does not resemble that of Paltz or Hugh, but very clearly that of Thomas, whom he mentions three times in the preceding Protestatio.185 Here he takes the liberty of rejecting or accepting the “mere opinions” of the scholastics and canonists, namely Thomas and also Bonaventura.186 It was clearly Thomas’s uncompromising embrace of the theology of repentance in his approach to the teaching of prayer that Luther was ready to adopt. Hence, while Luther understood oratio as a part of satisfactio in the Resolutiones, he saw oratio as any type of prayer, as Thomas himself did. He makes this clear in his description of oratio as one that comprises omne studium animi meditando, legendo, audiendo, orando187 (“any striving of the soul through meditation, reading, listening, praying”). He includes all the components of classical spiritual practice with its various prayer types and other elements performed in the service of prayer in his interpretation of prayer within the context of the theology of repentance. The only element he does not mention is contemplation, which he might have subsumed in the act of listening.

Luther brought out a second extended edition of the Large Catechism as early as 1529, including A Brief Admonition of Confession188 which he based189 on a sermon from March 21, 1529.190 In this text, Luther no longer subsumes oratio under the term of satisfactio, but instead under the term of confessio (German, Beichte), drawing from the Lord’s Prayer. The line of argumentation presented in his admonition to confess runs as follows. He starts by arguing that twofold confession, toward God and toward fellow men, is contained in the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer in the plea for forgiveness.191 He then emphasizes the fifth petition more strongly, interpreting the entire Lord’s Prayer in its terms: “Indeed, the whole Lord’s Prayer is none other than such a confession.”192 He justifies his second argument by stating that prayer in general can be understood as a confession that takes place throughout one’s life: “For what is our prayer but a confession that we neither have nor do what we owe and that we desire mercy and a clear conscience? Such a confession should and must take place without interruption for as long as we live.”193 This third argument, partly formulated as a kind of rhetorical question, is justified by a fourth on the theology of justification: “Because herein lies the true Christian nature, that we recognize ourselves as sinners and beg for mercy.”194

Luther’s line of argumentation from 1529 shows that because he used his doctrine of justification as the basis for the doctrine of prayer and at the same time adhered to the framework, in terms of the theology of repentance, for the interpretation of prayer that was defined by tradition, he subsumed oratio in confessio instead of satisfactio. Clearly, he had not yet thought through the relationship between his doctrine of justification and prayer as a complex spiritual practice, or as the Lord’s Prayer or an interpretation of it, when he wrote his resolutions on the theses on indulgences in 1518. Otherwise he could have formulated a very different argument in terms of the theology of repentance with regard to the Lord’s Prayer in the resolution on the famous first thesis on indulgences. In order to prove through the Lord’s Prayer that omnem vitam fidelium poenitentiam195 (“to the believers, all of life is repentance”), he merely emphasizes here that it is necessary to use the fifth petition throughout one’s entire life, even citing it in abridged form without the attached addition “as we forgive etc.”196

Luther’s line of argumentation from 1529 also leads to the following conclusion: whenever he interprets the other petitions of the Lord’s Prayer in terms of the fifth one, namely as confession, he indicates that he links the justification sola gratia and prayer in terms of the theology of repentance and therefore subsumes prayer under the category of confessio. Such an indication can be found as early as 1519, for in the dialogue between the soul and God with which the German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer ends, every single petition of the Lord’s Prayer is firstly reformulated by the soul as a confessio.197 Here Luther clearly applies his new theory of the theology of repentance or his new understanding of prayer within the context of the former in linguistic terms. This underlines the act of confession implicit in prayer. As his other published paraphrases of the Lord’s Prayer in the form of prayers prove, Luther, however, in most cases did not see the need to use specific language to identify the process of confession when praying the Lord’s Prayer in an enhanced form outside of the fifth petition.

Review of the Literature

Extensive commentaries to Luther’s catechisms are helpful in the study of his interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer, in particular Albrecht Peters’s monograph commentary on the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s catechisms.198 Peters describes how Luther developed his interpretation against the background of early Christian and medieval tradition. The material he cites and the theses he develops on the basis of it provide great incentive for further investigation. Johannes Meyer’s commentary199 is shorter but very dense, and also offers a wealth of material for the exploration of Luther’s interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer.

The literature almost invariably consists of special investigations. Since 1999, the following have appeared in print. Two essays on Luther’s Betbüchlein expand on the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer included in the text. The goal of these publications is to determine the particular character of the Betbüchlein. Birgit Stolt200 focuses on Luther’s emphasis of the relationship of Decalogue, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer and explores it through some categories of discourse analysis. Her starting point is Luther’s preface to A Short Form of the Ten Commandments, the Articles of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer, which forms the first main section of the Betbüchlein. She shows only marginal interest in Luther’s interpretations, with the exception of his interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer in the form of prayer, which she uses to demonstrate that when producing a text Luther could “blend vertical and horizontal lines of communication,” showing the latter were reflecting back to him.201 Michael Beyer202 offers a general introduction to the Betbüchlein, with an overview of its contents and the current state of research, without much emphasis on Luther’s interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer. Beyer concludes that the Betbüchlein—along with its interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer—is “a practical lesson in prayer to be learnt through the act of prayer itself.”203

Other essays focus on Luther’s interpretation of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer. Paul W. Robinson204 explores the development in Luther’s understanding of the fourth petition by comparing it with medieval sermons on the Lord’s Prayer. Rudolf Dellsperger205 investigates the fourth petition not only in Luther’s work, but also in that of Erasmus, Musculus, and Canisius. His intention is to present statements by representatives of humanism, the Reformation, and the Catholic Counter-Reformation in order to suggest solutions to the ecumenical question. David F. Wright206 gives a comprehensive overview of the history of the interpretation of the fourth petition, focusing on the Church Fathers and the Protestant reformers. Although he mentions Luther’s interpretation of the fourth petition in the Large Catechism only in passing207 and after that merely refers to Luther very generally,208 his account remains useful in the investigation of Luther’s thought by helping one to understand Luther’s position within this rich history of interpretations.

A further group of essays deals with individual interpretations of the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s work. Volker Leppin209 focuses on three texts published in 1519. He highlights the German Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, presenting Luther as a late medieval but also reformational theologian in the “process of transformation.”210 He identifies Augustine and mystics like Johannes Tauler as instigators in this creative process. He also suspects 211 that Gabriel Biel’s commentary on the Canon of the Mass had an effect on Luther’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Wolfgang Ratzmann212 only briefly explores the issue of the paraphrase213 of the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s German Mass from 1525/1526. According to Ratzmann, the fact that it is the nature of this paraphrase to be both a call to prayer and a prayer itself is not as odd as it first seems when placed in the context of the history of liturgy. With the help of Frieder Schulz’s work, he argues214 that the paraphrase recalls the “dialogic practice of prayer” that was common in the Upper German preaching service of the time. Martin Petzoldt215 investigates the hymn of the Lord’s Prayer (1539). In the face of today’s “devaluation of the catechetical pedagogy,” the author finds it necessary to revive the tradition spanning from the Reformation through to the 20th century of calling Luther’s hymn a “Catechism song.”216 He compares the specific interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism with that in the hymn in order to make the reader aware of its catechistic importance.

Georg Nicolaus’s monograph217 plays a special role in the literature on Luther. His extensive work proposes the theory that Luther’s theology is deeply influenced by the theology of the Lord’s Prayer. To this end he not only evaluates the relevant texts in which the Lord’s Prayer is cited or paraphrased individually, but also analyzes numerous texts from Luther’s work as a whole in which the Lord’s Prayer is not explicitly referenced.

Future Research

The investigation of Luther’s understanding and use of the Lord’s Prayer can be continued by considering late medieval spiritual traditions and late medieval authors who had an impact on him. This could, for instance, help to understand the development in Luther’s interpretation of the amendment to the fifth petition—“as we forgive our debtors.” If one is to understand the importance of the Lord’s Prayer for Luther’s spirituality of the Word of God, then his instructions for spiritual practice should be explored, with regard to the relationship of the Lord’s Prayer to other biblical or catechistic texts. The relationship of the Lord’s Prayer to the Psalms in Luther’s work and spirituality might be of specific interest.


(1.) Iris Geyer, “Ludolf von Sachsen,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976–2004), 21 (1991), 480; and Ludolph of Saxony, Ludolphus de Saxonia, Vita Jesu Christi ex Evangelio et approbatis ab Ecclesia Catholica doctoribus sedule collecta, ed. Louis-Marie Rigollot (4 vols.; Paris: Victor Palmé, and Brussels: G. Lebrocquy, 1878).

(2.) Geyer, “Ludolf,” 479.

(3.) Volker Leppin assumes that Luther stayed with the Brethren of the Common Life during his school time in Magdeburg and there “experienced a monastic way of living for the first time.” See Volker Leppin, Martin Luther (2d ed.; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2010), 23. When Luther changed schools and moved to Eisenach, he came into contact with the local Franciscan monastery through Heinrich Schalbe; see Leppin, Martin Luther, 23f.

(4.) Geyer, “Ludolf,” 481.

(5.) Berndt Hamm, “Johannes von Paltz,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976–2004), 25 (1995), 607.

(6.) Critical edition, Johannes von Paltz, Supplementum Coelifodinae (Works, vol. 2), eds. Berndt Hamm with Christoph Burger and Venicio Marcolino (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1983).

(7.) Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1: Sein Weg zur Reformation 1483–1521 (2d ed.; Stuttgart: Calwer, 1983), 77f.

(8.) On the printed editions see Werner Dettloff, “Gabriel Biel,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976–2004), vol. 6 (1980), 489 f. Critical edition, Gabrielis Biel canonis misse expositio, eds. Heiko A. Oberman and William J. Courtenay (4 vols.; Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1963–1967); and Wilfrid Werbeck, Gabrielis Biel canonis misse expositio. Dispositio et conspectus materiae cum indice conceptuum et rerum (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1976).

(9.) WA 3:380, 31f.; 381:14f. (on Ps. 65:13, 15 Vulgata). Christoph Burger refers to these citations in “Devotio moderna,” in Das Luther-Lexikon, eds. Volker Leppin and Gury Schneider-Ludorff (Regensburg: Bückle & Böhm, 2014), 165.

(10.) Cf. Wolf-Dieter Hauschild, Lehrbuch der Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, vol. 1: Alte Kirche und Mittelalter (2d ed.; Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2000), 347. The citations that follow are taken from the printed edition, Jan Mombaer, Rosetum exercitiorum spiritualium et sacrarum meditationum (Basel: Jacob Wolff von Pforzheim, 1504).

(11.) Hauschild, Lehrbuch, vol. 1, 347.

(12.) Hauschild, Lehrbuch, vol. 1, 647. The citations that follow are taken from the printed edition on the New Testament, Biblia: Cum postillis Nicolai de Lyra et expositionibus Guillelmi Britonis in omnes prologos S. Hieronymi et additionibus Pauli Burgensis replicisque Matthiae Doering, vol. 4 (Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 1485).

(13.) Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 42.

(14.) WA 9:97–104. A very detailed interpretation of these glosses can be found in Henrik Otto, Vor- und frühreformatorische Tauler-Rezeption: Annotationen in Drucken des späten 15. und frühen 16. Jahrhunderts (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2003), 183–214.

(16.) Cf. Otto, Tauler-Rezeption, 183.

(17.) Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 138–141.

(18.) See remarks in WA 10/II:334f., n. 1; and Gerard Achten, “Gebetbücher, II. Mittelalter,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1976–2004), vol. 12 (1984), 108.

(19.) WA 10/II:334f., n. 1.

(20.) WA 10/II:333, n. 1; Ulrich Montag, “Birgitta v. Schweden, 2. Werke,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2009) vol. 2, 216.

(21.) WA 10/II:375, 3–10.

(22.) WA 10/II:375, 10f.

(23.) WA 2:82, 32–37.

(24.) The citations that follow are from the German printed edition, Hortulus anime. Zů teütsch genant der selen gaͤrtlin (Mainz: Peter Schöffer the younger, 1513).

(25.) WA 59:23f.; Otto Clemen, “Das lateinische Original von Luthers „Vater-Unser vorwärts und rückwärts“ vom Jahre 1516,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 48 (1929): 198–207, here 205f. Not all of Luther’s sermons are included in the list above. His sermon from October 12, 1516 is of particular interest (WA 1:89–94). It is difficult to determine whether the interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer that it contains (90, 8–94, 4) is older or more recent than the one that Spalatin handed down.

(26.) WA 6:21f.

(27.) WA 2:80–130.

(28.) WA 2:175–179. Clemen, “Das lateinische Original,” 206.

(29.) Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 154.

(30.) WA 9:123–159.

(31.) See preface, WA 2:80, 4–12; and Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 154.

(32.) WA 6:11–19.

(33.) WA 7:204–229.

(34.) Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 336.

(35.) WA 10/II:375,1–428, 8; and Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 2: Ordnung und Abgrenzung der Reformation 1521–1532 (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1986), 123f.

(36.) Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 336.

(37.) An overview of which texts appeared in which editions of the Betbüchlein is given in WA 10/II:355–369; cf. also additions in WA 59:72–76.

(38.) WA 19:72–113.

(39.) See reflections on this in the introduction to the edition: WA 19:51.

(40.) WA 19:95, 19.

(41.) WA 19:95, 20.

(42.) WA 19:95, 26–96, 19.

(43.) WA 19:95, 19–21; 97, 3–11.

(44.) Cf. Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 2, 268 f. Evidence of Luther’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer in his catechism sermons of 1528: WA 30/I:11, 8–18, 15; 46, 7–50, 26; 95, 1–109, 21; in the Large Catechism: WA 30/I:193–211; in the Small Catechism: WA 30/I:298, 11–308, 12 (Erfurt reprint of the missing first or second High German edition from Wittenberg 1529).

(45.) Cf. Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 2, 415–421. The interpretation of Matthew 6:5–15 can be found in WA 32:416, 30–427, 40.

(46.) WA 38:358–375, here 360, 4–362, 36. The friend referred to is Peter Beskendorf.

(47.) WA 38:360, 12f.

(48.) AWA 4:295–298, no. 35.

(49.) AWA 4:295; the first of nine verses.

(50.) WA 51:585–625; on this subject see Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 3: Die Erhaltung der Kirche 1532–1546 (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1987), 346–348.

(51.) WA 51:608, 6–610, 15.

(52.) WA 10/II:376, 1f.

(53.) WA 10/I.2:183, 27f.

(54.) WA 30/I:196, 16.

(55.) Kurt Küppers,“Gebetbuch, 1. Allgemein,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2009), vol. 4, 1159f.

(56.) WA 38:364, 18–20.

(57.) WA 38:364, 25–27.

(58.) Ludolphus de Saxonia, Vita Jesu Christi, pars 1, cap. 37 (vol. 1, 309). Copy of the text based on the Strasburg edition from 1483 in Oratio dominica romanice: Das Vaterunser in den romanischen Sprachen von den Anfängen bis ins 16. Jahrhundert mit den griechischen und lateinischen Vorlagen, ed. Siegfried Heinimann (Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 1988), 81. The short description of this oratio as Expositio brevis orationis Dominicæ per ternas particulas is of editorial nature and is given in Vita Jesu Christi e quatuor Evangeliis et scriptoribus orthodoxis concinnata per Ludolphum de Saxonia, eds. Auguste-Clovis Bolard, Louis-Marie Rigollot and Jean-Baptiste Carnandet (Paris and Rome: Victor Palmé, 1865), 173.

(59.) Heinimann, Oratio dominica, 80, names Ludolph of Saxony as the author.

(60.) Manuscripts of the text in Latin and German are listed in Bernd Adam, Katechetische Vaterunserauslegungen: Texte und Untersuchungen zu deutschsprachigen Auslegungen des 14. und 15. Jahrhunderts (Munich: Artemis, 1976), 151f.

(61.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 79 N, 23–27; O, 1–12 (vol. 3, 333).

(62.) Mombaer, Rosetum, folio 210v.

(63.) Hortulus anime, folio 165r–165v.

(64.) WA 2:128, 3–130, 19.

(65.) WA 2:128, 3.

(66.) WA 2:130, 11f.

(67.) WA 2:128, 4.

(68.) WA 2:130, 12.

(69.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 65 I, 3–22 (vol. 3, 77f.; on the salutation); lesson 66 R, 5–28 (vol. 3, 93f.; on the 1st petition); lesson 67 S, 2–46 (vol. 3, 117f.; on the 2nd petition); lesson 69 Q, 6–15.25–38 (vol. 3, 151f.; on the 3rd petition); lesson 71 L, 3–56 (vol. 3, 182f.; on the 4th petition); lesson 76 H, 2–32 (vol. 3, 271f.; on the 5th petition); lesson 78 T, 1–U, 28 (vol. 3, 319–321; on the 6th petition); lesson 79 F, 2–26 (vol. 3, 327; on the 7th petition); lesson 79 I, 1–19 (vol. 3, 329; on the amen); lesson 79 O, 1–12 (vol. 3, 333; on the whole Lord’s Prayer to close his interpretation).

(70.) Biel did not leave it out in the paraphrase of the third petition either (Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 69 Q, 6 [vol. 3, 151]) nor in the amen (lesson 79 I, 1f. [vol. 3, 329]).

(71.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 66 R, 28 (vol. 3, 94; on the 1st petition); lesson 71 L, 56 (vol. 3, 183; on the 4th petition); lesson 76 H, 32 (vol. 3, 272; on the 5th petition).

(72.) Mombaer, Rosetum, folio 208r–210v.

(73.) On the importance of this model see Martin Nicol, Meditation bei Luther (2d revised and expanded ed.; Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1991), 19f., 91.

(74.) WA 6:11, 4–6.

(75.) WA 6:11, 18; 12, 22; 13, 19; 14, 21; 15, 29; 16, 27; 17, 28; 18, 29.

(76.) WA 6:19, 8.

(77.) WA 6:13, 15f.; 14, 17f.; 15, 25f.; 16, 22–24; 17, 24f.; Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 336.

(78.) WA 6:11, 10–15.

(79.) WA 51:608, 2–6.

(80.) WA 38:358, 5f.

(81.) WA 38:359, 1–3.

(82.) WA 38:364, 29f.

(83.) WA 38:364, 28–365, 4; 372, 26–28; 373, 4–7.10–12.

(84.) Martin Nicol speaks of two parts of the exercise described by Luther here: the “preparatory part” and “the main part, based on the Lord’s Prayer”; see Nicol, Meditation, 153f. For these parts he uses the “conceptual pair meditatio—oratio,” 158.

(85.) WA 38:360, 1f.; cf. 363, 17–364, 15; 372, 27–373,3.

(86.) WA 38:360, 4–11.

(87.) WA 38:360, 7f.

(88.) WA 38:360, 12.

(89.) WA 38:360, 13.

(90.) WA 38:360, 13–362, 29.

(91.) WA 38:362, 37–363, 9.

(92.) Following Rudolf Otto, Martin Nicol also interprets the encounter with the Holy Spirit described by Luther. However, he is careful to stress that “Luther’s encounter with the Holy Spirit differs from the experience of the mystics because of its commitment to words and continued emphasis on challenged faith”; see Nicol, Meditation, 163.

(93.) WA 38:366, 10–15 (in the context of meditatio); 363, 9–16 (in the context of oratio).

(94.) WA 38:360, 23 (on the 1st petition); 360, 37 (on the 2nd petition); 361, 13 (on the 3rd petition). In the paraphrase of the 4th petition only the second half appears: Wehre (361, 34).

(95.) WA 19:95, 20f.

(96.) WA 19:95, 24f.

(97.) WA 19:95, 26–96, 19.

(98.) WA 19:96, 7f.

(99.) Tauler, Predigten, ed. Vetter, 225, 1–4.

(100.) WA 4:623f.

(101.) WA 4:623, n. 1.

(102.) WA 4:624, 7–32. Since Luther already states that oratio relies upon the promissio Dei in the form of the tota oratio (624, 9) (“whole prayer”) in this early sermon, Martin Brecht’s view of Luther’s 1519 Sermon on Prayer and Processions in Rogation Week (WA 2:175–179) is thus put into perspective. Brecht states that this sermon “proves that Luther has developed his theory of prayer going beyond his explanations of the Lord’s Prayer he has delivered so far. Now it is recognized that God’s promise forms the basis for all prayer.” See Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 337. Luther clearly grasped this as early as 1517. His Sermon on Prayer and Processions in Rogation Week is nevertheless very important because it shows how Luther put forward the promissio for the first time in order to change a prevalent prayer practice.

(103.) WA 30/I:196, 31–34.

(104.) WA 30/I:196, 34–197, 1; 197, 38–198, 2.

(105.) WA 30/I:197, 1f.

(106.) WA 50:657–661.

(107.) WA 50:659, 3f.

(108.) Cf. Nicol, Meditation, 91f.

(109.) WA 50:660, 1.

(110.) WA 50:660, 1–4.

(111.) WA 50:659, 22–27.

(112.) WA 50:659, 10–12.

(113.) WA 50:658, 30.

(114.) WA 50:658, 29.

(115.) Martin Nicol’s view on this should be countered. He states that tentatio “takes the place that contemplatio had in the medieval model”; Nicol, Meditation, 92. While he admits that he gives pointed emphasis to this, he feels justified in calling “tentatio Luther’s form of contemplatio,” 95. This is not accurate and also complicates Nicol’s following Rudolf Otto’s line of interpretation. The latter sought to reestablish the stage of contemplatio in Luther’s description of the experience of the Holy Spirit: under certain conditions one could agree with him. “The contemplatio” would then be “included in Luther’s spiritual practice in a new reformatory form.” See n. 93.

(116.) WA 38:363, 13.

(117.) WA 50:660, 3.

(118.) Tauler, Predigten, ed. Vetter, 238, 3–9.

(119.) Ibid., 382, 11–16. This interpretation of this slightly unclear section is certainly plausible and was proposed by Georg Hofmann; see Johannes Tauler, Predigten, ed. and trans. Georg Hofmann (2 vols.; 4th ed.; Freiburg: Johannes, 2007), 513, n. 1.

(120.) Tauler, Predigten, ed. Vetter, 382, 16–18.

(121.) Ibid., 382, 18–22.

(122.) WA 9:146, 21–147, 5.

(123.) WA 9:152, 19–21.

(124.) WA 9:142, 29.

(125.) WA 9:143, 22–26.

(126.) WA 9:144, 16–23.

(127.) WA 9:145, 1–150, 35.

(128.) WA 9:145, 1f.

(129.) WA 9:145, 8–24.

(130.) WA 9:145, 14.

(131.) WA 9:145, 26–29. The list of virtues that belong to a “life of grace” (147, 12) is extended during the course of the interpretations (147, 11–16).

(132.) WA 9:145, 31f.

(133.) See note 123.

(134.) WA 9:146, 31–147, 5.

(135.) WA 2:109, 1–11; 111, 8–25.

(136.) WA 2:111, 30f.

(137.) WA 2:112, 31f.

(138.) WA 2:113, 13–17.

(139.) WA 2:113, 19–21.

(140.) WA 2:113, 36–114, 4.

(141.) Cf. also WA 2:113, 2f.

(142.) Cf. WA 2:112, 8–10.38f.

(143.) Cf. WA 2:112, 35–39.

(144.) WA 2:113, 31–35.

(145.) WA 2:128, 4–130, 13.

(146.) Tauler, Predigten, ed. Vetter, 238, 17–28.

(147.) WA 38:366, 10–15; cf. WA 38:363, 9–16; 373, 1–3.

(148.) It is interesting that in 1535 Luther cites Psalm 119 when he deals with the gift of deep theological insights. A few years later, in 1539, he uses this psalm in order to establish the rules for his study of theology “oratio, meditatio, tentatio” (WA 50:659, 1–4, 13–21, 30–35; 660, 5–30), showing Luther’s combination of theological methodology and reflected spirituality.

(149.) Hortulus anime, folio 165v.

(150.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 79 O, 7 (vol. 3, 333).

(151.) Mombaer, Rosetum, folio 210r.

(152.) Nicholas of Lyra, Postilla, vol. 4, 36 (on Matthew 6:11).

(154.) WA 59:23, 20f. and WA 6:21, 29.

(155.) WA 2:109, 2–11.26–34; 111, 11–25; 115, 27–116, 2.

(156.) WA 2:111, 17.

(157.) WA 2:129, 11–24.

(158.) WA 6:15, 30–16, 24.

(159.) Cf. in particular WA 10/II:401, 24–403, 6.

(160.) WA 10/II:403, see the text variants for lines 1–3.

(161.) Albrecht Peters points this out; see Albrecht Peters, Kommentar zu Luthers Katechismen, vol. 3, Das Vaterunser, ed. Gottfried Seebaß (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992), 117–122, 133–135, esp. 121 and 134.

(162.) Albrecht Peters also points this out; see Peters, Kommentar, vol. 3, 134, n. 149.

(163.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 66 D, 11–46 (vol. 3, 81f.).

(164.) Retractationes 1, 8, 6 (Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 36, 45, 16–46, 1). Cited in Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 66 D, 16f. (vol. 3, 81).

(165.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 66 D, 28–30 (vol. 3, 82).

(166.) WA 19:96, 7f.

(167.) Cf. Luther’s theses for the Disputatio contra scholasticam theologiam of 1517: WA 1, 224–228.

(168.) Biel, Canonis missae expositio, lesson 66 D, 44–46 (vol. 3, 82).

(169.) Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 95.

(170.) WA 19:73, 18.

(171.) Cf. WA 19:73, 25–28; 74, 22f.

(172.) Cf. Peters, Kommentar, 119–122, 134.

(173.) WA 30/I:203, 28–206, 8.

(174.) WA 30/I:304, 8–17.

(175.) WA 10/II:403, see the text variants for lines 1–3.

(176.) WA 38:361, 21–35.

(177.) AWA 4:297; fifth verse.

(178.) Johannes von Paltz, Supplementum Coelifodinae, 290, 24–26.

(179.) Ibid., 290, 26–31.

(180.) Burkhard Mojsisch, “Hugo Ripelin von Straßburg OP,” in Lexikon des Mittelalters (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2009), vol. 5, 176.

(181.) Cited under the chapter heading De oratione (“On Prayer”) in Johannes von Paltz, Supplementum Coelifodinae, 296, 2–4.

(182.) Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae III, Supplementum, q. 15 art. 3 ad 1 (Thomae Aquinatis Opera omnia iussu impensaque Leonis XIII P. M. edita cura et studio Fratrum Praedicatorum, vol. 12, supplement, Rome: Ex Typographia Polyglotta, 1906, 32).

(183.) Cf. Brecht, Martin Luther, vol. 1, 212f.

(184.) WA 1, 532, 12f.

(185.) WA 1, 529, 29–530, 12.

(186.) WA 1, 530, 4–10.

(187.) WA 1, 532, 19f.

(188.) WA 30/I:233–238.

(189.) Cf. Albrecht Peters, Kommentar zu Luthers Katechismen, vol. 5: Die Beichte. Die Haustafel. Das Traubüchlein. Das Taufbüchlein, with contributions from Frieder Schulz and Rudolf Keller, ed. Gottfried Seebaß (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994), 17.

(190.) WA 29, 132–146, esp. 136–146.

(191.) WA 30/I:234, 31–235, 1.

(192.) WA 30/I:235, 1.

(193.) WA 30/I:235, 2–4.

(194.) WA 30/I:235, 4f.

(195.) WA 1, 530, 17.

(196.) WA 1, 531, 14–18.

(197.) WA 2:128, 3–130,13.

(198.) Albrecht Peters, Kommentar zu Luthers Katechismen, vol. 3: Das Vaterunser, ed. Gottfried Seebaß (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992).

(199.) Johannes Meyer, Historischer Kommentar zu Luthers Kleinem Katechismus (Gütersloh: Carl Bertelsmann, 1929).

(200.) Birgit Stolt, “Das Katechismusgebet in Luthers Betbüchlein (1522),” in Textallianzen—am Schnittpunkt der germanistischen Disziplinen, eds. Alexander Schwarz and Laure Abplanalp Luscher (Bern and New York: Peter Lang, 2001), 115–129.

(201.) Stolt, “Katechismusgebet,” 125.

(202.) Michael Beyer, “Martin Luthers Betbüchlein,” Lutherjahrbuch 74 (2007): 29–50.

(203.) Ibid., 50.

(204.) Paul W. Robinson, “Luther’s Explanation of ‘Daily Bread’ in Light of Medieval Preaching,” Lutheran Quarterly 13 (1999): 435–447.

(205.) Rudolf Dellsperger, “‘Unser tägliches Brot…’: Die Brotbitte bei Erasmus von Rotterdam, Martin Luther, Wolfgang Musculus und Petrus Canisius SJ,” in Oratio: Das Gebet in patristischer und reformatorischer Sicht, eds. Emidio Campi, Leif Grane, and Adolf Martin Ritter (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 211–226.

(206.) David F. Wright, “What Kind of ‘Bread’? The Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer from the Fathers to the Reformers,” in Oratio: Das Gebet in patristischer und reformatorischer Sicht, eds. Emidio Campi, Leif Grane, and Adolf Martin Ritter (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 151–161.

(207.) Ibid., 157.

(208.) Ibid., 160.

(209.) Volker Leppin, “Luthers Vaterunserauslegung von 1519: Die Transformation spätmittelalterlicher Frömmigkeit zu reformatorischer,” in Transformationen: Studien zu den Wandlungsprozessen in Theologie und Frömmigkeit zwischen Spätmittelalter und Reformation, ed. Volker Leppin (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2015), 429–441.

(210.) Ibid., 441.

(211.) Ibid., 440f.

(212.) Wolfgang Ratzmann, “Danken, loben und bitten in Luthers Deutscher Messe und in heutigen lutherischen Agenden,” Lutherjahrbuch 74 (2007): 91–112.

(213.) Ibid., 99–101.

(214.) Ibid., 100.

(215.) Martin Petzoldt, “Martin Luthers Vaterunserlied—theologisch und musikalisch betrachtet,” Lutherjahrbuch 74 (2007): 69–90.

(216.) Ibid., 70.

(217.) Georg Nicolaus, Die pragmatische Theologie des Vaterunsers und ihre Rekonstruktion durch Martin Luther (Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2005).