“Pray and let God worry.” It’s an aphorism attributed to Martin Luther.
Luther is said to have said lots of things that we can’t actually confirm (see footnote 1 below) and I have my doubts about this one. I think it reads too much like a bumper sticker for Luther and I wonder if he would have considered it simplistic.
We do know that he wrote that we should “…labor and let the care and worry with God.” (2) He wrote this in a sermon outline on the lilies of the field verses in the Gospel according to Matthew. While it substitutes “work” for “prayer,” (which I think a helpful and responsible change) it is similar in that it leaves God with the day’s anxieties.
I know that I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, but last Friday’s Torch featured a piece on student stress on the front page, above the fold, so I thought it worth a second shot.
Does God worry?
I don’t think Luther cares if God does or doesn’t. The point is, worry and anxiety aren’t our tasks. They aren’t our tasks because worry is an unfruitful practice. It adds nothing to our lives and only consumes energy and creativity that we could be spending on productive things like our work or our friendships. But in placing the worry with God, I think Luther invites us to think through a more helpful question, a question that we might substitute for our worries and anxieties.
The question is this: “What does God think of me?” or maybe a more basic one, “Does God think of me?”
Here, Luther has a clear answer. It’s one that he uses first on himself to help him get through his own times of anxiety and depression. He relied heavily on the fact that on the day after he was born, he had been baptized. He believed, on the basis of what he read in the Bible, that God had made a commitment to him in his baptism. It was a commitment that, while his life might have its ups and downs, God remained trustworthy and sure because God is unable to renege on promises that have been made, even if we waiver in our own faithfulness.
This, for Luther, created an identity, not of his own making. It had nothing to do with his own belief or work or prayer. He was marked with the death and resurrection of Jesus. He was an heir of the reign and rule of God. So, if there was any worrying to be done, it wasn’t his to do. It was up to God to sort out how Luther would take hold of this destiny. In the meantime, he had work to do. So do we.
But the work we do and all of the other ways we fill the hours of our days are not our means to assure a future for ourselves; under the gift of baptism that future is already in hand. It’s ours to trust and hold on to.
If you’d like to talk about this or anything else, Deaconess Kristin or I would be happy to meet with you.
Peace and joy,
Sept. 12, 2018
Pastor Jim and Deaconess Kristin take turns writing weekly devotions for the Chapel of the Resurrection. Contact them here:
- If you have a citation for this, I’d love to hear from you!
- Precious and Sacred Writings of Luther, p. 103