Full Text for Pastoral Theology and Practice- Volume 5 - Pastor's Spiritual Life (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN PASTORAL THEOLOGY & PRACTICE LPTP-5 Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 www.captionfirst.com *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *** >> Professor Senkbeil, my name is Eric. And I am serving on the opposite end of the country from Nick. My congregation is in New Jersey. Could you tell me more about the personal side of the ministry? I mean, tell us about a pastor's spiritual life and how he carries out his daily work. Thank you. >> PROF. SENKBEIL: Thanks very much, Eric, for that question because you've really gotten at something that's very, very important for every pastor. You remember that, as we were talking about the qualifications for the office under the third chapter of I Timothy, we talked about the importance of a man being able to teach. That he be one who desires that noble task of the ministry, that he be qualified in every way as a pastor in the church. And, certainly, as his external characteristics and qualities are important, also his inner spiritual life is very, very important. Because that belongs to really the effective preaching of the Gospel that one would himself hear that Gospel and believe it, that he might be a man who is really what you see is what you get, that what he teaches and preaches to others he himself has applied, as the old saying goes, we need to practice what we preach. Dr. Luther a long time ago gave us a kind of a working formula, if you will, to becoming a theologian. He said there are three components really in the making of a theologian. In the language that he used, the language of the church at that time, namely Latin, it sounded like this: Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio, which means prayer, meditation, and affliction. Kind of an interesting combination, if you stop and think about it. That God the Holy Spirit goes about forming pastors in the school of experience, if you will, by means of his word. Notice again, that the Holy Spirit always works through these very same means that the pastor is called to use in ministering to others. So, therefore, when it comes to a pastor's own spiritual life, he needs to be focused upon this word of God. Maybe, Eric, you've heard the phrase to be "in the Word." Well, Dr.�Luther in his own way was really emphasizing that very characteristic when he said that a pastor needs to pray and to meditate. The prayer which Dr.�Luther had in mind is an answering prayer that is formed and framed in response to the word of God by which God himself addresses each and every Christian. So that, as a child of God then hears "You are my own beloved child," the believing child of God answers in the very words that Jesus has taught him to pray: "Our Father who art in heaven." So this prayer is really rooted and grounded in the very word of God. That's meditation. There's a difference really between meditating upon God's word and merely studying it. A lot of people have the idea that meditation is a matter of a mental determination, that one focuses really, really hard upon learning God's word and inwardly digesting it. And really that, the inward digestion, is much closer to the heart of the matter of meditation than merely thinking in your heart. The biblical word for meditation really means to ruminate, to chew on, to digest this word of God which is the instrument and sword of the Holy Spirit, as the Bible says. In full awareness that the word of God actually does what it says, it is an efficacious word. It is the sword of the spirit by which he addresses us in our innermost being. And so in Dr.�Luther's mind as he taught people to pray, it was based upon that very word of God, that one might pray back to God with the words that God himself has given him. So it is that in Dr.�Luther's mind prayer itself was really an answer to the word which God has given to that person. So that each and every person then might in his own way pray back to God the very word that God has given to him. In an interesting tract that Dr.�Luther wrote for his barber, Peter, he gave to him a formula for prayer that really follows this very strategic aspect and dimension of what it means to be a theologian. He said to this layman, "If you want to learn the art of prayer in the school of experience, you can do it by weaving a wreath of four strands on the basis of the word of God praying the very same word back to God in the way that he has given it to you�-- first as a teaching, then as an occasion for thanksgiving, then as an opportunity for confession of sins, and finally as an act of petition." So, for example, as he explains to his barber, Peter, in that little tract that he wrote for him, "To Master Peter on prayer," he said, "On the basis of the introduction to the Lord's Prayer, one might indeed reflect to the father in heaven, 'Here, heavenly Father, you have taught me that you are mine, beloved Father, and I'm your beloved son. So that with all boldness and confidence, I can ask you as a beloved child asks their beloved father." So it is that in that tract to Master Peter on prayer, Dr.�Luther instructed him that in using this four-stranded wreath approach to prayer, one might, for example, weave a prayer, one's own private prayer, on the basis of the introduction to the Lord's Prayer. In the small catechism, remember, we are taught what does this mean regarding our father who art in heaven? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true father so that with all -- and we are his true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we can ask him as dear children ask their dear father. And so, if one were to pray one's own prayer on the basis of just those little words of the introduction to the Lord's Prayer, one could say here, "Heavenly Father, you teach me that you are my true father, that I am really your true son, so I can ask you anything just like a beloved child asks their beloved father." Then you would thank God first. "Thank you, heavenly Father. Because indeed, there's nothing in me that qualifies me to approach you in such a way. But because of your dear son, our Lord Jesus, you have commanded me to pray in this way, and you have promised to hear me. Help me, by the grace and power of your Holy Spirit to recognize that in me really there is nothing, no good thing that is in my sinful flesh. I act as though I have no father in heaven; that it's all up to me; that my whole life is up to my own initiative; that I have no one who is able to hear my prayer and to answer me as you are. I confess this sin of pride, heavenly Father. Please forgive me for Jesus' sake." And then, finally, one would go on to ask "By the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, dear Father in heaven, help me to trust this promise of yours; to live in this world as one who has been created, redeemed, and sanctified by your grace and your gifts, so that I might serve you in righteousness and innocence as a child of God through faith in your son. Hear me for Jesus' sake. Amen." Now, that's only a model, Eric, of how one might pray using Luther's four-stranded wreath. But the point is, when he was teaching people in order to be a theologian one must meditate, that's the kind of prayer that he had in mind. Prayer which is based upon God's word, inwardly digested. That one might say back to God what God says to us in his word. So this life of prayer and devotion is very, very important so that the pastor doesn't become just an automaton, a mechanical repetition of going through the motions, but that he might act indeed as a beloved son of the father in heaven through faith in Jesus; that he might serve his people effectively as one who's called to that task by the very father who has created, redeemed, and sanctified him. But, if you remember, Eric, there was one more component in that formula for the making of the theologian. First prayer and then meditation, but also affliction. That's the hard part. Dr.�Luther said this is the tough stuff. This is really determines what�-- the genuineness of our faith. The apostle Peter, you remember, says that our faith is like�-- sort of like a gold nugget hidden within the ore that it's found within the ground. And there must be purification of that faith. And that's what happens in the school of experience, as devil, world, and flesh go to work on that faith that God has given to us. And so we often find that, as people who are called by the name of Christ as Christians in this world, laymen and pastors alike, we face all kinds of assaults upon this faith that God has given to us. But those very assaults serve only to enhance and to clarify and to purify the conviction which the Holy Spirit has worked in our heart and life so that we might cling all the more firmly to the promises of God and His word; That we might know from our own personal experience how rich and how wonderful are the promises of God that he's given to all his people in Christ Jesus. So the pastor's own spiritual life, in other words, is lived day in and day out in his calling both as a Christian and as a pastor; that with this formula -- prayer, meditation, and affliction -- he might come to know very personally what it means to be a child of God and to serve in Christ's church. The spiritual life of a pastor, therefore, is not really something that he does on the side. It's really more of what he is. What a pastor does flows out of who he is as a child of God and also as one who is called to serve in Christ's church, in His place and in His stead to be an undershepherd of the shepherd who bought his flock with his own blood and made them to be his own. Spiritual life is nothing other than applied faith day in and day out in every aspect of the pastor's life. Great question, Eric. *** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***