There’s a story from 1529, a year before the Lutherans would present the Augsburg Confession to Emperor Charles V, spelling out the Biblical teachings of grace alone, faith alone and Scripture alone.
Three Lutheran delegates journeyed to Italy to present their protest to the emperor. One of the guys named Frauentraut boldly told his majesty that in the end they must answer to the Supreme Judge, not to creatures who turn at every wind, and that they would obey no decrees which were not founded on the Holy Scriptures.
Charles V politely listened.
Then he arrested all three men and threw them in prison.
A Lutheran prince named Philip of Hesse wrote a letter to Martin Luther asking the great reformer to help. It seems he figured Luther could use his connections with the Prince of Saxony to work out a political solution to the problem.
Luther responded: “I will pray.”
You can just about imagine Philip’s reaction to Luther’s letter: “What? You will pray? That’s the best get-out-of-jail-free card you’ve got to offer? Is that all you are going to do? Can’t you do more?”
Anyone acquainted with Luther knows that he didn’t have his head in the clouds. He often found very practical ways to help people. Still, we who live with one foot on the gas pedal and one hand on the smart phone have a hard time relating to this man who used to say on an extra busy day, that he would have to spend an extra hour in prayer!
But the rest of the story? A few weeks later, the three imprisoned men somehow got hold of some horses in the middle of the night and galloped away at full speed along a road infested with soldiers and bandits. Did Luther couple his hours of prayer with a few winks and nods to friends who knew how to help? After 500 years, Luther still isn’t talking. James said it best: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). To that end Jesus gave us one of the greatest gifts ever – the prayer He Himself taught us to pray – the Lord’s Prayer. It is the prayer that never fails.