Teach Us to Pray
With your support, a professor of prayer teaches the next generation of pray-ers how to pray
I’m fortunate that I actually remember my mother at my bedside teaching me the Lord’s Prayer. I remember, as well, Sunday School teachers and camp counselors, my pastors and catechists teaching me the words and the meanings of that central prayer. Over the years I’ve been taught the Lord’s Prayer by any number of authors, from Luther to Bonhoeffer. And I learned that prayer in seminary from professors of New Testament, Confessions, Systematics, Pastoral Care, and even Worship.
All of that learning is brought to bear not only when I pray by myself or with my godchild, but also when I lead a congregation in those deep and familiar words, and every time I pray them at a hospital bed or in a funeral home. That teaching stood behind me on Sept. 11, 2001, when I led the seminary community in the Lord’s Prayer while we watched the Twin Towers collapse, knowing that those words were being prayed simultaneously around the world, and in the stairways of those doomed buildings. That prayer is not simply a familiar, calming formula. Because of what I learned from all my teachers – from my mother to my own catechumens – I know and I hope I can make clear that this prayer’s plea for God’s will, forgiveness and the other necessities of life is our deepest, truest, most faithful, most authentic conversation with God.
That’s the kind of teaching seminary education is aimed at. At its best, it doesn’t simply provide facts or theories which can be memorized and reported back, but rather expresses the faith which shapes and sustains us. And further, seminary education aims at helping people hone their own skills as teachers of prayer, as those who are called to help to shape the baptized as pray-ers of the Lord’s Prayer at every moment of their life.
That’s the work your contributions to the Gettysburg Seminary Fund make possible. It takes the best scholarship and imagination the faculty can muster, the best support and encouragement of community life the staff can offer, and the best guidance and modeling that field education supervisors can provide. It’s not easy and it’s not cheap, but being vital to the Church we love, it merits your support. Please join me in playing a generous part in teaching a new generation of pray-ers how to pray.
The Rev. Dr. Mark Oldenburg,
Dean of the Gettysburg Seminary Chapel and the Steck-Miller Professor of the Art of Worship