Luther’s Barber Learns to Pray

Hi, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me.”

You may have guessed from the channel name, “Pray with Me,” that we are actually going to pray.

So … let’s find a starting point for praying together. I suggest we consider an exchange between Martin Luther and his barber, Peter Beskendorf.  Peter asked Luther to teach him something about prayer, so Luther wrote him a short letter that said “I will tell you as best I can what I do when I pray. May our Lord grant that you do it better than I!”

Here’s the simple method Luther gave Peter for praying the Lord’s Prayer. Expand and personalize each phrase of the prayer and make it your prayer. For example, Luther started with “Hallowed be your name,”  and used it as his jumping off point to ask God to destroy and root out all sorts of abominations perpetrated by people who misuse his name, and to pray that God will help his people praise him by believing the truth and living holy lives.

Now that sounds like a Martin Luther prayer, definitely not mine. But I like his basic method. Take a small section of the Bible, think on it, and chat with God about it in your own words. Not difficult.

And what will the outcome be? Do you imagine that Luther’s barber used Luther’s good advice to become a mighty man of prayer? What actually happened was not long after Luther wrote him about prayer, Peter the barber got drunk and stabbed his son-in-law. Luther intervened on his behalf to get his death penalty commuted into a life-long banishment.  

Wow. I don’t know what it is about barbers. At the end of one haircut, my barber said to me, “Did you know that barber and surgeon used to be one combined trade?  I’m thinking of claiming back some of the old territory.” And he took out a large pair of scissors, held them in front of my face and said, “How are your tonsils today?”  

I said, “My tonsils are feeling really, really good today, thank you.”  

Anyway, back to Luther’s method for prayer. That is exactly what we will do when we pray. Take a little Bible section and pray it back to God. In the next episode we start by using the method Luther suggested to pray the Lord’s prayer phrase by phrase. I hope you’ll tune in and pray the Lord’s prayer with me.

Let us pray. Jesus, your disciples said to you, “Teach us to pray.”  We invite you to do the same for us. Teach us to pray.

I’m Daniel, thanking you for joining me on the channel “Pray with Me.”


Printable PDF of Luther’s suggestions for his barber, organized in booklet form: PDF of Luther, with pages in order:

Best article, which includes the sad ending:

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