1 Corinthians 9:24–27
From the Confessions: The Augsburg Confession
Concerning the Distinction of Meats
Our teachers are accused of opposing bodily discipline, as Jovinian did. But the opposite is true, as may be learned in the writings of our teachers. As concerning the cross, they have always taught that it is fitting for Christians to bear afflictions. For being crucified with Christ is genuine, devout, and sincere self-denial.
Additionally, they teach that every Christian should bring the flesh under control through fasting and other disciplines. In this way, they might overcome temptation to sin. Yet they do not teach that we earn grace or make satisfaction for sins through such efforts. Bodily discipline ought to be urged at all times—not only on a few predetermined days. Christ commands, “But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life.” (Luke 21:34) He also teaches that some temptations are only dealt with by prayer and fasting. (Matt 17:21) Paul says, “I pommel my body and subdue it.” (1Cor 9:27) He clearly shows that he was disciplining his body in order to bring it under control, not to merit forgiveness of sins but to prepare it for spiritual things and for the fulfilling of his calling. Therefore, we do not condemn fasting in and of itself, but instead the traditions that imperil the conscience by demanding the honoring of certain days and foods as necessary to the Christian life.
Pulling It Together
In the fourth century, Jovinian, a one-time monk and ascetic (one who practiced severe self-discipline), wrote against celibacy and some other monastic traditions. Indeed, he praised the virtues of marriage and was therefore branded a heretic. Some called him the precursor of Luther and other Reformers. It is easy to see why Lutherans were lumped into his supposedly heretical category. Yet it is an unfair criticism since Lutherans taught bodily discipline. Prayer and fasting were staples of Lutheran exhortation. The difference was, as it always was for the Lutherans, that they did not regard discipline of the flesh and other Church traditions as necessary for salvation. They taught that such works did not earn favor with God, confessing instead that God's favor is promised to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Help me, Lord, to live this day in such a manner that brings you glory. Amen.
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In Prayer as Joy, Prayer as Struggle, Braaten explores many types of prayer, including thanksgiving, confession, praise, wrestling, petition, intercession, listening, and hope. He also explores what it means when the answer to prayer is "no" and how we experience prayer in times of doubt. In each chapter, he uses and extended biblical example of prayer and also provides the text of prayers we can use in our own practice. For all who seek joy in prayer, even as we struggle, Braaten offers an engaging personal and pastoral reflection on the ways we pray.