Dear Members and Friends of our ELS:
Have you had the chance to view the new Luther movie, A Return to Grace? If not, no doubt you will be seeing it this fall. It is even slated to be shown sometime on PBS. There’s a touching scene in the movie where Luther’s friend and cohort, Philip Melanchthon, is very sick and close to death. Strong, even insistent, prayers are offered. Melanchthon’s health improved.
When Luther went home to his wife Katie, he said to her with great joy, “God gave me my brother Melanchthon back in direct answer to prayer.” Melanchthon, restored to good health, went on to be of great assistance to Luther in the work of the Reformation.
God hears the intercessory prayers of believers. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective (James 5:16). In fact, the intercessory petitions God is most interested in pertain not only to the healing of the body, but also to that of the soul.
Do we have some friend on our mind whose spiritual life is waning or on the verge of eternal peril? God loves to answer prayers, so may we persist in our requests!
Luther once was asked if somebody else’s faith would ever secure salvation for a person needing conversion. He is recorded as saying:
By all means! In fact, the faith of one person may obtain another’s whole conversion. Accordingly it is said that Paul was converted and saved by Stephen’s prayer (Acts 7:59,60). However, Paul wasn’t accepted on account of Stephen’s faith, but Stephen’s faith obtained faith for Paul from God and by this faith he was saved in God’s sight. (Table Talk, LW 54:453)
In the same recorded conversation, Luther made reference to what Augustine’s mother did:
She prayed to God that her son might be convert-ed. But nothing seemed to help. . . But when our Lord God came along he acted effectively and made such an Augustine out of him that he’s now called an ornament of the church. (p. 454)
How many dear souls will be in heaven one day as a result of persistent prayers offered by some Christian friend or relative? Oh, it is always through the Means of Grace alone, Word and Sacrament, that God creates and sustains faith. Yet fervent prayers offered by believers often move the Good Shepherd – the sole author and finisher of faith – to call back with His saving Word a straying sheep and keep it on the pathway to life everlasting. God loves to restore sinners through the holy life, the atoning death, and the glorious resurrection of His Son! Jesus says: “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10).
O God… graciously help those who are assaulted by the devil and who are in peril of death. (ELH, p. 48)
Rev. John A. Moldstad, ELS President