OWAAT January 28: Proverbs in the Wisdom Tradition and Luther’s Prayers

As we move from January to February (and I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to wonder if we should declare January a month of hibernation), we continue into Proverbs, wrap up our exploration of Benedict of Nursia’s Rule of Life, and begin Luther’s Four-Stranded Garland for our February prayer practice. The term “Four-Stranded Garland” (referring to a type of braid) sounds a little fancy to me, but when we think about for whom Luther wrote up his prayer practice (one of his friends, a barber), it makes more sense.

Daily Bible readings:

January 28 – Proverbs 6
January 29 – Proverbs 7
January 30 – Proverbs 8
January 31 – Proverbs 9
February 1 – Proverbs 10
February 2 – Proverbs 11
February 3 – Proverbs 12


The book of Proverbs is an entire book devoted to wisdom literature from Jewish wisdom tradition. Richard Clifford discusses the role of wisdom literature in broad context: “The title ‘wisdom literature’ has been applied to certain literary genres from Egypt and Mesopotamia. … Wisdom texts comprise some of the most ancient literature.” In working to understand the origins of Proverbs and other biblical wisdom literature, it seems worthwhile to consider their place in the broader canon of wisdom literature and its origins.

What do you know about wisdom literature as a whole, and what more would you like to know about it?


What has it been like creating and adjusting your Rule of Life, and what will you take with you from it into this year?

As we move into our February prayer practice of Martin Luther’s Four-Stranded Garland, we consider how and why it came into being. Luther, when asked, distilled his prayer practice into a letter for his friend, the barber Peter Beskendorf, “How One Should Pray, for Master Peter the Barber” on the subject, first offering advice on praying the Lord’s Prayer before moving into “Praying the Ten Commandments: A Garland of Four Strands.” What Luther does in this letter with the Ten Commandments can focus on any meaningful passage or concept: “I take one part after another and free myself as much as possible from distractions in order to pray. I divide each commandment into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands. That is, I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be, and consider what the Lord God demands of me so earnestly. Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving; third, a confession; and fourth, a prayer.”

His letter continues on in extensive detail exactly how he does this with every one of the Ten Commandments. You may read a translation of the letter to receive his full instruction, or simply take the themes of instruction/learrning, thanksgiving/praise, confession, and prayer/listening for God and apply them to a particular biblical passage or theme. Brother M on the Dining with God blog offers some helpful insights as to this way of praying as well.


What do you want to change in your community in 2018, and with whom do you need to work to change it?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.

Check out the new Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working to live out their dreams of a more just world!

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.


“Instructions for Developing a Personal Rule of Life.” CS Lewis Institute, n.d. http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/338

Benedict of Nursia. Benedict’s Rule. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 2017. https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/study/module/benedicts-rule

Clifford, Richard J. “Wisdom Literature in the Ancient Near East.” Pages 731–48 in Introduction to Hebrew Poetry; Job; Psalms; Introduction to Wisdom Literature; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs. Vol. III of The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015.

Luther, Martin. “A Simple Way to Pray (…for Master Peter the Barber).” Pages 193–211 in Luther’s Works: Devotional Writings II. Vol. 43 of. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1535. http://www.lbdsoftware.com/A%20Simple%20Way%20to%20Pray%20-%20Martin%20Luther.pdf.