Those familiar with Luther’s Small Catechism know (or remember from that long-ago confirmation class) that it contains six chief parts. One reason we refer to the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Prayer as the six chief parts is because through his explanations of them Luther summarizes everything the Christian needs to know for salvation. But also because Luther appended two other parts to these that perhaps receive less attention, including a section of daily prayers and a table of duties.

We lose much when we overlook these appendices and allow them to fall into disuse. We cannot treat them in full here. Instead, we will focus on the first, Luther’s daily prayers. We’ll examine his intentions for them, what they teach us about prayer, and their benefit for us today.

Luther’s subscripts show us what he intends for these four prayers in the Small Catechism. As with the six chief parts, he wrote the daily prayers that “the head of the family should teach” them to the household. He included a morning prayer, an evening prayer, a prayer before mealtime that asks a blessing, and one that returns thanks after the meal.

While the six chief parts have elements of practicality in their teaching, the daily prayers are meant to be as practical as they are instructive. Luther wrote them to be learned “on the job” as it were. Through the daily prayers, the individual and the household learns to pray while praying.

With these prayers, Luther picks up the threads he left hanging earlier in the Small Catechism. He explains of the second commandment that we rightly use God’s name when we “call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.” Likewise, in the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther explains that it is our “duty to thank and praise” God for all he has given and still gives to us “without any merit or worthiness” in us. Again, regarding the introduction of the Lord’s Prayer, he explains that with the words “Our Father,” God tenderly invites and entices us to believe and call on him in all boldness and confidence. Luther’s daily prayers instruct us how to do all this as we pray them.

Luther’s daily prayers also teach us an order and posture of prayer. None of them stand alone. A little liturgy surrounds each.

The morning and evening prayers begin with making the sign of the cross in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, Luther suggests kneeling or standing as the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer are said, followed by the morning and evening prayers, respectively. Both prayers begin in thanksgiving before making their supplications.

Luther’s closing instructions following the morning and evening prayers give us further insight into their purpose. In the morning, he encourages us to “go joyfully to [our] work.” Here, he calls us to take joy in our vocations as gifts from God by which he daily and richly provides for us and our neighbors. In the evening, Luther encourages us to “go to sleep at once and in good cheer.” Here, he calls us to take heart in the God who never sleeps (Psalm 121:4), who “defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil” as we rest.

These little liturgies comfort us amid a year filled with widespread hardship and suffering that has bred chaos and contempt, and in which fear and suspicion have a vise grip on even the mundane moments of daily life.

Luther prefaces his table prayer prior to the meal with an encouragement that the household approach the table in reverence. The brief order of prayer begins with a reading from Psalm 145:15-16 followed by the Lord’s Prayer. The order ends with his short prayer for blessing.

Following the meal, the household, in like manner reverently pauses to return thanks. This order of prayer mirrors that which opened the meal. Luther provides readings from Psalm 136:1, 5, and Psalm 147:9-11 again followed by the Lord’s Prayer. The order ends with his short prayer of thanksgiving.

Luther’s daily prayers, including their surrounding settings, still benefit us. In a year in which every day seems to blur together, these orders of daily prayer help order our daily lives.

If this year has shown us anything, it’s that there’s little we can control. But, in ordering our daily lives, these little liturgies also orient our thanks and praise in the right direction. As John Pless points out, in these daily prayers, “God is thanked and praised exactly at those times each day when it is evident that we are not the Creator but creatures whose lives are dependent on the God who is the almighty Father, maker of heaven and earth.”

This year especially, there’s little in our world or in ourselves for which we want to be thankful. But these prayers put desperately needed words of praise and thanksgiving on our lips. Through them, God’s word breaks in and reminds us that it is he who blesses us with his gifts and that our prayers reply to him first speaking to and acting toward us.

These little liturgies comfort us amid a year filled with widespread hardship and suffering that has bred chaos and contempt, and in which fear and suspicion have a vise grip on even the mundane moments of daily life.

The comfort of Luther’s daily prayers comes through his recognition that God did not give prayer as one more thing to be accomplished but as an essential expression and exercise of our daily life of faith and trust in God’s work for us. To this, we can reply, “Amen. This is most certainly true.”