Bishop Paul’s letter

Rev Paul Smith
Bishop, Lutheran Church of
Australia and New Zealand

‘Let your holy angel be with me so that the evil one may have no power over me.’ I say those words every day with my wife, Heidi, as we begin our day praying together the ‘Morning Prayer’ written by Dr Martin Luther.

This prayer is part of the daily worship plan that Luther included in his Small Catechism so that everyday Christian people would have guidance about what to pray at the beginning and end of each day.

Because I pray these words so frequently, I have often reflected on why Luther would include this focus on the ‘holy angel’ and ‘evil one’ in a prayer to start each day.

Firstly, the words which focus on angels set our minds on the witness of the Bible. Throughout Scripture, angels are mentioned repeatedly. They appear in biblical stories as messengers from God to humankind and our English word, ‘angel’ is drawn from the original Biblical word which means ‘messenger’.

In particular, angels appear at key moments in the story of our Lord Jesus, from his birth where angels proclaimed, ‘Glory to God’ before the Bethlehem shepherds, to the empty tomb where the angel told the women ‘Go quickly and tell … ’.

Secondly, the mention of angels in Luther’s prayer lifts our eyes from mundane matters of the human world to the things of God and mysteries not fathomed by our human reason. We live in a material world where advertising has reduced our identity to ‘consumer’ of products and services.

At the same time, we are barraged by the human quest to be in control, to know all and be certain of everything. The mention of angels in the morning prayer captures the mystery of the gospel – that there is more to this life than what my eyes can see or what my mind can figure out.

Like all of us, our young people need to be reminded of God’s mystery at work in our world. They need this message that they are not alone but can pray with Luther’s words, ‘Let your holy angel be with me’. Here is that reminder that our gracious God is present and active, daily providing for us.

Finally, Luther’s mention of the ‘holy angel’ and the ‘evil one’ in his morning prayer, takes me to the work of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. I am a human being who is flesh and blood and born in sin. Therefore, I need a saviour from sin, death and the power of the devil.

At the start of the day, Luther wants Christians to recall that God has entered into my world to rescue me and to give me hope in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Because of the work of the cross, I know that ‘one little word’ can overcome all the powers of ‘the evil one’.

As I write this message for you, I am aware that Christmas is coming and soon our lives will be inundated with Christmas advertising. Because of their prominence in the nativity story, angels will appear for sale in stores.

Knowing that angel means ‘messenger’, you might consider giving a family member or friend the gift of a little angel to remind them of the mystery of God at work in the gospel of Jesus. But remember to include in the gift, something of the message of God for us all: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those upon whom God’s favour rests.’

‘Let your holy angel be with me.’ This short prayer keeps us focused on the scriptures and God’s gracious plan to bring us life and salvation, in mysteries beyond our human knowing.

I invite you to join Heidi and me, in regularly praying Luther’s morning prayer:

‘I thank you, heavenly Father, through your dear Son, Jesus Christ, that you have protected me through the night from all harm and danger. I ask you to keep me this day, too, from all sin and evil, so that in all my thoughts, words, and deeds, I may please you. In your hands I place my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angel be with me, so that the evil one may have no power over me. Amen.’

In Christ,

Lord Jesus, we belong to you,
you live in us, we live in you;
we live and work for you –
because we bear your name.

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