Johann Gerhard, “Prayer for the Denial of Self” – Meditations on Divine Mercy

A friend shared this prayer from Gerhard on Facebook, and it’s beautiful.  It is definitely appropriate given this season of Lent.


The King of Nineveh sets aside his crown and takes up sackcloth and ashes (Jonah 3:4-8).

O JESUS CHRIST, Son of the living God, in Your Word You exclaim: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). I beg You through Your most holy death and crucifixion to perfect in me the denial of self that You require. I know it is easier to forsake all creationthan to deny self. I humbly beg You to accomplish in me that which of myself I do not know how to achieve. May the desires of my own will be stilled within me so I am able to hear Your divine admonition. May the weed of self-love be rooted out of my heart so the sweetest plants of divine love may grow within me. May I die totally to myself and my lusts so I may live totally for You and Your will. My will is changeable and erratic,fickle and unstable. Grant that I subject my will to Yours and that I cling unflinchingly to You, the only changeless and continuous good. Divine power increases in us only when natural powers fail. Only when our own will has been put to death are our works done in God (John 3:21). Only when we are brought to nothing and disappear do we truly exist in and live in God (Acts 17:28). O true Life, put to death my will so I may begin trulyto live in You. Anything in us that commends us to God and makes uspleasing to Him must descend from God Himself. Thus everything goodmust be ascribed to God alone, and that which is His must be left to Him.Whatever shines and gleams in us proceeds from God, who is the eternal and unchangeable light that lightens the inborn darkness of our minds. Thus may our light so shine before people, not that we are glorified butthat God is glorified (Matthew 5:16). Kindle in my heart, O Christ, the true light, the light of true understanding. Work in my heart, O Christ, the true glory of the Father, the denial of my own honor and glory. It is better for me to be nothing in You and receive Your everything than to be something in and of myself and have nothing. Where I am not, there I am happier. My weakness longs to be strengthened by Your might. My nothingness reaches for Your strength. May Your holy will be done on the earth of my flesh so Your heavenly kingdom may come in my soul(Matthew 6:10). Put to death in me the love and honor of self so thecoming of Your kingdom may not be hindered. If our consummate good is that we love God, then absolute evil must be for us to love ourselves. If the free giving of one’s self is a stipulation of true good, self-love is a great evil because it selfishly arrogates that which is its own and which belongs to others. If all glory is owed to God alone, then honoring one’s self is the greatest theft. Such an act ascribes to itself things that really belong to another. Extinguish my habitual desire for self-love and honor, O Christ,the one who is blessed for eternity.


from Johann Gerhard, Meditations on Divine Mercy. Translated by Matthew C. Harrison. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2003.

The AudioGerhard/t Podcast 2 – Meditationes Sacrae, Meditation 2: “Behold the Suffering Christ!”


The Crucified Christ, Albrecht Dürer, 1505.

Finally, the long-awaited second meditation from Johann Gerhard’s Meditationes Sacrae, “Behold the Suffering Christ!”

Listen to it using the embedded player, or listen to it here.

*”Lobe den Herren” is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License for the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.


Reblog: “Why Karl Barth Should Have Just Read Johann Gerhard” (Just & Sinner)

Given that our featured work for the podcast is Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations, I found this piece to be happily timed. Just posted today, and worth the read: “Why Karl Barth Should Have Just Read Johann Gerhard“, by Nathan Rinne and Paul Strawn on Just and Sinner.

Here’s an excerpt:

Hermann Rahtmann was a Lutheran pastor who, in seeking to defend the orthodoxy and usefulness of the writings of Johann Arndt, came to promote the idea that the Bible had no power in and of itself to convert, but it was only useful and helpful to those who had already been directly enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Thus the question was raised again, which had been raised years before by Casper Schwenckfeld, and that is: What is the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Bible? To preaching? Could the Bible, could the conveyance of the Word of God in written and oral form be said to have any power in and of itself?


Rahtmann’s rejection of the idea was a result of observing that not all who read or heard the Word of God repented of their sins, believed the gospel, or were comforted by it. Since that is so, Rahtmann reasoned, it just must be that the Word of God as it found in creation is nothing out the ordinary. It merely contains signs pointing to the greater things signified.

Gerhard responded to this assertion by noting the similarities of the relationship of the written and spoken Word of God to the Spirit of God and that of (1) the divine and human natures of Christ, (2) the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament of the altar, and even (3) the relationship of the human soul to the body. As Christ died on the cross for all mankind, but many reject what was won for them there, as Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper, but not all benefit from that presence, as the soul of man exists within his body, but cannot be seen, so the Holy Spirit is present in and united with the Word of God as it is found in the Bible, and as it is proclaimed. Thus whether in use or not, the written Word of God must be said to have power, power which nonetheless is effective only when it is properly deployed.

As it is, however, it is a word that does what it says, and says what it does. The preaching of the Word was just as much an audible sacrament as the sacraments were the visible Word. Even then, the Sacraments were “Word events” occurring through the preaching of either the Trinitarian invocation or the Words of institution.

Yes, distinctions had to be made between (1) the Word which Christ brought with Him “from the womb of the Father,” (2) the Word engraved in the hearts of the apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit, (3) the Word transcribed by biblical Scribes and included in the Scriptures, and (4) the Word that is read today in the Bible, heard in sermons, and believed. In other words the Word of God is both Trinitarian—flowing from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—as well as incarnate: Appearing in time and space. Here the Lutheran Gerhard, so Steiger, predates Karl Barth’s similar (revolutionary!) Trinitarian presentation of the outgoing of the Word of God—a fact never acknowledged by Barth.

AudioGerhard/t Podcast 1 – Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations I

Here’s my first go at a full episode of the AudioGerhard/t Podcast!  You can download Episode 1 here.*  This was recorded today (October 14, 2015) on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis.

Read along here!

I’m still working on figuring out a way to embed this into the page with a flash-media player–I will most likely have to (eventually) host it through SoundCloud, but I will hold off until I am in front of a computer with a little more “oomph.”

*”Lobe den Herren” is licensed for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License for the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.

Some Background – Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)

Granger Archive

Johann Gerhard (1582-1637)

Given that the focus of a great deal of this blog will be on Johann Gerhard’s Meditationes Sacrae, it would be prudent to introduce the “archtheologian of Lutheranism” with this quick biographical sketch from Lueker, Erwin L., Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson, eds., 2000. The Christian Cyclopedia.  St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House*:

(October 17, 1582–August 17, 1637). “Archtheologian of Lutheranism”; uncle of J. A. Quenstedt*; b. Quedlinburg, Ger.; attended school at Quedlinburg till 1598. At the age of 15 he went through a critical illness and severe depression, during which he expected to die. This experience permanently deepened his piety and increased his understanding of Christian tribulation. His pastoral adviser, J. Arnd,* persuaded him to study theol.; throughout life Gerhard regarded him as his father in God.

When the plague swept through Quedlinburg, Gerhard entered school at Halberstadt 1598; attended univs. at Wittenberg (1599, philos., theol.; 1601, medicine), Jena (1603, theol.), and Marburg (1604, theol.); returned 1605 as student and lecturer to Jena, where he received his doctorate in theol. November 13, 1606. In summer 1606 he had been made supt. at Heldburg under duke John* Casimir of Coburg; ordained August 14, 1606; gen.supt. Coburg 1615; prof.Jena; advisor to churchmen and statesmen.

Gerhard was the most influential of 17th c.Luth. theologians. He was an early participant in the renewal of Aristotelian metaphysics that began in 1600. He decisively influenced Prot. theologians to study the ev. character of pre-Reformarion Christianity. In the doctrine of Scripture he made a significant advance by treating Scripture not as the object of faith but as the principium (basis) of theol. knowledge. The doctrine of justification is treated (as it was by the Reformers) as the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae (the article with which the ch. stands or falls).

Works include Patrologia;Loci theologici, in which he combined the pattern of P. Melanchthon’s* topical (“local”) arrangement with methodology developed by G. Zabarella*; Meditationes sacrae, his most popular work, which, tr. into all major Eur. languages, attained a circulation next in order to the Bible and Thomas* á Kempis‘ Imitatio Christi; Confessio catholica, a model for ev. studies of pre-Reformation RC thought; Schola pietatis. RPS

See also Erbermann, Veit;Weimarische Bibelwerk, Das.

E. R. Fischer, Vita I. Gerhardi (Leipzig, 1723); B. V. Hägglund, Die heilige Schrift und ihre Deutung in der Theologie Johann Gerhards (Lund, 1951); R. P. Scharlemann, Thomas Aquinas and John Gerhard (New Haven, Connecticut, 1964); E. Troeltsch, Vernanft und Offenbarung bei Johann Gerhard und Melanchthon (Göttingen, 1891); J. Wallmann, Der Theologiebegriff bel Johann Gerhard und Georg Calixt (Tübingen, 1961)

*A great resource for all manner of questions about theology, Reformation history, Lutheran doctrine, and the Church universal.