Do Lutherans Pray the Rosary? Get the Facts


The Lutheran Church has always valued corporate and private prayer, believing it to be an important part of the Christian life. Other expressions of Christianity, like Roman Catholicism, say the Rosary and use prayer beads. This has led people to wonder if Lutherans pray the Rosary.

A small number of Lutherans pray a version of the Rosary. The Lutheran prayer has similarities and differences with the Roman Catholic version. Using rosary beads and saying the Lord’s Prayer is a similarity. A difference is that Lutherans don’t say the “Hail Mary” because it violates several of their doctrines.

Why don’t Lutherans say the Hail Mary? What does Martin Luther, the German Reformer, and founder of the Lutheran branch of Christianity, say about the subject? For what purpose do Catholics and Protestants use rosaries today? Keep reading to learn more.  

brown rosary beads
What do Lutherans believe about Mary? See below

Why don’t Lutherans say the Hail Mary?

Lutherans don’t say the Hail Mary because it violates their doctrines of Jesus Christ and prayer. Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, has always been a distinguishing mark of the Lutheran church (and all other Protestant churches). (Also see Do Lutherans Believe in Predestination?)

Christ is the believer’s sole mediator and ultimate intercessor, according to Lutheran theology.

  • Christ as Mediator: 1 Timothy 2:5, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
  • Christ as Intercessor: Romans 8:34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (ESV)

Lutherans only pray directly to God

Lutherans believe that Christians should pray to God directly without any saint, including Mary, assisting them in their petitions. The “Hail Mary” prayer is directed to Mary:

Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

Like other Protestants, Lutherans believe that the Bible teaches that Christians should pray to God alone through Christ (Eph. 3:12; Heb. 4:16). (Also see Do Lutherans Pray the Rosary?)

  • Believers have direct access to God: Ephesians 3:12, “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.” (ESV)
  • Believers can confidently approach God: Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (ESV)

“Mary was more blessed in accepting the faith of Christ than in conceiving the flesh of Christ.”

Saint Augustine

Lutherans don’t believe Mary is an intercessor

Lutheranism have a different theological understanding of Mary, the mother of Jesus, than Catholicism. While Lutherans believe that God blessed Mary to be the mother of Jesus, they do not venerate her in the way that Catholics do. They honor, respect, and learn from Mary as an example of devotion, but they don’t pray to her or consider her a co-mediator. (See the full article What Do Lutherans Believe About Mary?)

Every Christian is a saint (e.g. 1 Cor. 1:2) according to Lutherans, and this includes Mary. Therefore, believers should honor and emulate the human heroes of the Bible, but not elevate them to a higher status. (Also see Why Are Lutheran Churches Named After Saints?)

Lutherans don’t believe the Bible supports the Hail Mary

Another hallmark of the Lutheran faith is that of Sola Scriptura or “Scripture Alone.” This means that only the words of the Bible, and not ecclesiastical tradition, should inform a Christian’s beliefs and practices. 

Lutherans do not think that the Bible explicitly supports the veneration of Mary in the same way that the Catholic Church does. Because the Hail Mary prayer is so central to praying of the Rosary, Lutherans do not support the Catholic version of the Rosary. (Also see Lutheran Bible vs Catholic Bible: What’s the Difference?)

Lutheran church in Iceland
Why do people use rosary beads?

What did Martin Luther believe about the Rosary?

Martin Luther supported the rosary and its prayers. However, the modern Hail Mary is different than that of Martin Luther’s day. Until the Council of Trent, the Hail Mary prayer did not include the final portion that requested Mary to intercede on behalf of the sinner.

Although Protestant and Catholic scholars disagree on Luther’s exact position concerning Mary, it’s clear that although he valued her, he did not consider it essential for a Christian to pray to her. (Also see Do Lutherans Pray for the Dead?)

Luther believed that every Christian had direct access to the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus. However, he arguably valued and honored her more than some Protestants do today. [1] [2]

As for the other prayers included within the Rosary such as the Lord’s Prayer, the Glory Be, and the Fatima Prayer, Luther did not oppose them. This is because Luther, along with all major Christian denominations today, would support the theology presented within these prayers. (Also see Do Lutheran Churches Have Priests?)

The Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV):

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

It is important to realize that theology, rather than form, comprises the main difference between the Lutheran and Catholic churches. In fact, in form, Lutheran services and devotions resemble Roman Catholicism more closely than the Baptist, Presbyterian, and other Protestant traditions.

Luther’s critique of Catholicism largely focused on salvation by faith alone through grace alone in Christ alone, and the abuses of the Catholic church leadership. Accordingly, Luther still valued Catholic practices such as the Rosary, as long as they did not contradict important facets of theology. (Also see Do Lutheran Clergy Wear Collars?)

As the Protestant Reformation spread and splintered, various groups reacted more strongly against Catholic practices, such as the practice of the Rosary, hierarchical church government, and liturgical church services. Lutheranism more closely resembled the tradition and practices of the Christian church.

Why do people use rosary beads?

Throughout the centuries, Christians have used repetition to remind themselves of important truths about God. The use of a rosary supports this by allowing believers to focus their minds upon the subject of their prayer instead of on remembering how many times they have said a certain phrase.

The established cycles of prayers used with a rosary prevents believers from praying things that are contrary to what the Bible and the church teaches. (Also see Do Lutherans Call Their Pastors Father?)

Additionally, the use of a rosary can help foster community. Every day, all throughout the world, Catholics repeat the same truths about God and about Mary through the use of rosary. As a result, a rosary can be edifying for the believer on both the individual and the corporate level.  

Catholicism isn’t the only faith tradition that have used a rosary or something similar. The Desert Fathers, a group of monks who lived in the third century A.D., used prayer ropes with knots instead of beads.

Instead of Hail Mary’s, they repeated the Lord’s Prayer. More recently, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, created a distinctively Lutheran set of prayers that can be used with rosary beads. (Also see What Is the Most Conservative Lutheran Synod?)

Additionally, group of Anglicans created a rosary that has 33 beads, one for each year of Jesus’s life on earth. (Also see Lutheran vs Episcopalian: What’s the Difference?)

The common use of these different systems of prayer is to help the individual believer to focus their mind upon the truths of God. The beads provide physical ways for Christians to interact with the Christian faith. [3]

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

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