Stone Soup for Five: Martin Luther's "garland of four strands" meditation method

Martin Luther's "garland of four strands" meditation method

Sometimes people ask me, "How do you find these things?"  Most of the time it's a random passing thought that I take to the Google machine.  One of those random thought moments happened a couple weeks ago when I was reading Mere Christianity.  I wondered what the quiet time of these great men and women of the past looked like.  The Google wasn't too much help, until I got a bit more specific and typed in:

Martin Luther's quiet time

Which led to a site, which led to a site, which led to a "short" letter Martin Luther wrote to his barber when his barber asked him how he prays.  Which led to some pretty awesome insight into meditation.  Which reminded me of something my friend's dad told her to do every year. Which led me to my bullet journal to try it out.  Which led to this blog post to say YOU MUST DO THIS!


First, print yourself off a copy of Martin's letter to his barber here:
It'll give you a good example of specific ways he uses God's word to meditate and pray.  He calls it a four strand garland because: "I divide each commandment [or each part of the Lord's prayer or other verse] into four parts, thereby fashioning a garland of four strands."  And those four strands he weaves beautifully together into meditation and prayer.  Hold that thought, we'll get there in a second.

Next we go to my friend's dad:

A couple years ago I was having lunch with a friend, who grew up as a pastor's daughter.  She said each year her dad encouraged all his children to read and re-read and memorize the Psalm that was the same number as their age over the course of the year.  I haven't forgotten this little tidbit, but never put it into action.  But after reading how Martin Luther used God's word as the guide to his "garland meditation," I thought that the Psalm of your Age method would be an excellent way to try it.

So, I pulled out my Bullet Journal for 2020, flipped to the back, and counted backwards, allowing a two page spread for each verse of the Psalm.  Then I wrote the entire Psalm on one page (with a brief description of four strands at the bottom), and the reference/year number on the next page.

Now, as I have time, or when I'm feeling tired of whatever I'm doing in my regular Bible study time, I'll flip back here and work on this for a change of pace.  I have all year and only nine verses, so I'll probably only do it once a month or so.  Or maybe (since I've already done two verses)  I'll work on some previous psalms if I get done early.

Here's what verse one looked like:

You could complete all four strands of your garland (that sounds so much nicer than four columns) in one day, or complete one a day... or one a week.

Here's how verse two went down:

I wrote the verse across the top of the page, then titled each "garland" column.  Then started on the first as Martin Luther said: "I think of each commandment as, first, instruction, which is really what it is intended to be..."  So what instruction did God have in this verse?

Next, Marin said "Second, I turn it into a thanksgiving..."  What could I praise God for or thank Him for based on this verse?

Then "...third, a confession..."
What do I need to confess?  I also noticed in the letter he wrote, that he often confessed national and world sins too, not just his own.

and finally, a prayer.  He prayed for himself, but often for others, for the nation, for leaders, for his country and family and friends based on what he had pulled out of the verses in the other garlands.

And what a powerful time it was in His word today.  As of this writing our world is struggling through the COVID-19 crisis and shutdowns, and our nation seems to be crumbling and dividing through hurt, injustice, racism, and politics.  So much to pray about. So much to confess.  But we serve a great King who rules over the entire universe.  He is not off His throne.  There is nothing out of His control.

Martin Luther's method (and my friend's father's advice) couldn't have come at a better time.

Even if you are doing a Bible study or a working through a meditation book, I hope you'll try this method this year.  We all need to keep our eyes solidly on Him.


  1. I absolutely love this idea Kari and am going to give it go for the rest of the year, thank you so much for sharing! I so appreciate your posts--always encouraging, even you, yourself have been facing discouragement. Thank you!

  2. I think this is an amazing way to address my personalproperty growth and Bible study! Going to add it to my day! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I need to always apply methods to my madness...LOL!!! I've saved this post and am definitely planning to put this into action! So stinkin' thankful that we serve a loving, forgiving God Who also says to be holy because He is holy! Thanks Kari for sharing this :)

    1. Just a side note...I grew up using the ACTS...adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication prayer method but never felt right adoring Him before I confessed my shortcomings so now I use the CATS method flipping the first two ideas and am finding that suits our relationship better and the acronym is still easy to use so my mind doesn't wander :)

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I'll have to go read that letter now.

  5. Garland of 4 stands method, sounds great, can't wait to start it. Middle of August, no time like the present! And your are right, our nation needs it right now!

  6. Our pastor taught a course on The Reformation and I recall him mentioning this, but had forgotten all about it. I'm so glad you wrote about it and demonstrated how you implement it in your journaling. I'm turning 63 in a week and think I'll start there. I'm enjoying exploring your blog -- thanks for sharing this!

  7. I just finished listen to a sermon by Tim Keller on meditation and he talked about Martin Luther’s method of meditation. I wanted to find out more, so with the help of the Google machine it lead me to your blog. Thank you for the visual help as I plan out my 2021 study.


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