One of the key aspects of John Calvin’s life was his devotion to prayer. Calvin was a key leader in the Reformation. The Reformation was a revival of an accurate assessment of what Jesus actually said and what the Bible truly taught. The church of the 1500’s had distorted the Bible in order to secure control culturally, politically, and profit financially. Many of these Reformers were killed by the church for their efforts. Much of what we think of as Western Civilization today was based on the works of these Reformers.
Calvin wrote, “To prayer are we indebted for penetrating those riches that are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father.” Calvin claimed that no words can express the utility of this “exercise” of prayer. These words are from a man known more today for his intellectualism rather than the raising of his hands in prayer. (Yes, John Calvin was a hand raiser.) He wrote that “The ceremony of lifting up our hands in prayer is designed to remind us that we are far removed from God, unless our thoughts rise upward.”
If You want to know more about John Calvin and prayer there is a free downloaded copy of Calvin on prayer at the Chapel Library.
Here is some of key items addressed by John Calvin.
What prayer is? Prayer is an “intercourse” or communication between God and men by which we appeal to his promises.
Why we pray? We do not pray for God’s sake but for ours. That we may exercise our faith and upon receiving by His providence what we ask that we understand our weakness and long more earnestly for his favor.
What rules should be observed? We should be reverent and have our hearts and minds prepared to talk with God, but we do not need to be free of all worries or concerns when approaching God.
Just how should we pray? We should not be distracted mixing the sacred with the profane. We should pray for only things that God would permit and not things for our “depraved affections.” We should also long for the aid of the Spirit. God gave us the Spirit to help us see what God would want us to pray for and regulate our affections.
Why we should always pray? There are times when we desire to pray more than others. But our zeal for the Kingdom of God and our dissatisfaction with the current condition should always drive us on to pray.
What is the most important part of prayer? We cannot hope to attain anything from God until we are reconciled to him through confession of guilt and are found dependent on God’s free mercy. We must have a repentant and expectant heart. Calvin states that “no heart will ever rise to genuine prayer that does not at the same time long for holiness.”