Calvin: Six Reasons We Pray

These are from Calvin’s Institutes (III.xx.3).

Some say that prayer is unnecessary, even disrespectful, since God knows all and wills all. But God does command prayer for his benefit; he wills it for ours.

Calvin cites the example of Elijah (1 Ki. 18:41-46) who had already prophesied that rain would come yet prays earnestly and sends his servant to look for the rain. Elijah prayed “because he knew it was his duty, lest his faith be sleepy or sluggish, to lay his desires before God.”  Though we know God watches us and even helps us unasked, we pray…

  1. So that our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love, and serve him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as a sacred anchor.
  2. That there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our wishes before his eyes, and even receive his benefits with true gratitude of heart and even to pour out our whole hearts.
  3. That we be prepared to receive his benefits with true gratitude of heart and thanksgiving, benefits that our prayer reminds us come from his hand (Ps. 145:15-16).
  4. Moreover, that having obtained what we were seeking, and being convinced that he has answered our prayers, we should be led to meditate upon his kindness more ardently.
  5. That at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by prayers.
  6. That use and experience may, according to the measure of our feebleness, confirm his providence.  [While we remember that he will never fail us and may call upon him at any time, even the point of necessity, we are reminded that he] “ever extends his hand to help his own, not wet-nursing them with words, but defending them with present help.”

On account of these things, our most merciful Father, although he never either sleeps or idles, still very often gives the impression of one sleeping or idling in order that he may thus train us, otherwise idle and lazy, to seek, ask, and entreat him to our great good. [And to his glory.]

Psalm 34:15 – “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.”

About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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