John Calvin’s Tips for Right and Worshipful Prayer

The tips are more scattered than systematic, and present a sample of the richness of his writing.

“We see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express.” (3.20.2)

 

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ll probably know I enjoy Calvin’s writing on prayer from The Institutes of Christian Religion—that’s why I made it accessible in the stand-alone volume The Chief Exercise of Faith: John Calvin on Prayer.””

This post shares tips gleaned from Calvin. The tips are more scattered than systematic, and present a sample of the richness of his writing. For Calvin’s four rules for prayer or his exposition of the Lord’s Prayer, you’ll have to read one of the aforementioned volumes for yourself.

May Calvin’s explanation of Scriptural principles lift your gaze toward your heavenly Father in joyful and reverent prayer!

1. Keep the gospel always before you.

“As faith springs from the Gospel, so by faith our hearts are framed to call upon the name of God, (Rom 10:14).” (3.20.1)

2. Consider prayer a spade for digging up God’s promises.

“We see that nothing is set before us as an object of expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express.” (3.20.2)

3. Cultivate a serious demeanor in prayer.

“Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God.” (3.20.4)

“It is very much for our interest to be constantly supplicating him; though our most merciful Father never slumbers nor sleeps, he very often seems to do so, that thus he may exercise us, when we might otherwise be listless and slothful, in asking, entreating, and earnestly beseeching him to our great good.” (3.20.3)

4. Let God’s majesty prepare your heart for prayer.

“Let us know, then, that none duly prepare themselves for prayer but those who are so impressed with the majesty of God that they engage in it free from all earthly cares and affections.” (3.20.5)

“Under the name of Father is set before us that God, who hath appeared to us in his own image, that we may invoke him with sure faith; the familiar name of Father being given not only to inspire confidence, but also to curb our minds, and prevent them from going astray after doubtful or fictitious gods.” (3.20.40)

5. Pray from a repentant heart.

“God promises that he will be near to those who call upon him in truth, and declares that those who seek him with their whole heart will find him: those, therefore, who delight in their own pollution cannot surely aspire to him.” (3.20.7)

“One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance.” (3.20.7)

“Supplication for pardon, with humble and ingenuous confession of guilt, forms both the preparation and commencement of right prayer.” (3.20.9)

“No heart will ever rise to genuine prayer that does not at the same time long for holiness.” (3.20.10)

“[T]he beginning, and even the preparation, of proper prayer is the plea for pardon with a humble and sincere confession of guilt…it is no wonder if believers open for themselves the door to prayer with this key.” (3.20.9)

6. Pray with confidence that God answers prayer.

“We should be animated to pray with the sure hope of succeeding.” (3.20.11)

“Believers ought to be specially on their guard never to appear in the presence of God with the intention of presenting a request unless they are under some serious impression, and are, at the same time, desirous to obtain it.” (3.20.6)

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