Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > Why Pray? part 3

Why Pray? part 3

An important question in the theology of prayer is “why?”  This is especially important if we believe in an all-knowing, sovereign God.  Why does God want us to pray if He knows everything that we are going to pray anyway?  Isn’t prayer a useless exercise?

These are the questions that John Calvin addresses in the next section of his Institutes of the Christian Religion (see III.xx.3).

Calvin begins by answering the question, “why does God want us to pray if He knows everything that we are going to pray anyway?”

“But they who thus reason [that prayer is pointless because God already knows] do not observe to what end the Lord instructed his people to pray, for he ordained it not so much for his own sake as for ours.”

Calvin then addresses those who claim that prayer is useless with six reasons why it is important:

  • “First, 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 to a sacred anchor.”
  • “Secondly, 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 to pour out our whole hearts.”
  • “Thirdly, 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.”
  • “Fourthly, 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.”
  • “And fifthly, that at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge have been obtained by prayers.”
  • “Finally, that use and experience may, according to the measure of our feebleness, confirm his providence, while we understand not only that he promises never to fail us, and of his own will opens the way to call upon him at the very point of necessity, but also that he ever extends his hand to help his own, not wet-nursing them with words but defending them with present help.”

Read through that list of six reasons again.  But this time, read through it keeping in mind that the primary purpose of prayer is to communicate with God in order to build a relationship with God.  Although Calvin doesn’t use these terms, notice how relational his reasons are: prayer helps us delight and trust in God more.  It changes our relationship with God!

In summary, Calvin says “The eyes of God are therefore watchful to assist the blind in their necessity, but he is willing in turn to hear our groanings that he may the better prove his love toward us.”

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  1. May 2, 2010 at 6:32 am

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