Home > Brian's Blogs, Prayer > How Should We Pray?

How Should We Pray?

After providing some thoughts on why we must pray, John Calvin provides “four rules” for praying.  These rules provide the framework for Calvin’s understanding of how we should pray.

First Rule: When we come to pray, our hearts and minds should be suitably disposed to enter into conversation with God.  Calvin urges confidence and intimacy in prayer to God, but leaves to room for flippancy, casualness, and irreverence so often characteristic of prayer today.

Along these lines, Calvin says we are to resist wandering thoughts.  Calvin also suggests raising our hands during prayer to help us raise our minds toward God [interesting how Calvin, and so many others, associate our physical posture with our prayers.  Our bodies and body positions matter!].  Finally, we should seek his will for our lives, not our own desires, and we need the Holy Spirit to help us do this!

Second Rule: when we ask things of God, we should be aware of our own insufficiency and filled with an earnest desire to attain what we ask.

Third Rule: when we pray to God, we should humbly give glory to God alone, giving up all thought of our own glory or worth and without any self-assurance.  We pray to God on the basis of his mercy alone, not trusting in our own righteousness.

On this point Calvin says that the most important aspect of prayer, that which we should earnestly desire most, is forgiveness of sins.  Therefore, confession and repentance are cornerstones of prayer.  Calvin says, “Nor should anyone, however holy he may be, hope that he will obtain anything from God until he is freely reconciled to him; nor can God chance to be propitious to any but those whom he has pardoned” (III.xx.9).

[what is one of the best ways, in my opinion, to confess our sins before God?  By praying the Scriptures!  See Luther’s thoughts on praying the 10 Commandments here]

Fourth Rule: although we should in humility be aware of our unworthiness, we should nonetheless pray with confidence that God will answer our prayer.  This does not mean that we cannot pray if we suffer from doubts or fears.  Here, as in his understanding of faith, Calvin blends a high view of Christian confidence with a realistic grasp of Christian frailties.

*For these summaries I took direct quotations from Anthony N. S. Lane’s, A Reader’s Guide to Calvin’s Institutes.

Categories: Brian's Blogs, Prayer
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