The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin is comprised of four books. This work is a Christian classic but it is more than a classic. It contains so many truths that need to be recovered by today's church, not least John Calvin's doctrine of the church which was presbyterian. We desperately need to see a recovery of the doctrine of the church and Book Four is called 'The External Means or Aids by Which God Invites us into the Society of Christ and Holds us Therein'.
However, this blog post is concerned with a section in Book 3 ('The Way we Receive the Grace of Christ: What Benefits Come to us from it, and What Effects Follow') called 'The Rules of Right Prayer' (Book 3, Chapter 20: 4-16). Oftentimes people in our generation, reject the idea of rules but what are the Ten Commandments? They are rules given by God for the people of God. John Calvin helpfully teaches four rules of right prayer and I hope that these can help us all to be stimulated to more prayer but also to approach God in the right way.
First Rule: Reverence Calvin writes that 'we be disposed in mind and heart as befits those who enter conversation with God' (3: 20: 4-5, p 853). This is exactly what the Book of Hebrews teaches in 12: 28 'let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe'.
Second Rule: We Pray from a Sincere Sense of Want, and with Penitence (3: 20: 6-7, p 856).
This comment guards against hasty petitioning the Lord for our needs. We need to foster a sense of our need of the Lord's help, our helplessness in and of ourselves.
Third Rule: We Yield all Confidence in Ourselves and Humbly Plead for Pardon (3: 20: 8-10)
This rule smashes the notion of brazen self-confidence before God, something that is even wrongly taught in some sections of the professing church.
Fourth Rule: We Pray with Confident Hope (3: 20: 11-14)
This rule exhorts us to obey the teaching of James and to pray with godly confidence. Listen to James 5: 16-18 'The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit'.
May we all grow in the grace of prayer and may Calvin's rule of prayer help us to make sure that we do not pray amiss!