“The Prayer’s Bouquet”, a worship poem from L.Willows

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The Prayer’s Bouquet

Softness whispers lasting through all.
Steady hearts bear love’s sweetest call.
Reaching forward through all night’s stretch,
This the bouquet; our sweet prayers fetch.

Peace the tone that colours dawn,
it brings all new to hope upon.
Rising sun joys warm, we meet.
Prayers abound, Love bears, we greet.

© 2019 Linda Willows

Song of Solomon 1:3
The fragrance of your perfume is pleasing; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens adore you.

Ephesians 5:2
and walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant sacrificial offering to God.

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The Call to Love ~ 1 John 4:7-8, commentary from David Guzik

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The Call to Love ~ 1 John 4:7-8
by David Guzik

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Beloved, let us love: The ancient Greek sentence begins in a striking way- agapetoi agapomen, “those who are loved, let us love.” We are not commanded to love one another to earn or become worthy of God’s love. We love one another because we are loved by God, and have received that love, and live in light of it.

  1. Let us love one another, for love is of God: John’s emphasis on love among the people of God (shown in passages like 1 John 2:9-11 and 3:10-18) is powerful. Here, he shows why it is so important. If love is of God, then those who claim to be born of God, and claim to know God, must be able to love one another in the body of Christ.

Again, John insists that there is something that is given to the believer when they are born of God; a love is imparted to their life that they did not have before. Christians are not “just forgiven”- they are born anew by God’s Spirit.

  1. And knows God: There are several different words in the ancient Greek language translated “know” into English. This specific word for knows (ginosko) is the word for a knowledge by experience. John is saying when we really experience God it will show by our love for one another.

Of course, this love is not perfected in the life of a Christian on this side of eternity. Though it may not be perfected, it must be present – and it should be growing. You can’t truly grow in your experience of God without also growing love for one another. John can boldly say, He who does not love does not know God. If there isn’t real love for God’s people in your life, then your claim to know God and experience God isn’t true.

  1. Love is of God: The love John speaks of comes from the ancient Greek word agape; it is the concept of a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment- it is the God-kind of love.

Since this is God’s kind of love, it comes into our life through our relationship with Him. If we want to love one another more, we need to draw closer to God.

Every human relationship is like a triangle. The two people in the relationship are at the base of the triangle, and God is at the top. As the two people draw closer to the top of the triangle, closer to God, they will also draw closer to one another. Weak relationships are made strong when both people draw close to the Lord!

  1. Everyone who loves is born of God … He who does not love does not know God: This does not mean that every display of love in the world can only come from a Christian. Those who are not Christians still can display acts of love.

“It is because men are created in the image of God, an image that has been defaced but not destroyed by the Fall, that they still have the capacity to love … Human love, however noble and however highly motivated, falls short if it refuses to include the Father and Son as the supreme objects of its affection.” (Marshall)

  1. For God is love: This is a glorious truth. Love describes the character and heart of God. He is so rich in love and compassion, that it can be used to describe His very being.

When we say God is love, we are not saying everything about God. Love is an essential aspect of His character, and colors every aspect of His nature. But it does not eliminate His holiness, His righteousness, or His perfect justice. Instead, we know the holiness of God is loving, and the righteousness of God is loving, and the justice of God is loving. Everything God does, in one way or another, expresses His love.

“He hates nothing he has made. He cannot hate, because he is love. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends his rain on the just and the unjust. He has made no human being for perdition, nor ever rendered it impossible, by any necessitating decree, for a fallen soul to find mercy. He has given the fullest proof of his love to the whole human race by the incarnation of his Son, who tasted death for every man. How can a decree of absolute, unconditional reprobation, of the greater part or any part of the human race, stand in the presence of such a text as this?” (Clarke)

“Never let it be thought that any sinner is beyond the reach of divine mercy so long as he is in the land of the living. I stand here to preach illimitable love, unbounded grace, to the vilest of the vile, to those who have nothing in them that can deserve consideration from God, men who ought to be swept into the bottomless pit at once if justice meted out to them their deserts.” (Spurgeon)

Great problems come when we try to say love is God. This is because love does not define everything in the character of God, and because when most people use the term love, they are not thinking of true love, the God-kind of love. Instead, they are thinking of a squishy, namby-pamby, have-a-nice-day kind of love that values being “nice” more than wanting what is really best for the other person.

The Bible also tells us that God is spirit (John 4:24), God is light (1 John 1:5), and that God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

  1. God is love: There are few people who really know and really believe that God is love. For whatever reason, they won’t receive His love and let it transform their lives. It transforms our life to know the love of God in this way.

 “There is love in many places, like wandering beams of light; but as for the sun, it is in one part of the heavens, and we look at it, and we say, ‘Herein is light.’ … He did not look at the Church of God, and say of all the myriads who counted not their lives dear unto them, ‘Herein is love,’ for their love was only the reflected brightness of the great sun of love.” (Spurgeon)

© David Guzik, Blue Letter Bible; Study Guide for John 1

“Christianity is a Love Story”, Richard Sibbes describes God’s relationship to His people; Mark Dever on Sibbes ‘Centrality of the Heart’

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Richard Sibbes and the Centrality of the Heart
By Mark Dever of Ligonier Ministries

For Richard Sibbes, Christianity is a love story: God is essentially a husband to His people: “with the same love that God loves Christ, he loves all his.” “You see how full of love he was. What drew him from heaven to earth, and so to his cross and to his grave, but love to mankind?”

In fact, “Religion,” Sibbes said, “is mainly in the affections.” God is the affectionate, loving sovereign, with every “sincere Christian… a favourite.” Given this understanding of Christianity, it is not surprising that Sibbes published sermons on the Song of Solomon; the book’s erotic poetry expressed well “the mutual joys and mutual praises of Christ and his church.” Sibbes realized that sensual language is a powerful metaphor for the love between God and the soul.

“The putting of lively colours upon common truths hath oft a strong working both upon the fancy and our will and affections,” and it was the will and affections, Sibbes said, that must be reached by the preacher.

“By heart, I mean, especially, the will and affections.” As the understanding is in the brain, so the will, affections, and desires are in the heart. Thus Sibbes often used the four words interchangeably.

The heart is the faculty to which the understanding gives its thoughts and reasons “as a prince doth his wiser subjects, and as counsellors do a well-ordered state.”

The heart, in turn, affects the understanding. Sibbes spoke of the heart as essentially revealing the person. Though the heart, or will, always chooses “with the advisement of reason,” it is the heart, not reason, that is the determining (not judging) faculty of the soul, particularly in the unregenerate man. It is the “fountain of life,” the “inward motion,” the “feet,” the “wind” of the soul.

Therefore, Sibbes said, “Love is the weight and wing of the soul, which carries it where it goes.”

Sibbes presented even depravity in affectionate terms. All non-Christians, he said, are “hard-hearted”; before conversion, all are “full of malice and base affections.” The carnal heart, overcast with passion and strong affections to the world, hates God naturally and cherishes corruption and rebellion against Him.

According to Sibbes, the heart’s preeminence is not a result of the fall but is central to God’s design. Yet, Sibbes recognized that problems occur where the heart or will is unsubdued; in such souls, the will usurps the rightful role of the understanding, where “the heart being corrupt sets the wit a work, to satisfy corrupt will.”

Thus, both the heart and the understanding are dealt with in conversion and sanctification, the heart being the goal but judgment always being the entry point. As a result, the role of the understanding is to “breed” and “lead,” to “work upon,” to “warm” and “kindle” and even “inflame” the affections. Reason, Sibbes said, “is a beam of God.”

On the other hand, Sibbes was not content with religion contained entirely in the brain; he scorned men that “never see spiritual things experimentally… though they know these things in the brain.” “A man knows no more in religion than he loves and embraceth with the affections of his soul.”

To embrace something in one’s affections was to know it experimentally because the “will is the carriage of the soul.” If the grace of Christ were effectually working in the heart, one would do good; on the other hand, to be warned about evil desires and yet persist in pursuing them is “atheism” in the heart.

Conversion must, then, take place in the heart. Though it must include sanctification of judgment, it must also include the subduing of the will. “For it is not knowledge that will bring to heaven, for the devil hath that, but it is knowledge sanctified, seizing upon the affections.” In the unconverted man, the heart or will runs roughshod over the understanding, bribing it and bringing it along with its carnal desires.

In conversion, both the mind and the heart need to be changed—the mind is enlightened, and the very desires and tastes of the heart are altered. God must come in to the heart to rule it, seizing on the powers of the soul, subduing the inward rising of the heart and the innate rebellion against the truth of God; He must “bring the heart down” by opening the heart to believe and working in it to cause repentance. God “turns” the heart to Himself and “frees the will” to serve Him.

Though the whole man remains touched by the fall, the enlightened understanding will increasingly judge correctly and will be obeyed rather than coerced, allowing man to show his distinction from the beasts. In Sibbes, then, both depravity and conversion find their core in the heart, but neither in such a way as to deny the essential role of the understanding.

Therefore, while Sibbes taught that the will or heart is the most powerful faculty in the soul, that it must be changed at conversion, and that the understanding will never move the soul without the will, he never presented religion as essentially a rationale: “All grace comes in through the understanding enlightened.” The mind is “the most excellent part of the soul.” The purpose of regeneration is to “reestablish” the “ideal supremacy of reason over will.” In the regenerate man, the Spirit of God subdues the will to His Word coming through the understanding: “All comfort cometh into the soul by knowledge…. Indeed, all graces are nothing but knowledge digested.”

Given the centrality of the heart in Sibbes’ presentations of depravity and conversion, it is no surprise to find him speaking of the Christian life as one driven by holy loves and desires. “The gospel breeds love in us to God,” he said. Though this love may first be simply for the salvation Christ has brought, “when she [the soul] is brought to him, and finds that sweetness that is in him, then she loves him for himself.”

God becomes the one thing the soul most desires. Echoing Augustine’s Confessions, Sibbes wrote, “The soul is never quiet till it comes to God… and that is the one thing the soul desireth.” Only those who so love God, preferring Him to carnal pleasures, riches, and honors, find Him. A desire to do all to honor God and love Him typifies the life of the Christian. “Whatsoever we do else, if it be not stirred by the Spirit, apprehending the love of God in Christ, it is but morality. What are all our performances if they be not out of love to God?”

For the Christian, to be in this world means separation from what he most desires. Christ Himself underwent this during the incarnation. Therefore, Christians, too, must expect this life to be marked by longing. Like David, the Christian will desire “to see the beauty of God in his house, that his soul might be ravished in the excellency of the object, and that the hightest powers of his soul, his understanding, will, and affections might be fully satisfied, that he might have full contentment.”

“Therefore, we should press the heart forward to God” because the Christian will only find rest in heaven, “where all desires shall be accomplished.” Affectionately stated, the point of the Christian life is “to grow in nearer communion with God by his Spirit, to have more knowledge and affection, more love and joy and delight in the best things daily.” Therefore, Christians are to “labour to have great affections” for God, and subsequently, for other, lesser goods, particularly His ordinances through which His presence is enjoyed. Whereas the worldling must always finally lose that which he desires, the Christian never does.

Preeminently, the affection God uses is love. Once one is converted, this love becomes the driving force of the soul to God. As the “prime and leading affection of the soul,” the “firstborn affection of the soul,” love motivates the soul to action. “Love is an affection full of inventions,” zealously pursuing the pleasure of the beloved. Thus, love “will constrain us to obedience” because “it studies to please the person loved as much as it can every way.”

That is why Sibbes exhorted: “Beloved, get love…. It melts us into the likeness of Christ. It constrains, it hath a kind of holy violence in it. No water can quench it. We shall glory in sufferings for that we love. Nothing can quench that holy fire that is kindled from heaven. It is a glorious grace.” Similarly, love performs a “sweet kind of tyranny” making a man willing even to die. “Nothing is hard to love; it carries all the powers of the soul with it.” Thus, since one who loves will do anything for “the continuation of the person beloved,” “one should “labour for a spirit of love… Nothing is grievous to the person that loves.”

This excerpt is adapted from The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever.

“Rejoice in Hope, Be Patient in Tribulation, Be Constant in Prayer” by John Piper

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REJOICE IN HOPE, BE PATIENT IN TRIBULATION, BE CONSTANT IN PRAYER” BY JOHN PIPER

 Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

My hope is that this message and this week will launch you with new faith that prayer is God’s path to hope and joy and endurance and love, and with new resolve to make time to pray regularly alone and with your family and with some group of fellow believers.

What Does It Mean to “Be Constant in Prayer”?
First, let’s first talk about the meaning of “Be constant.” Then let’s put this call to be constant in prayer in connection with what we saw last week in the rest of verse 12. Then let’s see it illustrated in Ephesians 1.

The word “constant” here doesn’t mean that every minute you are praying. It means persist in prayer. Persevere in it. Stay at it. Be devoted to it. Don’t give up or slack off. Be habitual. It’s the opposite of random, occasional, sporadic, intermittent. In other words, Paul is calling all Christians to make prayer a regular, habitual, recurring, disciplined part of your life. Treat prayer the way you treat eating and sleeping and doing your job. Don’t be hit and miss about it. Don’t assume it will fill in the cracks of other things. Dealing with God in prayer deserves more than a dial-up on the fly.

He is, of course, available any time. And he loves to help any time. But he is dishonored when we do not make time in our day to give him focused attention. All relationships suffer without regular focused attention. Paul is calling all of us to a life or regular, planned meetings with God in prayer in which we praise him for who he is, and thank for what he has done, and ask him for help, and plead the cause of those we love, including the peoples of the world.

So “be constant in prayer” in this new year. Ask God to help you. Resolve to use your sanctified will to make it happen. Plan the time and the place and the method. (For the most practical things I have written on how to be constant in prayer, see pages 155-173 of When I Don’t Desire God.)

How Does the Call to Constant Prayer Relate to the Rest of Verse 12?
Now how does this persistent prayer relate to the rest of verse 12 and what we saw last time? Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” We also saw that the whole paragraph makes love the visible overflow of rejoicing in hope. So when we put it all together it looked like this:

First, tribulation is the normal environment where we live. It’s the soil where we are planted in this fallen world. Job 5:7 says, “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Job 14:1 says, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” If you have not tasted this, you will. Learn now that tribulation in this world is normal for the Christian.

Second, Christ has broken into our tribulation (Galatians 4:4-6) and became the ground and goal of our unshakeable hope. He became man and embraced all our suffering. He chose it. He carried it. And in his death and resurrection he defeated it. All of it.

The moral evil and the physical evil. Sin, Satan, sickness, sabotage—Christ defeated them all by dying in our place and rising form the dead. In this triumph he secured for his people—all those who trust him—freedom from sin, freedom from Satan, freedom from sickness, and freedom from sabotage, partially now and perfectly in the age to come.

In other words, Jesus Christ has become the ground of our hope. And he himself is the goal of our hope (Romans 5:1-2, 6).

Therefore, third, in the tribulation of life we can and do rejoice. For those who know and trust Jesus Christ, tribulation does not destroy joy, it drives the roots of joy down deep into hope. So Paul says, “rejoice in hope.” “Sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10) is the spirit of all joy in the seasoned Christian life.

Many of our greatest hymns were born in suffering and capture this truth that tribulation is normal here and joy grows with deep roots in this soil. For example, have you ever thought about the paradox of the first verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”? It pictures the church as the true Israel in exile here in this world.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel!

Now we mourn in this exile far from our perfect heavenly home where every tear will be wiped away. But even now, “Rejoice! Rejoice!” Why? Rock-solid certain hope! “Emmanuel shall come!” He has come once and purchased our freedom from all sin and Satan and sickness and sabotage. And he will come to perfect it for his true Israel.

In this we rejoice.

Fourth, that joy sustains patient endurance. Verse 12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation.” Joy in hope is what enables this patient endurance. Without hope and the joy that flows back to us now from hope, we could not endure the tribulations appointed for us.

Fifth, this endurance through tribulation by means of joy in hope is what sustains the sacrifices that love demands.

The best illustration of this is Jesus himself in Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross.” The greatest act of love that has ever been performed was sustained by the joy of hope.

“For the joy set before him” he died for us. How do you keep on loving people, and sacrificing to do them good, the way Jesus did? For the joy set before you, that streams back into the present and becomes your strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

So rejoice in hope, and by means of that hope-sustained joy, patiently endure your tribulation in the path of love. And how does prayer fit in? It is God’s appointed means (along with the word, which we will see next time) to awaken and sustain hope.

And since hope is the key to joy in tribulation, and joy is the key to endurance, and endurance is the key to love—prayer, as the key to hope, is at the bottom of everything in the Christian life.

So let’s look at one biblical illustration of how prayer awakens and sustains our hope.

Paul’s Hope-Awakening, Hope-Sustaining Prayer

Ephesians 1:15 is a prayer: “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”

So he is praying for Christians. “I have heard of your faith . . . therefore I am praying for you.” We should sit up and take notice. Here is a God-inspired way of praying for yourself and other believers. Paul is praying for all Christians here. So this applies to us. This is part of what we should pray. First give thanks, then ask for what we need.

Now what does Paul ask for? What is the deep need of every Christian? First, Paul makes a single request in verse 17, and then he breaks it down into three specific requests, all relating to hope.

Look first at the single, general request, verse 17: “. . . that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

The deepest need of every person is to know God. Not just to know about him, but to know him as your personal Creator, Redeemer, Judge, and Friend. So his first request is “that God . . . may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” Do you know God? Really know him? Or more helpfully, we should ask, are we growing in our knowledge of God? Are we going deeper in how well we know God? This happens, Paul shows us, by praying for it. And this is not a one-time prayer for Paul. It is continual. “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you might know God.” Be constant in this prayer! Pray this for yourself continually. Pray this for your family. Pray this for the church and especially her leaders.

More specifically in verse 17 he prays that we would have a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” so that we can know God. We cannot know God without the help of the Holy Spirit. And what the Holy Spirit does is to awaken and transform our spirit so that we can see and savor the wisdom and revelation that God gave to his apostles and prophets. He is a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and he creates a spirit of wisdom and revelation.

When you read the Bible or listen to a Bible-saturated sermon you are hearing the wisdom and revelation of God. But what happens? Do you see it? Does it have an effect on you? Does it move you? Does it make you hungry for more of God? Does the wisdom and revelation appear beautiful to you? Do they taste sweet? Can you say with the psalmist, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103)?

If not, the first step in the remedy is prayer.

“Father, grant me a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of yourself. Please, don’t leave me to myself. I am so worldly. My thoughts and feelings are so unspiritual. I scarcely feel any awe or trembling or sense of spiritual beauty or sweetness or glory. Have mercy and by your Spirit awaken in me a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that when I read or hear your wisdom and your revelation I will have ears to hear and eyes to see the wonder of it (Psalm 119:8).”

Pray that for yourself. Be constant in that prayer. God will show you more than you ever dreamed he would.

Now in verses 18 Paul prays in different words what he has just prayed for generally. The focus of all our knowing and all our seeing and all our savoring—all God’s wisdom and all God’s revelation—is God himself. That is why the first petition in verse 17 is that we might know him: “. . . A spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.” But now he breaks this down into three requests.

Another way of speaking about a “spirit of wisdom and revelation” is to speak of the “eyes of the heart being enlightened to know.” So that’s what Paul prays in verse 18. He tells the Ephesians that he asks God that “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know . . .” Then he asks that they know three things with the eyes of the heart.

Before we look at them take note here of this phrase “eyes of the heart.” That is what we need to have enlightened.

The glory of God in his wisdom and revelation is not seen by the physical eye. You can read and hear God’s revelation till you are blue in the face, and if the eyes of your heart are not enlightened, you will not see and savor the beauty and sweetness of God’s wisdom and revelation. You will not know God.

Something must happen to us. We must have a heart that sees spiritual reality. This is a gift from God. That is why Paul is praying for it. The things we need most, we cannot get on our own.

That is why prayer is utterly crucial in the Christian life. When someone says, “I get along just fine without prayer,” they don’t know what they are missing. They are missing it now. They will miss it forever. If you can get something now on your own, you will lose it at death. It’s not worth much.

But if you pray for what you cannot get on your own now, and God gives it to you—a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, that is, the enlightenment of the eyes of your heart to know him—you will not lose that at death. And it will give you sweetness of pleasures now and inexhaustible joys for eternity. That is what we should pray for.

Now notice the connection with hope. Three things Paul asks that we would be able to see and know with the enlightened eyes of the heart— 1) Verse 18b: “what is the hope to which he has called you”; 2) verse 18c: what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” (that is, the inheritance that God is and gives to the saints); and 3) verse 19: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.”

The power is part of the promise of hope, because without this divine power we won’t make it to the inheritance. God keeps the inheritance in heaven for us, and God keeps us for the inheritance, lest we fall and give up on hope in the midst of our tribulation (see 1 Peter 1:4-5)

“O God, awaken and sustain my hope in you. Be my treasure now. And be my inheritance always. Please open the eyes of my heart to see the wonder that you are. Grant me the spiritual taste buds to taste and see and savor that all you are for us in Jesus is better than all the world. And so sustain my hope. And may this hope sustain my joy in tribulation and may this joy sustain my endurance and may this endurance sustain my love for people, and may my love make you irresistibly attractive to the world.”

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, and most recently Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship.

 

“Joy Comes in The Morning”, a worship poem from L.Willows

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Joy Comes in The Morning

Joy comes in the morning.
Faith rises, it deepens, renewed.
We live on with lives ever seeking,
hope in the day of Loves’ view.

Come, walk in the dawning.
Pray – call forth this song.
Life, as stirred in the making.
Hearts, all awakened and strong.

Joy comes in the morning.
Faith rises, it deepens, renewed.
We walk on with lives ever Godward
wrapped full in hope’s glory gratitude.

© 2019 Linda Willows

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

And those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:10

Draw Near to God in Prayer: John Calvin on The Definition and Effectiveness of Prayer, by Dr. Joel R. Beeke

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Calvin on The Definition and Effectiveness of Prayer
Dr. Joel R. Beeke

Calvin assures his readers that these standards are not his but God’s, as taught in His Word. As such, these standards are not attainable by our sinful human natures, but God is pleased to help His children pray (Rom. 8:26).

Romans 8:26-27
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Definition and Effectiveness of Prayer

Calvin defines prayer as “the communion of men with God by which, having entered the heavenly sanctuary, they appeal to him in person concerning his promises in order to experience…that what they believed was not in vain.”

Prayer is holy and familiar conversation with God, our heavenly Father; reverently speaking, it is family conversation, or even intimate covenantal conversation in which the believer confides in God as a child confides in his father. Prayer is “an emotion of the heart within, which is poured out and laid open before God.”

In prayer we both communicate and commune with our Father in heaven, feeling our transparency in His presence. Like Christ in Gethsemane, we cast our “desires, sighs, anxieties, fears, hopes, and joys into the lap of God.”

Through prayer a Christian puts his “worries bit by bit on God.” We are “permitted to pour into God’s bosom the difficulties which torment us, in order that he may loosen the knots which we cannot untie.” Prayer is the outpouring of the soul, the deepest root of piety, the bedrock of assurance.

The childlike outpouring of the soul before its heavenly Father involves entreaties and thanksgiving. Proper requests include “those things which make for the extension of his [God’s] glory and the setting forth of his name, and those benefits which conduce [serve] to our own advantage.” Proper thanksgivings “celebrate with due praise his [God’s] benefits toward us, and credit to his generosity every good that comes to us.”

To the objection that prayer seems superfluous in light of God’s omniscience and omnipotence, Calvin responds that God ordained prayer more for man as an exercise of piety than for Himself. Our prayers do not get in the way of providence because God, in His providence, ordains the means along with the end.

Prayer is thus a means ordained to receive what God has planned to bestow. What God “has determined to give of His own free will, even before He is asked, He promises to give all the same in response to our prayers.” Prayer is a way in which believers seek and receive what God has determined to do for them from eternity.

Nevertheless, prayer is still effective, for these two truths must never be forgotten: “first, that in His divine wisdom God anticipates our prayers; and second, that in His divine love God responds to them.” It is against God’s nature not to hear and answer the prayers of His people. God feels drawn to help us and not to disappoint us in His grace.

From Familiar Conversation with God – Calvin on Prayer
“Herald of Grace” an online Christian Magazine Herald of Grace