First and foremost, my apologies to our group on the late post this week.
Secondly, let's talk about prayer. Calvin had quite a bit to say about prayer; who should do it, why we should do it, and how we should do it. All of chapter 20 in book 3 of the Institutes surrounds this topic of prayer. The two questions asked at the beginning of Lane's book ask: why out we to pray? and in what way ought we to pray?
I appreciate how Lane has split up the chapters in Calvin to give a clearer distinction as to what he is talking about. The first chapters 1-3 speak to the why and the following chapters 4-16 cover the how.
The reason why we pray according to Calvin is because we are called to as believers. But it because of our belief and faith that he says we are compelled to pray - we are incapable of not praying. "As faith springs from the Gospel, so by faith our hearts are framed to call upon the name of God". We pray to receive the blessings and treasures that God has already prepared for us. there is so much that God wants for us and already is preparing for us. God desires for us to know and experience all that this includes and one of the primary ways we can do this is through our relationship with God in prayer. "Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our only safety if in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him to manifest himself to us in all his perfections.
Per the usual, Calvin is very specific in where we should be spiritually, mentally, and emotionally when approaching God. Because of this the how of prayer is incredibly important to Calvin and he spends a decent amount of time invested in walking us through these how's. He breaks it up in four rules for what "right" prayer is and looks like.
The first rule is that when one goes to prayer he/she must be in the right frame of mind before God. Calvin shows the importance of prayer and how one approaches God. "What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept groveling on the earth." Calvin believes we must clear our minds of what is only of human concern so that we are able to focus on God rather than ourselves. He deems it important to enter into prayer not in a state of casualness but in a state of being proper.
The second rule is that we bring only those things to God that God permits. "For not only do many without modesty, without reverence, presume to invoke God concerning their frivolities, but impudently bring forward their dreams, whatever they may be, before the tribunal of God". I think the main focus for Calvin was the idea of reverence for God. It apparent that Calvin believed that not all things could be brought to God as he thought them to be insignificant.
The third rule is that we must recognize we are praying in God's glory and because of God's glory rather than our own. The best way to do this according to Calvin is found in our repentance of sin before our supplications. "In fine, supplication for pardon, with humble and ingenuous confession of guilt, forms both the preparation and commencement of right prayer".
The fourth rule is that we should be pray with confidence believing our prayers are heard. Calvin does well to remind the reader that this confidence is not without anxieties and doubt. It is here that Clavin shows the importance of our faith and coming before God, in all things; confidently. "God can only be invoked by such as have obtained a knowledge of his mercy from the Gospel, and feel firmly assured that that mercy is ready to be bestowed upon them".
There were many aspects about why and how we pray that I agree with when it comes to Calvin. However, my question stems out of my disagreement with him. It seems as though Calvin spends a lot of time in an either/or mentality regarding prayer. God so great and we are worthless to worship; all Glory must be give to God and we are so stupid as humans and therefore have nothing to offer; we must come to pray and we aren't worthy to pray in our humanity. If everything is about relationship with God through Christ, why does Calvin spend so much time trying to divide our relationship?
Ok, I also have another question. Calvin believes that we are to pray according to the will of God, and if I read him correctly, he does not believe that will includes our human frivolities. So, what then fits under Calvin's definition of the will of God?