Thursday, March 5, 2009

March 5- What is Prayer?

(Albrecht Durer's Praying Hands- Durer was a contemporary of Calvin)

March 5
Prayer as an Expression of the heart to God
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. “ (Ps. 55:22). “Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7

Calvin: God permits us to reveal our hearts familiarly before him; for prayer is nothing else than the opening up of our heart before God; as the greatest alleviation is, to pour our cares, distresses, and anxieties into his bosom. (Commentary on Isaiah 63:16).

Some have defined prayer as “talking to God” or “conversing with God.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism hints at Calvin’s teaching when it says, “prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God for things that are agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.” Prayer is taking our hearts to the Lord.
Prayer is the disburdening of the soul to God. Other people may not be able to handle our complaints, our anxieties. But if we take our concerns to God in prayer we are cleansed of our complaint, and God is called into our situation. Calvin saw one purpose in affliction is to not let it eat at our hearts but to unburden ourselves to Him. We are not to complain all the time to each other (Phil. 2:10), nor are we to bottle everything up inside. Our hearts are to be poured out to God- for He is able to do something about our situation.
Since we are not to pray for show (on street corners or in loud voices) but to the heart of God, we should seek to simplify our prayers. Our prayers do not depend on how flowery our words are, or with what eloquence we may speak. Jesus told us to go into our closet, shut the door and pray to our Father who is unseen. Prayer does not depend on the exterior things- posture or eloquence.
Calvin’s idea was that the heart should move and direct the tongue, and that the tongue should not go before the heart, and that the body should follow the mind of its own accord. Calvin noted that sometimes the heart is cold and needs to be warmed up with singing (from the tongue), or bowing down with the body. But even then the mind should follow the tongue and body or prayer should be avoided out of a desire to not be hypocritical.
Prayer: Lord, change our hearts as we talk to you in prayer. Help us to live our faith on the outside because you are changing us on the inside. Amen.

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