Saturday, March 7, 2009

March 7- Reason to Pray

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.
March 7
Prayer and Human Need and Intercession

“The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at their proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psalm 145:15,16)
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth.” Psalm 121:1,2

Calvin: We clearly see how destitute and devoid of all good things man is, and how he lacks all aids to salvation. Therefore, if he seeks resources to succor him in his need, he must go outside himself and get them elsewhere. It was afterward explained to us that the Lord willingly and freely reveals himself in his Christ. For in Christ he offers all happiness in place of our misery, all wealth in place of our neediness; in him he opens to us the heavenly treasures that our whole faith may contemplate his beloved Son, our whole expectation depend upon him, and our whole hope cleave to and rest in him.
But after we have been instructed by faith to recognize that whatever we need and whatever we lack is in God, and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father willed all the fullness of his bounty to abide [cf. Colossians 1:19; John 1:16] so that we may all draw from it as from an overflowing spring, it remains for us to seek in him, and in prayers to ask of him, what we have learned to be in him. Otherwise, to know God as the master and bestower of all good things, who invites us to request them of him, and still not go to him and not ask of him—this would be of as little profit as for a man to neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to him.

Calvin began every worship service with these words: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made the heavens and the earth.” Calvin was very aware of the limits of human beings, and our state of spiritual, mental, and physical poverty. He was, in contrast, very much aware of God’s great majesty and willingness to help us in our time of need. Prayer for him was the link between these great gaps.
Prayer is not made in a vacuum. It is elicited from human need. Calvin gave six reasons we should pray in the Institutes. They are worthy of our thought:
1) That we would be motivated to seek Him and find refuge in Him.
2) That we would be open to God- so we know He sees our wrong and also He sees our desires.
3) That we learn to be grateful to Him for what He gives us.
4) That we might think on God and His kingdom (Mt. 6:33- seek first His kingdom and righteousness).
5) That we may enjoy the answers to prayer with greater delight.
6) To confirm his providence in our minds- that he is a never-failing help in our time of need.
Calvin then gives four rules to help us in our prayer life.
1) We should prepare our hearts and minds for prayer (focus and reliance on the Holy Spirit)
2) We should pray according to our need and desire- not out of rote duty.
3) Stand humbly before God abandoning self-glory and seeking His glory.
4) Pray with a sure hope that our prayers will be answered.
Calvin was against praying just for the sake of praying. While he was not opposed to using written prayers (like the Lord’s Prayer or other ancient prayers), he was opposed to saying things over and over again (like the rosary) as a king of good luck charm. I can remember a rote and heart-felt prayer: “Lord, help me pass this exam, help me pass this exam, help me pass this exam.” Calvin really wanted us to have a balance of public prayers together and private prayer that comes from our hearts. 95% of Americans pray. I’ve always found it interesting that even unbelievers pray. Calvin even points out that God sometimes answers an unbeliever’s prayer. But for Calvin, prayer is not just about getting an answer (though he strongly believed that God answers prayer). Prayer is also about getting closer to God and allowing God to glorify Himself by the answers to prayer. We are commanded to pray, but it is not something we approach simply because we have to do it. It is a tool, a blessing God has given us.
Calvin spoke of praying when we rise, when we eat, and when we retire. Today, I will think about the prayer requests from church at each time I bless my food.

Prayer: Lord you see our hearts. Help us to see you as our help, our refuge and our strength. Amen.

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