Many consider Calvin a great theologian, which he was. But he was also a great pastor, who preached and lived the truth of the Scriptures. In this latter role, he helped other Christians both to know the truth and to live the truth, and he did so through the means of illustration and application of these truths personally in life, in both his preaching and writing.
I share with you two key truths from John Calvin regarding prayer.
Before doing so, it is important to establish the biblical foundation for what Calvin writes regarding prayer.
As Evangelicals, we affirm that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. “For by grace you have been saved by faith” (Eph. 2:8), we recite. And yet, faith is not something we exercise only at the point of salvation. Faith is also one of the marks of a Christian.
Paul emphasizes this same truth. In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul writes, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17; cf. Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38). To paraphrase the broader truth and experience, there are two key emphases: (1) the righteous – by faith – shall live, i.e., those who exercise faith in Jesus Christ are made righteous and live; (2) the righteous shall live – by faith, i.e., those who have been righteous by faith, they live by faith, a life of faith.
Here, then, are Calvin’s two key truths of prayer.
First, bearing in mind that we live a life of faith, Calvin described the relationship between faith and prayer in this way: Prayer is the chief exercise of faith. One of the key ways we live a life of faith is through prayer. It is one of the greatest ways we manifest our humility before God and our dependency on the Lord. The lack of prayer reflects a self-sufficiency, a pride and arrogance that we can do this on our own. Prayer manifests a life of faith, a humble and joyful dependency, which pleases the Lord.
Second, in the Christian life, there are few greater ways, if any, in expressing our love for brothers and sisters than intercessory prayer. This is one of Jesus’ key ministries on behalf of his adopted sons and daughters (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1). As our Lord Jesus Christ prays on our behalf, we, too, express our love to others as we pray on their behalf. John Calvin writes, “To make intercessions for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them.”
It is a joy and privilege to engage with other believers in the EFCA in the ministry of the gospel, as we together engage in prayer, the chief exercise of faith, and as we love one another through the ministry of intercessory prayer.