John Calvin’s Pastoral Approach to the Practice of Prayer

John Calvin recognized that the central theme of the Bible is the glory of God and this understanding impacted every aspect of Calvin’s understanding of the Christian faith.  For Calvin, God’s glory is displayed in sovereignly governing all things.  The objection inevitably arises that if God is sovereign, then prayer is superfluous or unnecessary. One might expect that in light of Calvin’s understanding of God’s sovereignty, the topic of prayer would receive little attention in the Reformed theologian’s work of the Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Calvin, however, devoted over a hundred pages in the Institutes to this single topic, making it the single largest subject dealt without throughout the eighty chapters of the Institutes.[1]  For Calvin, prayer was anything but unnecessary.  Calvin’s treatment of prayer was a consistent outworking of the theological convictions that he embraced with regards to the sovereign rule of God and the depravity of man, but it was with a pastoral concern that caused Calvin to write about the exercise of prayer in the Christian’s life.  In other words, Calvin addresses the question of why to pray by showing practically it’s necessity as well as the benefits that result from it.  Calvin’s treatment of prayer looks at the need for prayer, the basis for prayer and practical guidelines that should govern prayer life.


The essay is by Peter Aiken, an M.Div. student at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan. To keep reading his paper, click here.

[1] David Hall, Tributes to John Calvin : A Celebration of His Quincentenary (Phillipsburg  N.J.: P & R Pub., 2010), 344.







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