Below is an amended portion of a paper I wrote this year on John Calvin‘s perspective on prayer and I wanted to share. So enough with the rhymes… enjoy. 🙂

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John Calvin’s perspective on prayer is very helpful for Christians of all stripes.  The Genevan reformer anchored prayer in the unity with God in Christ and believed that it could truly change an individual.  For Calvin, prayer can best be seen as a transformational encounter with God.  Calvin’s views on action and prayer can best be summed up that we draw close to God, in joyful confirmation of His will, glorifying God because who He is, and what He is done for us in this world.[1]  The holy life of the individual will be the direct cause of a deep internal activity with God.[2]

See, for Calvin, prayer is a much needed altering of our egocentric self.  Prayer is beyond the simple transactional nature that so many people think it is.  If we pray for X and make sure to say ‘please,’ then God will give us X.  Instead, the Christian is called to conform themselves in accordance with the divine will of God.  We do not change God in our prayers, but instead we are changed by the encounter.  Our life belongs entirely to God and He alone is the source of our joy.  Calvin stated this eloquently, writing:

We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds.  We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh.  We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.

Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him.  We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions.  We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive towards him as our only lawful goal.[3]

We are God’s and we ought to live in him with that mindset.



[1] Jill Raitt, Christian Spirituality, 332.

[2] Richard Foster, Longing for God, 116.