Today is the launch of 30 Days of Prayer. This is a challenge, coinciding with the In the End sermon series, calling Mercy Hill to find time every day for the next thirty days to pray. In calling the church to this, we also want to equip you for success. We have put together a prayer guide that acts as a thirty-day devotional, mirroring the topics of the sermon series. We have also scheduled prayer times at each campus when we can come and pray together as a church. To download the prayer guide and see the times that each campus will be holding prayer, click here!
A Word about Prayer
Often, the reason we don’t pray is that we don’t know how, or we have grown blind to the reality that we need God to move in every area of our life. To help, I want to bring in some wisdom from John Calvin, a popular theologian during the Protestant Reformation. The section on prayer in his Institutes of the Christian Religion is some of the most insightful writing on prayer since the Bible.
After we have come to faith through the gospel message and have learned that everything we need and everything we lack is supplied in God and in Jesus [in whom all the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 2:9) and whom we may draw from as a fountain that never dries up], we must still seek him and, in prayer, ask him to empower us to be whom he has declared us to be. If we have come to the knowledge that God is the giver of all good things and has invited us to ask him for these things, and yet we still don’t ask, it’s as if we were told where in the ground to find treasure and yet choose not to dig for it.
Prayer is how we dig for the treasure that God has stored up for us. Prayer is how we grab ahold of God’s promises that we believe he has made in his word and in the gospel. If we are good students of Scripture, we’ll see that there is nothing that God expects from us that he does not also ask us to pray for.
As we come into the In the End series, this is extremely applicable. In week one, we’ll be discussing repenting from living a loveless Christianity. Jesus says that the two great commandments are to love God and to love neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). Many Christians can have their fire for God and others dwindle over time. But in order to obey, we need the love that only God can provide. Paul says that love is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and therefore, as we repent, we must beg God to restore to us the love we had at first. The same will be true with fighting idolatry and lukewarm Christianity and having a faith and hope that endures into eternity.
But How Do I Pray?
Prayer is a discipline that we can get better at over time, but Calvin gave four rules for right prayer that speak to the position of our heart in prayer.
Calvin’s Four Rules for Right Prayer
- Prepare your heart and mind as one who is going into conversation with God. When we pray, we are spiritually in the presence of the God of the universe. He has graciously, through the work of Christ, made a way for us to be in his presence and to commune with him intimately. Be awe-inspired and give him the honor he deserves. But also remember that you can be honest with all your pains and anxieties because he is also your loving Father.
- Seriously consider your wants and needs, and pray with a fervent desire for God to give you what you ask for. Much of what we want, we won’t ask for if we spend time considering it. The Spirit will show us that it is outside of what God wants. When we start to learn more and more of God’s word, our wants and desires start to align with what God desires for us and for the world. And when we see what our needs truly are, we should pray to God passionately for them.
- Throw away all pride and self-sufficiency, and give God all the glory. The proper way to approach God is realizing that we can off nothing to him and a keen awareness that we need him to supply everything that’s good for us. While God does, at times, give us things without asking, he often can seem distant for the purpose of humbling us and bringing us to ask him to supply our needs.
- Pray with the sure hope of succeeding. When we remember whom it is we pray to and reflect on the gospel, realizing God’s great love for us, we’ll understand that his ears are open, and he is ready to answer our prayers according to our good. “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them” (Psalm 145:18-19). We ought to trust that God cares about answering our prayers and that he has the power to answer them.
Calvin rightly notes that if we are Christians and we don’t pray according to these rules that God doesn’t reject prayers that don’t measure up. But along with everything that we do, we must seek to please God in all things, even in the way that we pray. We should remember whom we pray to, that we only can come to him because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, and that he answers us according to his will which is for our good.
– Alex Nolette (Equip Coordinator/Community Groups)
 Since most translations of his work represent an older English, the following content is a paraphrase of some of Book 3, chapter 20 of his Institutes.