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Prayer: Some Insights from John Calvin & George Muller

I have found much help for my prayer life in two sources: Calvin’s Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 20; and, in the biographies of George Muller (George Muller of Bristol, by A. T. Pierson [Revell]; George Muller: Delighted in God, by Roger Steer [Shaw]; and Answers to Prayer, by George Muller [Moody Press]).

Six Reasons for Prayer (from Calvin’s Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 20, Section 3):

First, that our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love, and serve him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor.

Second, that there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make him a witness, while we learn to set all our wishes before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.

Third, that we be prepared to receive his benefits with true gratitude of heart and thanksgiving, benefits that our prayer reminds us come from his hand [cf. Ps. 145:15-16].

Fourth, moreover, that, having obtained what we were seeking, and being convinced that he has answered our prayers, we should be led to meditate upon his kindness more ardently.

Fifth, that at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by our prayers.

Sixth, that use and experience may, according to the measure of our feebleness, confirm his providence, while we understand not only that he promises never to fail us, and of his own will opens the way to call upon him at the very point of necessity, but also that he ever extends his hand to help his own, not wet-nursing them with words but defending them with present help.

Rules of right Prayer (from Calvin’s Institutes, Book 3, Chapter 20, Sections 4-16):

  1. That we be disposed in mind and heart as befits those who enter conversation with God.
  2. That in our petitions we ever sense our own insufficiency, and earnestly pondering how we need all that we seek, join with this prayer an earnest—nay, burning—desire to attain it.
  3. That anyone who stands before God to pray, in his humility giving glory completely to God, abandon all thought of his own glory, cast off all notion of his own worth, in fine, put away all self-assurance—lest if we claim for ourselves anything, even the least bit, we should become vainly puffed up, and perish at his presence.
  4. That, thus cast down and overcome by true humility, we should be nonetheless encouraged to pray by a sure hope that our prayer will be answered.

Conditions of Prayer (from George Muller of Bristol, by A. T. Pierson, combined from pp. 170, 455, 456):

  1. Ask only for that which it would be for the glory of God to give us.
  2. Ask in dependence on the name of the Lord Jesus, that is, expect it only on the ground of His merits and worthiness.
  3. Separation from all known sin.
  4. Believe that God is able and willing to give us what we ask Him for.
  5. Continue in prayer, expecting God to answer, until the blessing comes.

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