Saturday, July 9

In Quietness and Surrender

In his Institutes Calvin calls prayer “the chief exercise of faith…by which we daily receive God’s benefits” (III: 20). Prayer is our response to grace, receiving what God gives us, and then responding with deep gratitude, so that our petitions grow out of thanksgiving. The result, he says, is pietas, an attitude of reverence and love for God, and caritas, service to neighbor. Very practically, Calvin then outlines a plan for prayer—what he calls the "rules of prayer."

He says, we must come to God with “sincere affection of heart.” We must likewise come with humility, depending on the grace of God. We must pray with confident hope—with the “certainty that our prayer will be answered.” And, we must pray “continuously.” But it is necessary, he says, because of our weakness, for us to set hours for prayer: when we arise in the morning for instance, before we begin daily work, when we sit down to a meal, when by God’s blessing we ready to retire.” The result, is awareness of God in every moment.

But, taking precedence over all these, Calvin’s first "rule" of prayer is to be “rid of all alien and outside cares, by which the mind, itself a wanderer, is borne about hither and thither.” In other words, his first rule is what the Puritans would later call “the discipline of grave silence.” It is our need to be quiet in the presence of God. In his commentary on Philippians he wrote that our cares are unloaded by solemnly, soberly, and in silent awe casting them upon God’s fatherly care for us. He asserted, “For we are not made of iron, so as to be unshaken by temptations. But our consolation, our relief, is to deposit, or (to speak more correctly) in quietness and surrender, to unload into the bosom of God everything that harasses us.”

Tuesday, July 5

A Preacher's Humility

“When a preacher is overwhelmed by a sense of his own helplessness, the lesson s a wholesome one. It makes him feel that the sufficiency is not in him but in God; it makes him understand that another power must be brought to bear upon the mass of resistance which is before him; and let the man of confident and aspiring genius who thought he was to assail the dark seats of human corruption and to carry them by storm, let him be reduced in mortified and dependent humbleness to the expedient of the Apostle—let him crave the intercessions of his people and throw himself upon their prayers.” Thomas Chalmers