Is it even necessary to pray? This question is sometimes asked today. Apparently, it was also popular over 500 years ago.
In his famous book Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin dedicates extensive time on prayer, and gives plenty of reasons why you and I should pray.
“But someone will say,” Calvin writes, “does God not know even without being reminded, both in what respect we are troubled, and what is expedient for us, so that it seems in a sense that it may be superflous that he should be stirred up by our prayers . . . But they who thus reason do not observe to what end the Lord instructed his people to pray, for he ordained it not so much for his sake but for ours.”
Michael Horton recalls a somewhat common conversation:
“Sometimes people ask me, ‘Why pray if God is sovereign?’ I respond, ‘Why pray if he isn’t?'”
So while there’s more than just six, here’s six reasons why every Christian should pray, as Calvin outlines in his Institutes:
Reason #1: For increased zeal.
Calvin starts with zeal. For without communion with the Lord, you can’t expect to be zealous for the Lord.
For without communion with the Lord, you can't expect to be zealous for the Lord. - David Qaoud Click To Tweet
“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.”
Reason #2: For the right desires.
Then, Calvin goes to desires. But not just to any desires, but holy ones.
“Secondly, 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.”
Reason #3: For increased gratitude.
Now, we’re on to gratitude. The world wants to increase our discontentment, but through prayer, we can be a grateful people.
“Thirdly, 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.”
Reason #4: For reflection on God’s answers.
We should pray for blessings. But after receiving them, if God wills them, we should spend time reflecting on God’s goodness through prayer.
“Fourthly, 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.”
Reason #5: For greater delight in God.
Delight and duty go together. Our duty is prayer, and our delight is God. But only through prayer can we actually delight in him (and the blessings he gives).
“And fifthly, that at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by prayers.”
Reason #6: For confirmation of God’s Providence.
I love Calvin because he always seems to bring things back to God’s Providence. Nevertheless, he does the same with prayer, and we should end prayer to help us confirm God’s Providence.
“Finally, 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, no wet-nurising them with words but defending them with present help.”
Calvin adds, “On account of these things, our most merciful Father, although he never sleeps or idles, still very often gives the impression of one sleeping or idling in order that he may thus train us, other wise idle and lazy, to seek, ask, and entreat him to our great good.”
Prayer is not just a suggestion; it’s a command. And, amazingly, God will listen to your prayer and grant your request if it aligns with his will. Your prayers make things happen. As John Piper once said, “Prayer causes things to happen that wouldn’t happen if you didn’t pray.”
You may also like:
- Calvin’s 5 Rules for Right Prayer
- 25 Quick Tips and Reminders to Help Your Prayer Life
- Tim Keller’s 5 Steps for Effective Prayer