Of Prayer—A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It. by John Calvin

Of Prayer—A Perpetual Exercise of Faith. The Daily Benefits Derived from It.

by John Calvin

A Picture of Calvin

  Translated by Henry Beveridge





   The principal divisions of this chapter are, --

   I. Connection of the subject of prayer with the previous chapters. The
   nature of prayer, and its necessity as a Christian exercise, sec. 1, 2.

   II. To whom prayer is to be offered. Refutation of an objection which
   is too apt to present itself to the mind, sec. 3.

   III. Rules to be observed in prayer, sec. 4-16.

   IV. Through whom prayer is to be made, sec. 17-19.

   V. Refutation of an error as to the doctrine of our Mediator and
   Intercessor, with answers to the leading arguments urged in support of
   the intercession of saints, sec. 20-27.

   VI. The nature of prayer, and some of its accidents, sec. 28-33.

   VII. A perfect form of invocation, or an exposition of the Lord's
   Prayer, sec. 34-50.

   VIII. Some rules to be observed with regard to prayer, as time,
   perseverance, the feeling of the mind, and the assurance of faith, sec.
Of Prayer  John Calvin Outline

   1. A general summary of what is contained in the previous part of the
   work. A transition to the doctrine of prayer. Its connection with the
   subject of faith.

   2. Prayer defined. Its necessity and use.

   3. Objection, that prayer seems useless, because God already knows our
   wants. Answer, from the institution and end of prayer. Confirmation by
   example. Its necessity and propriety. Perpetually reminds us of our
   duty, and leads to meditation on divine providence. Conclusion. Prayer
   a most useful exercise. This proved by three passages of Scripture.

   4. Rules to be observed in prayer. First, reverence to God. How the
   mind ought to be composed.

   5. All giddiness of mind must be excluded, and all our feelings
   seriously engaged. This confirmed by the form of lifting the hand in
   prayer. We must ask only in so far as God permits. To help our
   weakness, God gives the Spirit to be our guide in prayer. What the
   office of the Spirit in this respect. We must still pray both with the
   heart and the lips.

   6. Second rule of prayer, a sense of our want. This rule violated, 1.
   By perfunctory and formal prayer 2. By hypocrites who have no sense of
   their sins. 3. By giddiness in prayer. Remedies.

   7. Objection, that we are not always under the same necessity of
   praying. Answer, we must pray always. This answer confirmed by an
   examination of the dangers by which both our life and our salvation are
   every moment threatened. Confirmed farther by the command and
   permission of God, by the nature of true repentance, and a
   consideration of impenitence. Conclusion.

   8. Third rule, the suppression of all pride. Examples. Daniel, David,
   Isaiah, Jeremiah, Baruch.

   9. Advantage of thus suppressing pride. It leads to earnest entreaty
   for pardon, accompanied with humble confession and sure confidence in
   the Divine mercy. This may not always be expressed in words. It is
   peculiar to pious penitents. A general introduction to procure favour
   to our prayers never to be omitted.

   10. Objection to the third rule of prayer. Of the glorying of the
   saints. Answer. Confirmation of the answer.

   11. Fourth rule of prayer, -- a sure confidence of being heard
   animating us to prayer. The kind of confidence required, viz., a
   serious conviction of our misery, joined with sure hope. From these
   true prayer springs. How diffidence impairs prayer. In general, faith
   is required.

   12. This faith and sure hope regarded by our opponents as most absurd.
   Their error described and refuted by various passages of Scripture,
   which show that acceptable prayer is accompanied with these qualities.
   No repugnance between this certainty and an acknowledgment of our

   13. To our unworthiness we oppose, 1. The command of God. 2. The
   promise. Rebels and hypocrites completely condemned. Passages of
   Scripture confirming the command to pray.

   14. Other passages respecting the promises which belong to the pious
   when they invoke God. These realised though we are not possessed of the
   same holiness as other distinguished servants of God, provided we
   indulge no vain confidence, and sincerely betake ourselves to the mercy
   of God. Those who do not invoke God under urgent necessity are no
   better than idolaters. This concurrence of fear and confidence
   reconciles the different passages of Scripture, as to humbling
   ourselves in prayer, and causing our prayers to ascend.

   15. Objection founded on some examples, viz., that prayers have proved
   effectual, though not according to the form prescribed. Answer. Such
   examples, though not given for our imitation, are of the greatest use.
   Objection, the prayers of the faithful sometimes not effectual. Answer
   confirmed by a noble passage of Augustine. Rule for right prayer.

   16. The above four rules of prayer not so rigidly exacted, as that
   every prayer deficient in them in any respect is rejected by God. This
   shown by examples. Conclusion, or summary of this section.

   17. Through whom God is to be invoked, viz., Jesus Christ. This founded
   on a consideration of the divine majesty, and the precept and promise
   of God himself. God therefore to be invoked only in the name of Christ.

   18. From the first all believers were heard through him only: yet this
   specially restricted to the period subsequent to his ascension. The
   ground of this restriction.

   19. The wrath of God lies on those who reject Christ as a Mediator.
   This excludes not the mutual intercession of saints on the earth.

   20. Refutation of errors interfering with the intercession of Christ.
   1. Christ the Mediator of redemption; the saints mediators of
   intercession. Answer confirmed by the clear testimony of Scripture, and
   by a passage from Augustine. The nature of Christ's intercession.

   21. Of the intercession of saints living with Christ in heaven. Fiction
   of the Papists in regard to it. Refuted. 1. Its absurdity. 2. It is
   nowhere mentioned by Scripture. 3. Appeal to the conscience of the
   superstitious. 4. Its blasphemy. Exception. Answers.

   22. Monstrous errors resulting from this fiction. Refutation. Exception
   by the advocates of this fiction. Answer.

   23. Arguments of the Papists for the intercession of saints. 1. From
   the duty and office of angels. Answer. 2. From an expression of
   Jeremiah respecting Moses and Samuel. Answer, retorting the argument.
   3. The meaning of the prophet confirmed by a similar passage in
   Ezekiel, and the testimony of an apostle.

   24. 4. Fourth papistical argument from the nature of charity, which is
   more perfect in the saints in glory. Answer.

   25. Argument founded on a passage in Moses. Answer.

   26. Argument from its being said that the prayers of saints are heard.
   Answer, confirmed by Scripture, and illustrated by examples.

   27. Conclusion, that the saints cannot be invoked without impiety. 1.
   It robs God of his glory. 2. Destroys the intercession of Christ. 3. Is
   repugnant to the word of God. 4. Is opposed to the due method of
   prayer. 5. Is without approved example. 6. Springs from distrust. Last
   objection. Answer.

   28. Kinds of prayer. Vows. Supplications. Petitions. Thanksgiving.
   Connection of these, their constant use and necessity. Particular
   explanation confirmed by reason, Scripture, and example. Rule as to
   supplication and thanksgiving.

   29. The accidents of prayer, viz., private and public, constant, at
   stated seasons, &c. Exception in time of necessity. Prayer without
   ceasing. Its nature. Garrulity of Papists and hypocrites refuted. The
   scope and parts of prayer. Secret prayer. Prayer at all places. Private
   and public prayer.

   30. Of public places or churches in which common prayers are offered
   up. Right use of churches. Abuse.

   31. Of utterance and singing. These of no avail if not from the heart.
   The use of the voice refers more to public than private prayer.

   32. Singing of the greatest antiquity, but not universal. How to be

   33. Public prayers should be in the vulgar, not in a foreign tongue.
   Reason, 1. The nature of the Church. 2. Authority of an apostle.
   Sincere affection always necessary. The tongue not always necessary.
   Bending of the knee, and uncovering of the head.

   34. The form of prayer delivered by Christ displays the boundless
   goodness of our heavenly Father. The great comfort thereby afforded.

   35. Lord's Prayer divided into six petitions. Subdivision into two
   principal parts, the former referring to the glory of God, the latter
   to our salvation.

   36. The use of the term Father implies, 1. That we pray to God in the
   name of Christ alone. 2. That we lay aside all distrust. 3. That we
   expect everything that is for our good.

   37. Objection, that our sins exclude us from the presence of him whom
   we have made a Judge, not a Father. Answer, from the nature of God, as
   described by an apostle, the parable of the prodigal son, and from the
   expression, Our Father. Christ the earnest, the Holy Spirit the
   witness, of our adoption.

   38. Why God is called generally, Our Father.

   39. We may pray specially for ourselves and certain others, provided we
   have in our mind a general reference to all.

   40. In what sense God is said to be in heaven. A threefold use of this
   doctrine for our consolation. Three cautions. Summary of the preface to
   the Lord's Prayer.

   41. The necessity of the first petition a proof of our unrighteousness.
   What meant by the name of God. How it is hallowed. Parts of this
   hallowing. A deprecation of the sins by which the name of God is

   42. Distinction between the first and second petitions. The kingdom of
   God, what. How said to come. Special exposition of this petition. It
   reminds us of three things. Advent of the kingdom of God in the world.

   43. Distinction between the second and third petitions. The will here
   meant not the secret will or good pleasure of God, but that manifested
   in the word. Conclusion of the three first petitions.

   44. A summary of the second part of the Lord's Prayer. Three petitions.
   What contained in the first. Declares the exceeding kindness of God,
   and our distrust. What meant by bread. Why the petition for bread
   precedes that for the forgiveness of sins. Why it is called ours. Why
   to be sought this day, or daily. The doctrine resulting from this
   petition, illustrated by an example. Two classes of men sin in regard
   to this petition. In what sense it is called, our bread. Why we ask God
   to give it to us.

   45. Close connection between this and the subsequent petition. Why our
   sins are called debts. This petition violated, 1. By those who think
   they can satisfy God by their own merits, or those of others. 2. By
   those who dream of a perfection which makes pardon unnecessary. Why the
   elect cannot attain perfection in this life. Refutation of the
   libertine dreamers of perfection. Objection refuted. In what sense we
   are said to forgive those who have sinned against us. How the condition
   is to be understood.

   46. The sixth petition reduced to three heads. 1. The various forms of
   temptation. The depraved conceptions of our minds. The wiles of Satan,
   on the right hand and on the left. 2. What it is to be led into
   temptation. We do not ask not to be tempted of God. What meant by evil,
   or the evil one. Summary of this petition. How necessary it is.
   Condemns the pride of the superstitious. Includes many excellent
   properties. In what sense God may be said to lead us into temptation.

   47. The three last petitions show that the prayers of Christians ought
   to be public. The conclusion of the Lord's Prayer. Why the word Amen is

   48. The Lord's Prayer contains everything that we can or ought to ask
   of God. Those who go beyond it sin in three ways.

   49. We may, after the example of the saints, frame our prayers in
   different words, provided there is no difference in meaning.

   50. Some circumstances to be observed. Of appointing special hours of
   prayer. What to be aimed at, what avoided. The will of God, the rule of
   our prayers.

   51. Perseverance in prayer especially recommended, both by precept and
   example. Condemnatory of those who assign to God a time and mode of

   52. Of the dignity of faith, through which we always obtain, in answer
   to prayer, whatever is most expedient for us. The knowledge of this
   most necessary.
                                   Of Prayer John Calvin


   FROM the previous part of the work we clearly see how completely
   destitute man is of all good, how devoid of every means of procuring
   his own salvation. Hence, if he would obtain succour in his necessity,
   he must go beyond himself, and procure it in some other quarter. It has
   farther been shown that the Lord kindly and spontaneously manifests
   himself in Christ, in whom he offers all happiness for our misery, all
   abundance for our want, opening up the treasures of heaven to us, so
   that we may turn with full faith to his beloved Son, depend upon him
   with full expectation, rest in him, and cleave to him with full hope.
   This, indeed, is that secret and hidden philosophy which cannot be
   learned by syllogisms: a philosophy thoroughly understood by those
   whose eyes God has so opened as to see light in his light (Ps. 36:9).
   But after we have learned by faith to know that whatever is necessary
   for us or defective in us is supplied in God and in our Lord Jesus
   Christ, in whom it hath pleased the Father that all fulness should
   dwell, that we may thence draw as from an inexhaustible fountain, it
   remains for us to seek and in prayer implore of him what we have
   learned to be in him. To know God as the sovereign disposer of all
   good, inviting us to present our requests, and yet not to approach or
   ask of him, were so far from availing us, that it were just as if one
   told of a treasure were to allow it to remain buried in the ground.
   Hence the Apostle, to show that a faith unaccompanied with prayer to
   God cannot be genuine, states this to be the order: As faith springs
   from the Gospel, so by faith our hearts are framed to call upon the
   name of God (Rom. 10:14). And this is the very thing which he had
   expressed some time before, viz., that the Spirit of adoption, which
   seals the testimony of the Gospel on our hearts, gives us courage to
   make our requests known unto God, calls forth groanings which cannot be
   uttered, and enables us to cry, Abba, Father (Rom. 8:26). This last
   point, as we have hitherto only touched upon it slightly in passing,
   must now be treated more fully.

   To prayer, then, are we indebted for penetrating to those riches which
   are treasured up for us with our heavenly Father? For there is a kind
   of intercourse between God and men, by which, having entered the upper
   sanctuary, they appear before Him and appeal to his promises, that when
   necessity requires they may learn by experiences that what they
   believed merely on the authority of his word was not in vain.
   Accordingly, we see that nothing is set before us as an object of
   expectation from the Lord which we are not enjoined to ask of Him in
   prayer, so true it is that prayer digs up those treasures which the
   Gospel of our Lord discovers to the eye of faith. The necessity and
   utility of this exercise of prayer no words can sufficiently express.
   Assuredly it is not without cause our heavenly Father declares that our
   only safety is in calling upon his name, since by it we invoke the
   presence of his providence to watch over our interests, of his power to
   sustain us when weak and almost fainting, of his goodness to receive us
   into favour, though miserably loaded with sin; in fine, call upon him
   to manifest himself to us in all his perfections. Hence, admirable
   peace and tranquillity are given to our consciences; for the straits by
   which we were pressed being laid before the Lord, we rest fully
   satisfied with the assurance that none of our evils are unknown to him,
   and that he is both able and willing to make the best provision for us.

   But some one will say, Does he not know without a monitor both what our
   difficulties are, and what is meet for our interest, so that it seems
   in some measure superfluous to solicit him by our prayers, as if he
   were winking, or even sleeping, until aroused by the sound of our
   voice? [1] Those who argue thus attend not to the end for which the
   Lord taught us to pray. It was not so much for his sake as for ours. He
   wills indeed, as is just, that due honour be paid him by acknowledging
   that all which men desire or feel to be useful, and pray to obtain, is
   derived from him. But even the benefit of the homage which we thus pay
   him redounds to ourselves. Hence the holy patriarchs, the more
   confidently they proclaimed the mercies of God to themselves and others
   felt the stronger incitement to prayer. It will be sufficient to refer
   to the example of Elijah, who being assured of the purpose of God had
   good ground for the promise of rain which he gives to Ahab, and yet
   prays anxiously upon his knees, and sends his servant seven times to
   inquire (1 Kings 18:42); not that he discredits the oracle, but because
   he knows it to be his duty to lay his desires before God, lest his
   faith should become drowsy or torpid. Wherefore, although it is true
   that while we are listless or insensible to our wretchedness, he wakes
   and watches for us and sometimes even assists us unasked; it is very
   much for our interest to be constantly supplicating him; first, that
   our heart may always be inflamed with a serious and ardent desire of
   seeking, loving and serving him, while we accustom ourselves to have
   recourse to him as a sacred anchor in every necessity; secondly, that
   no desires, no longing whatever, of which we are ashamed to make him
   the witness, may enter our minds, while we learn to place all our
   wishes in his sight, and thus pour out our heart before him; and,
   lastly, that we may be prepared to receive all his benefits with true
   gratitude and thanksgiving, while our prayers remind us that they
   proceed from his hand. Moreover, having obtained what we asked, being
   persuaded that he has answered our prayers, we are led to long more
   earnestly for his favour, and at the same time have greater pleasure in
   welcoming the blessings which we perceive to have been obtained by our
   prayers. Lastly, use and experience confirm the thought of his
   providence in our minds in a manner adapted to our weakness, when we
   understand that he not only promises that he will never fail us, and
   spontaneously gives us access to approach him in every time of need,
   but has his hand always stretched out to assist his people, not amusing
   them with words, but proving himself to be a present aid. For these
   reasons, though our most merciful Father never slumbers nor sleeps, he
   very often seems to do so, that thus he may exercise us, when we might
   otherwise be listless and slothful, in asking, entreating, and
   earnestly beseeching him to our great good. It is very absurd,
   therefore, to dissuade men from prayer, by pretending that Divine
   Providence, which is always watching over the government of the
   universes is in vain importuned by our supplications, when, on the
   contrary, the Lord himself declares, that he is "nigh unto all that
   call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth (Ps. 145:18). No
   better is the frivolous allegation of others, that it is superfluous to
   pray for things which the Lord is ready of his own accord to bestow;
   since it is his pleasure that those very things which flow from his
   spontaneous liberality should be acknowledged as conceded to our
   prayers. This is testified by that memorable sentence in the psalms to
   which many others corresponds: "The eyes of the Lord are upon the
   righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry" (Ps. 34:15). This
   passage, while extolling the care which Divine Providence spontaneously
   exercises over the safety of believers, omits not the exercise of faith
   by which the mind is aroused from sloth. The eyes of God are awake to
   assist the blind in their necessity, but he is likewise pleased to
   listen to our groans, that he may give us the better proof of his love.
   And thus both things are true, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither
   slumber nor sleep" (Ps. 121:4); and yet whenever he sees us dumb and
   torpid, he withdraws as if he had forgotten us.
   [1] French, "Dont il sembleroit que ce fust chose supeflue de le
   soliciter par prieres; veu que nous avons accoustumé de soliciter ceux
   qui ne pensent à nostre affaire, et qui sont endormis."--Whence it
   would seem that it was a superfluous matter to solicit him by prayer;
   seeing we are accustomed to solicit those who think not of our business
   and who are slumbering.

   Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind
   framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This
   we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal
   thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure
   contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also,
   as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. I do not here
   insist on a mind so disengaged as to feel none of the gnawings of
   anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much anxiety that the fervour of
   prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the holy servants of God betray
   great anguish, not to say solicitude, when they cause the voice of
   complaint to ascend to the Lord from the deep abyss and the jaws of
   death. What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be
   dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague
   suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept grovelling on the earth.
   When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not
   bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and
   stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the
   little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.

   Both things are specially worthy of notice. First, let every one in
   professing to pray turn thither all his thoughts and feelings, and be
   not (as is usual) distracted by wandering thoughts; because nothing is
   more contrary to the reverence due to God than that levity which
   bespeaks a mind too much given to license and devoid of fear. In this
   matter we ought to labour the more earnestly the more difficult we
   experience it to be; for no man is so intent on prayer as not to feel
   many thoughts creeping in, and either breaking off the tenor of his
   prayer, or retarding it by some turning or digression. Here let us
   consider how unbecoming it is when God admits us to familiar
   intercourse to abuse his great condescension by mingling things sacred
   and profane, reverence for him not keeping our minds under restraint;
   but just as if in prayer we were conversing with one like ourselves
   forgetting him, and allowing our thoughts to run to and fro. Let us
   know, then, that none duly prepare themselves for prayer but those who
   are so impressed with the majesty of God that they engage in it free
   from all earthly cares and affections. The ceremony of lifting up our
   hands in prayer is designed to remind us that we are far removed from
   God, unless our thoughts rise upward: as it is said in the psalm, "Unto
   thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul" (Psalm 25:1). And Scripture
   repeatedly uses the expression to raise our prayers meaning that those
   who would be heard by God must not grovel in the mire. The sum is, that
   the more liberally God deals with us, condescendingly inviting us to
   disburden our cares into his bosom, the less excusable we are if this
   admirable and incomparable blessing does not in our estimation outweigh
   all other things, and win our affection, that prayer may seriously
   engage our every thought and feeling. This cannot be unless our mind,
   strenuously exerting itself against all impediments, rise upward.

   Our second proposition was, that we are to ask only in so far as God
   permits. For though he bids us pour out our hearts (Ps. 62:8), he does
   not indiscriminately give loose reins to foolish and depraved
   affections; and when he promises that he will grant believers their
   wish, his indulgence does not proceed so far as to submit to their
   caprice. In both matters grievous delinquencies are everywhere
   committed. For not only do many without modesty, without reverence,
   presume to invoke God concerning their frivolities, but impudently
   bring forward their dreams, whatever they may be, before the tribunal
   of God. Such is the folly or stupidity under which they labour, that
   they have the hardihood to obtrude upon God desires so vile, that they
   would blush exceedingly to impart them to their fellow men. Profane
   writers have derided and even expressed their detestation of this
   presumption, and yet the vice has always prevailed. Hence, as the
   ambitious adopted Jupiter as their patron; the avaricious, Mercury; the
   literary aspirants, Apollo and Minerva; the warlike, Mars; the
   licentious, Venus: so in the present day, as I lately observed, men in
   prayer give greater license to their unlawful desires than if they were
   telling jocular tales among their equals. God does not suffer his
   condescension to be thus mocked, but vindicating his own light, places
   our wishes under the restraint of his authority. We must, therefore,
   attend to the observation of John: "This is the confidence that we have
   in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us"
   (1 John 5:14).

   But as our faculties are far from being able to attain to such high
   perfection, we must seek for some means to assist them. As the eye of
   our mind should be intent upon God, so the affection of our heart ought
   to follow in the same course. But both fall far beneath this, or
   rather, they faint and fail, and are carried in a contrary direction.
   To assist this weakness, God gives us the guidance of the Spirit in our
   prayers to dictate what is right, and regulate our affections. For
   seeing "we know not what we should pray for as we ought," "the Spirit
   itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be
   uttered" (Rom. 8:26) not that he actually prays or groans, but he
   excites in us sighs, and wishes, and confidence, which our natural
   powers are not at all able to conceive. Nor is it without cause Paul
   gives the name of groanings which cannot be uttered to the prayers
   which believers send forth under the guidance of the Spirit. For those
   who are truly exercised in prayer are not unaware that blind anxieties
   so restrain and perplex them, that they can scarcely find what it
   becomes them to utter; nay, in attempting to lisp they halt and
   hesitate. Hence it appears that to pray aright is a special gift. We do
   not speak thus in indulgence to our sloths as if we were to leave the
   office of prayer to the Holy Spirit, and give way to that carelessness
   to which we are too prone. Thus we sometimes hear the impious
   expression, that we are to wait in suspense until he take possession of
   our minds while otherwise occupied. Our meaning is, that, weary of our
   own heartlessness and sloth, we are to long for the aid of the Spirit.
   Nor, indeed, does Paul, when he enjoins us to pray in the Spirit (1
   Cor. 14:15), cease to exhort us to vigilance, intimating, that while
   the inspiration of the Spirit is effectual to the formation of prayer,
   it by no means impedes or retards our own endeavours; since in this
   matter God is pleased to try how efficiently faith influences our

   Another rule of prayer is, that in asking we must always truly feel our
   wants, and seriously considering that we need all the things which we
   ask, accompany the prayer with a sincere, nay, ardent desire of
   obtaining them. Many repeat prayers in a perfunctory manner from a set
   form, as if they were performing a task to God, and though they confess
   that this is a necessary remedy for the evils of their condition,
   because it were fatal to be left without the divine aid which they
   implore, it still appears that they perform the duty from custom,
   because their minds are meanwhile cold, and they ponder not what they
   ask. A general and confused feeling of their necessity leads them to
   pray, but it does not make them solicitous as in a matter of present
   consequence, that they may obtain the supply of their need. Moreover,
   can we suppose anything more hateful or even more execrable to God than
   this fiction of asking the pardon of sins, while he who asks at the
   very time either thinks that he is not a sinner, or, at least, is not
   thinking that he is a sinner; in other words, a fiction by which God is
   plainly held in derision? But mankind, as I have lately said, are full
   of depravity, so that in the way of perfunctory service they often ask
   many things of God which they think come to them without his
   beneficence, or from some other quarter, or are already certainly in
   their possession. There is another fault which seems less heinous, but
   is not to be tolerated. Some murmur out prayers without meditation,
   their only principle being that God is to be propitiated by prayer.
   Believers ought to be specially on their guard never to appear in the
   presence of God with the intention of presenting a request unless they
   are under some serious impression, and are, at the same time, desirous
   to obtain it. Nay, although in these things which we ask only for the
   glory of God, we seem not at first sight to consult for our necessity,
   yet we ought not to ask with less fervour and vehemency of desire. For
   instance, when we pray that his name be hallowed -- that hallowing
   must, so to speak, be earnestly hungered and thirsted after.

   If it is objected, that the necessity which urges us to pray is not
   always equal, I admit it, and this distinction is profitably taught us
   by James: " Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let
   him sing psalms" (James 5:13). Therefore, common sense itself dictates,
   that as we are too sluggish, we must be stimulated by God to pray
   earnestly whenever the occasion requires. This David calls a time when
   God "may be found" (a seasonable time); because, as he declares in
   several other passages, that the more hardly grievances, annoyances,
   fears, and other kinds of trial press us, the freer is our access to
   God, as if he were inviting us to himself. Still not less true is the
   injunction of Paul to pray "always" (Eph. 6:18); because, however
   prosperously according to our view, things proceed, and however we may
   be surrounded on all sides with grounds of joy, there is not an instant
   of time during which our want does not exhort us to prayer. A man
   abounds in wheat and wine; but as he cannot enjoy a morsel of bread,
   unless by the continual bounty of God, his granaries or cellars will
   not prevent him from asking for daily bread. Then, if we consider how
   many dangers impend every moment, fear itself will teach us that no
   time ought to be without prayer. This, however, may be better known in
   spiritual matters. For when will the many sins of which we are
   conscious allow us to sit secure without suppliantly entreating freedom
   from guilt and punishment? When will temptation give us a truce, making
   it unnecessary to hasten for help? Moreover, zeal for the kingdom and
   glory of God ought not to seize us by starts, but urge us without
   intermission, so that every time should appear seasonable. It is not
   without cause, therefore, that assiduity in prayer is so often
   enjoined. I am not now speaking of perseverance, which shall afterwards
   be considered; but Scripture, by reminding us of the necessity of
   constant prayer, charges us with sloth, because we feel not how much we
   stand in need of this care and assiduity. By this rule hypocrisy and
   the device of lying to God are restrained, nay, altogether banished
   from prayer. God promises that he will be near to those who call upon
   him in truth, and declares that those who seek him with their whole
   heart will find him: those, therefore, who delight in their own
   pollution cannot surely aspire to him.

   One of the requisites of legitimate prayer is repentance. Hence the
   common declaration of Scripture, that God does not listen to the
   wicked; that their prayers, as well as their sacrifices, are an
   abomination to him. For it is right that those who seal up their hearts
   should find the ears of God closed against them, that those who, by
   their hardheartedness, provoke his severity should find him inflexible.
   In Isaiah he thus threatens: "When ye make many prayers, I will not
   hear: your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:15). In like manner, in
   Jeremiah, "Though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them"
   (Jer. 11:7, 8, 11); because he regards it as the highest insult for the
   wicked to boast of his covenant while profaning his sacred name by
   their whole lives. Hence he complains in Isaiah: "This people draw near
   to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me; but have
   removed their heart far from men" (Isaiah 29:13). Indeed, he does not
   confine this to prayers alone, but declares that he abominates pretense
   in every part of his service. Hence the words of James, "Ye ask and
   receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your
   lusts" (James 4:3). It is true, indeed (as we shall again see in a
   little), that the pious, in the prayers which they utter, trust not to
   their own worth; still the admonition of John is not superfluous:
   "Whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his
   commandments" (1 John 3:22); an evil conscience shuts the door against
   us. Hence it follows, that none but the sincere worshippers of God pray
   aright, or are listened to. Let every one, therefore, who prepares to
   pray feel dissatisfied with what is wrong in his condition, and assume,
   which he cannot do without repentance, the character and feelings of a
   poor suppliant.

   The third rule to be added is: that he who comes into the presence of
   God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside
   all idea of worth; in short, discard all self-confidence, humbly giving
   God the whole glory, lest by arrogating anything, however little, to
   himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face. Of this
   submission, which casts down all haughtiness, we have numerous examples
   in the servants of God. The holier they are, the more humbly they
   prostrate themselves when they come into the presence of the Lord. Thus
   Daniel, on whom the Lord himself bestowed such high commendation, says,
   "We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness
   but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord,
   hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city
   and thy people are called by thy name." This he does not indirectly in
   the usual manner, as if he were one of the individuals in a crowd: he
   rather confesses his guilt apart, and as a suppliant betaking himself
   to the asylum of pardon, he distinctly declares that he was confessing
   his own sin, and the sin of his people Israel (Dan. 9:18-20). David
   also sets us an example of this humility: " Enter not into judgment
   with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified"
   (Psalm 143:2). In like manner, Isaiah prays, "Behold, thou art wroth;
   for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But
   we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as
   filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the
   wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon thy name,
   that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy
   face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. But now,
   O Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and
   we all are the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord,
   neither remember iniquity for ever: Behold, see, we beseech thee, we
   are all thy people." (Isa. 64:5-9). You see how they put no confidence
   in anything but this: considering that they are the Lord's, they
   despair not of being the objects of his care. In the same way, Jeremiah
   says, "O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for
   thy name's sake" (Jer. 14:7). For it was most truly and piously written
   by the uncertain author (whoever he may have been) that wrote the book
   which is attributed to the prophet Baruch, [2] "But the soul that is
   greatly vexed, which goeth stooping and feeble, and the eyes that fail,
   and the hungry soul, will give thee praise and righteousness, O Lord.
   Therefore, we do not make our humble supplication before thee, O Lord
   our God, for the righteousness of our fathers, and of our kings."
   "Hear, O Lord, and have mercy; for thou art merciful: and have pity
   upon us, because we have sinned before thee" (Baruch 2:18, 19; 3:2).
   2 French, "Pourtant ce qui est escrit en la prophetie qu'on attribue
   à Baruch, combien que l'autheur soit incertain, est tres sainctement
   dit;"--However, what is written in the prophecy which is attributed to
   Baruch, though the author is uncertain, is very holily said.

   In fine, supplication for pardon, with humble and ingenuous confession
   of guilt, forms both the preparation and commencement of right prayer.
   For the holiest of men cannot hope to obtain anything from God until he
   has been freely reconciled to him. God cannot be propitious to any but
   those whom he pardons. Hence it is not strange that this is the key by
   which believers open the door of prayer, as we learn from several
   passages in The Psalms. David, when presenting a request on a different
   subject, says, "Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my
   transgressions; according to thy mercy remember me, for thy goodness
   sake, O Lord" (Psalm 25:7). Again, "Look upon my affliction and my
   pain, and forgive my sins" (Psalm 25:18). Here also we see that it is
   not sufficient to call ourselves to account for the sins of each
   passing day; we must also call to mind those which might seem to have
   been long before buried in oblivion. For in another passage the same
   prophet, confessing one grievous crime, takes occasion to go back to
   his very birth, "I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother
   conceive me" (Psalm 51:5); not to extenuate the fault by the corruption
   of his nature, but as it were to accumulate the sins of his whole life,
   that the stricter he was in condemning himself, the more placable God
   might be. But although the saints do not always in express terms ask
   forgiveness of sins, yet if we carefully ponder those prayers as given
   in Scripture, the truth of what I say will readily appear; namely, that
   their courage to pray was derived solely from the mercy of God, and
   that they always began with appeasing him. For when a man interrogates
   his conscience, so far is he from presuming to lay his cares familiarly
   before God, that if he did not trust to mercy and pardon, he would
   tremble at the very thought of approaching him. There is, indeed,
   another special confession. When believers long for deliverance from
   punishment, they at the same time pray that their sins may be pardoned;
   [3] for it were absurd to wish that the effect should be taken away
   while the cause remains. For we must beware of imitating foolish
   patients who, anxious only about curing accidental symptoms, neglect
   the root of the disease. [4] Nay, our endeavour must be to have God
   propitious even before he attests his favour by external signs, both
   because this is the order which he himself chooses, and it were of
   little avail to experience his kindness, did not conscience feel that
   he is appeased, and thus enable us to regard him as altogether lovely.
   Of this we are even reminded by our Saviour's reply. Having determined
   to cure the paralytic, he says, "Thy sins are forgiven thee;" in other
   words, he raises our thoughts to the object which is especially to be
   desired, viz. admission into the favour of God, and then gives the
   fruit of reconciliation by bringing assistance to us. But besides that
   special confession of present guilt which believers employ, in
   supplicating for pardon of every fault and punishment, that general
   introduction which procures favour for our prayers must never be
   omitted, because prayers will never reach God unless they are founded
   on free mercy. To this we may refer the words of John, "If we confess
   our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse
   us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Hence, under the law it was
   necessary to consecrate prayers by the expiation of blood, both that
   they might be accepted, and that the people might be warned that they
   were unworthy of the high privilege until, being purged from their
   defilements, they founded their confidence in prayer entirely on the
   mercy of God.
    3 French, "il reconoissent le chastisement qu'ils ont merité;"--they
   acknowledge the punishment which they have deserved.

  4 The French adds, "Ils voudront qu'on leur oste le mal de tests et
   des reins, et seront contens qu'on ne touche point a la fievre;"--They
   would wish to get quit of the pain in the head and the loins, and would
   be contented to leave the fever untouched.

   Sometimes, however, the saints in supplicating God, seem to appeal to
   their own righteousness, as when David says, "Preserve my soul; for I
   am holy" (Ps. 86:2). Also Hezekiah, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech
   thee how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart,
   and have done that which is good in thy sight" (Is. 38:2). All they
   mean by such expressions is, that regeneration declares them to be
   among the servants and children to whom God engages that he will show
   favour. We have already seen how he declares by the Psalmist that his
   eyes "are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry"
   (Ps. 34:16) and again by the apostle, that "whatsoever we ask of him we
   obtain, because we keep his commandments" (John 3:22). In these
   passages he does not fix a value on prayer as a meritorious work, but
   designs to establish the confidence of those who are conscious of an
   unfeigned integrity and innocence, such as all believers should
   possess. For the saying of the blind man who had received his sight is
   in perfect accordance with divine truth, And God heareth not sinners
   (John 9:31); provided we take the term sinners in the sense commonly
   used by Scripture to mean those who, without any desire for
   righteousness, are sleeping secure in their sins; since no heart will
   ever rise to genuine prayer that does not at the same time long for
   holiness. Those supplications in which the saints allude to their
   purity and integrity correspond to such promises, that they may thus
   have, in their own experience, a manifestation of that which all the
   servants of God are made to expect. Thus they almost always use this
   mode of prayer when before God they compare themselves with their
   enemies, from whose injustice they long to be delivered by his hand.
   When making such comparisons, there is no wonder that they bring
   forward their integrity and simplicity of heart, that thus, by the
   justice of their cause, the Lord may be the more disposed to give them
   succour. We rob not the pious breast of the privilege of enjoying a
   consciousness of purity before the Lord, and thus feeling assured of
   the promises with which he comforts and supports his true worshippers,
   but we would have them to lay aside all thought of their own merits and
   found their confidence of success in prayer solely on the divine mercy.

   The fourth rule of prayer is, that notwithstanding of our being thus
   abased and truly humbled, we should be animated to pray with the sure
   hope of succeeding. There is, indeed, an appearance of contradiction
   between the two things, between a sense of the just vengeance of God
   and firm confidence in his favour, and yet they are perfectly
   accordant, if it is the mere goodness of God that raises up those who
   are overwhelmed by their own sins. For, as we have formerly shown
   (chap. iii. sec. 1, 2) that repentance and faith go hand in hand, being
   united by an indissoluble tie, the one causing terror, the other joy,
   so in prayer they must both be present. This concurrence David
   expresses in a few words: "But as for me, I will come into thy house in
   the multitude of thy mercy, and in thy fear will I worship toward thy
   holy temple" (Ps. 5:7). Under the goodness of God he comprehends faith,
   at the same time not excluding fear; for not only does his majesty
   compel our reverence, but our own unworthiness also divests us of all
   pride and confidence, and keeps us in fear. The confidence of which I
   speak is not one which frees the mind from all anxiety, and soothes it
   with sweet and perfect rest; such rest is peculiar to those who, while
   all their affairs are flowing to a wish are annoyed by no care, stung
   with no regret, agitated by no fear. But the best stimulus which the
   saints have to prayer is when, in consequence of their own necessities,
   they feel the greatest disquietude, and are all but driven to despair,
   until faith seasonably comes to their aid; because in such straits the
   goodness of God so shines upon them, that while they groan, burdened by
   the weight of present calamities, and tormented with the fear of
   greater, they yet trust to this goodness, and in this way both lighten
   the difficulty of endurance, and take comfort in the hope of final
   deliverance. It is necessary therefore, that the prayer of the believer
   should be the result of both feelings, and exhibit the influence of
   both; namely, that while he groans under present and anxiously dreads
   new evils, he should, at the same times have recourse to God, not at
   all doubting that God is ready to stretch out a helping hand to him.
   For it is not easy to say how much God is irritated by our distrust,
   when we ask what we expect not of his goodness. Hence, nothing is more
   accordant to the nature of prayer than to lay it down as a fixed rule,
   that it is not to come forth at random, but is to follow in the
   footsteps of faith. To this principle Christ directs all of us in these
   words, " Therefore, I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when
   ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (Mark
   11:24). The same thing he declares in another passage, "All things,
   whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive" (Matth.
   21:22). In accordance with this are the words of James, "If any of you
   lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and
   upbraideth not, and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith,
   nothing wavering" (James 1:5). He most aptly expresses the power of
   faith by opposing it to wavering. No less worthy of notice is his
   additional statement, that those who approach God with a doubting,
   hesitating mind, without feeling assured whether they are to be heard
   or not, gain nothing by their prayers. Such persons he compares to a
   wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. Hence, in another
   passage he terms genuine prayer "the prayer of faith" (James 5:15).
   Again, since God so often declares that he will give to every man
   according to his faith he intimates that we cannot obtain anything
   without faith. In short, it is faith which obtains everything that is
   granted to prayer. This is the meaning of Paul in the well known
   passage to which dull men give too little heed, "How then shall they
   call upon him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they
   believe in him of whom they have not heard?" "So then faith cometh by
   hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:14, 17). Gradually
   deducing the origin of prayer from faith, he distinctly maintains that
   God cannot be invoked sincerely except by those to whom, by the
   preaching of the Gospel, his mercy and willingness have been made
   known, nay, familiarly explained.

   This necessity our opponents do not at all consider. Therefore, when we
   say that believers ought to feel firmly assured, they think we are
   saying the absurdest thing in the world. But if they had any experience
   in true prayer, they would assuredly understand that God cannot be duly
   invoked without this firm sense of the Divine benevolence. But as no
   man can well perceive the power of faith, without at the same time
   feeling it in his heart, what profit is there in disputing with men of
   this character, who plainly show that they have never had more than a
   vain imagination? The value and necessity of that assurance for which
   we contend is learned chiefly from prayer. Every one who does not see
   this gives proof of a very stupid conscience. Therefore, leaving those
   who are thus blinded, let us fix our thoughts on the words of Paul,
   that God can only be invoked by such as have obtained a knowledge of
   his mercy from the Gospel, and feel firmly assured that that mercy is
   ready to be bestowed upon them. What kind of prayer would this be? "O
   Lord, I am indeed doubtful whether or not thou art inclined to hear me;
   but being oppressed with anxiety I fly to thee that if I am worthy,
   thou mayest assist me." None of the saints whose prayers are given in
   Scripture thus supplicated. Nor are we thus taught by the Holy Spirit,
   who tells us to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may
   obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16); and
   elsewhere teaches us to "have boldness and access with confidence by
   the faith of Christ" (Eph. 3:12). This confidence of obtaining what we
   ask, a confidence which the Lord commands, and all the saints teach by
   their example, we must therefore hold fast with both hands, if we would
   pray to any advantage. The only prayer acceptable to God is that which
   springs (if I may so express it) from this presumption of faith, and is
   founded on the full assurance of hope. He might have been contented to
   use the simple name of faith, but he adds not only confidence, but
   liberty or boldness, that by this mark he might distinguish us from
   unbelievers, who indeed like us pray to God, but pray at random. Hence,
   the whole Church thus prays "Let thy mercy O Lord, be upon us,
   according as we hope in thee" (Ps. 33:22). The same condition is set
   down by the Psalmist in another passage, "When I cry unto thee, then
   shall mine enemies turn back: this I know, for God is for me" (Ps.
   56:9). Again, "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and
   will look up" (Ps. 5:3). From these words we gather, that prayers are
   vainly poured out into the air unless accompanied with faith, in which,
   as from a watchtower, we may quietly wait for God. With this agrees the
   order of Paul's exhortation. For before urging believers to pray in the
   Spirit always, with vigilance and assiduity, he enjoins them to take
   "the shield of faith," " the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the
   Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:16-18).

   Let the reader here call to mind what I formerly observed, that faith
   by no means fails though accompanied with a recognition of our
   wretchedness, poverty, and pollution. How much soever believers may
   feel that they are oppressed by a heavy load of iniquity, and are not
   only devoid of everything which can procure the favour of God for them,
   but justly burdened with many sins which make him an object of dread,
   yet they cease not to present themselves, this feeling not deterring
   them from appearing in his presence, because there is no other access
   to him. Genuine prayer is not that by which we arrogantly extol
   ourselves before God, or set a great value on anything of our own, but
   that by which, while confessing our guilt, we utter our sorrows before
   God, just as children familiarly lay their complaints before their
   parents. Nay, the immense accumulation of our sins should rather spur
   us on and incite us to prayer. Of this the Psalmist gives us an
   example, "Heal my soul: for I have sinned against thee" (Ps. 41:4). I
   confess, indeed, that these stings would prove mortal darts, did not
   God give succour; but our heavenly Father has, in ineffable kindness,
   added a remedy, by which, calming all perturbation, soothing our cares,
   and dispelling our fears he condescendingly allures us to himself; nay,
   removing all doubts, not to say obstacles, makes the way smooth before

   And first, indeed in enjoining us to pray, he by the very injunction
   convicts us of impious contumacy if we obey not. He could not give a
   more precise command than that which is contained in the psalms: "Call
   upon me in the day of trouble" (Ps. 50:15). But as there is no office
   of piety more frequently enjoined by Scripture, there is no occasion
   for here dwelling longer upon it. "Ask," says our Divine Master, "and
   it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be
   opened unto you" (Matth. 7:7). Here, indeed, a promise is added to the
   precept, and this is necessary. For though all confess that we must
   obey the precept, yet the greater part would shun the invitation of
   God, did he not promise that he would listen and be ready to answer.
   These two positions being laid down, it is certain that all who
   cavillingly allege that they are not to come to God directly, are not
   only rebellious and disobedient but are also convicted of unbelief,
   inasmuch as they distrust the promises. There is the more occasion to
   attend to this, because hypocrites, under a pretense of humility and
   modesty, proudly contemn the precept, as well as deny all credit to the
   gracious invitation of God; nay, rob him of a principal part of his
   worship. For when he rejected sacrifices, in which all holiness seemed
   then to consist, he declared that the chief thing, that which above all
   others is precious in his sight, is to be invoked in the day of
   necessity. Therefore, when he demands that which is his own, and urges
   us to alacrity in obeying, no pretexts for doubt, how specious soever
   they may be, can excuse us. Hence, all the passages throughout
   Scripture in which we are commanded to pray, are set up before our eyes
   as so many banners, to inspire us with confidence. It were presumption
   to go forward into the presence of God, did he not anticipate us by his
   invitation. Accordingly, he opens up the way for us by his own voice,
   "I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God"
   (Zech. 13:9). We see how he anticipates his worshippers, and desires
   them to follow, and therefore we cannot fear that the melody which he
   himself dictates will prove unpleasing. Especially let us call to mind
   that noble description of the divine character, by trusting to which we
   shall easily overcome every obstacle: O thou that hearest prayer, unto
   thee shall all flesh come" (Ps. 65:2). What can be more lovely or
   soothing than to see God invested with a title which assures us that
   nothing is more proper to his nature than to listen to the prayers of
   suppliants? Hence the Psalmist infers, that free access is given not to
   a few individuals, but to all men, since God addresses all in these
   terms, "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and
   thou shalt glorify me" (Ps. 50:15). David, accordingly, appeals to the
   promise thus given in order to obtain what he asks: "Thou, O Lord of
   hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will
   build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to
   pray this prayer unto thee" (2 Sam. 7:27). Here we infer, that he would
   have been afraid but for the promise which emboldened him. So in
   another passage he fortifies himself with the general doctrine, "He
   will fulfil the desire of them that fear him" (Ps. 145:19). Nay, we may
   observe in The Psalms how the continuity of prayer is broken, and a
   transition is made at one time to the power of God, at another to his
   goodness, at another to the faithfulness of his promises. It might seem
   that David, by introducing these sentiments, unseasonably mutilates his
   prayers; but believers well know by experience, that their ardour grows
   languid unless new fuel be added, and, therefore, that meditation as
   well on the nature as on the word of God during prayer, is by no means
   superfluous. Let us not decline to imitate the example of David, and
   introduce thoughts which may reanimate our languid minds with new

   It is strange that these delightful promises affect us coldly, or
   scarcely at all, so that the generality of men prefer to wander up and
   down, forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out to
   themselves broken cisterns, rather than embrace the divine liberality
   voluntarily offered to them (Jer. 2:13). "The name of the Lord," says
   Solomon, "is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is
   safe." (Pr. 18:10) Joel, after predicting the fearful disaster which
   was at hand, subjoins the following memorable sentence: " And it shall
   come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall
   be delivered." (Joel 2:32) This we know properly refers to the course
   of the Gospel. Scarcely one in a hundred is moved to come into the
   presence of God, though he himself exclaims by Isaiah, "And it shall
   come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are
   yet speaking, I will hear." (Is. 65:24) This honour he elsewhere
   bestows upon the whole Church in general, as belonging to all the
   members of Christ: "He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I
   will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him." (Ps.
   91:15) My intention, however, as I already observed, is not to
   enumerate all, but only select some admirable passages as a specimen
   how kindly God allures us to himself, and how extreme our ingratitude
   must be when with such powerful motives our sluggishness still retards
   us. Wherefore, let these words always resound in our ears: "The Lord is
   nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in
   truth" (Ps. 145:18). Likewise those passages which we have quoted from
   Isaiah and Joel, in which God declares that his ear is open to our
   prayers, and that he is delighted as with a sacrifice of sweet savour
   when we cast our cares upon him. The special benefit of these promises
   we receive when we frame our prayer, not timorously or doubtingly, but
   when trusting to his word whose majesty might otherwise deter us, we
   are bold to call him Father, he himself deigning to suggest this most
   delightful name. Fortified by such invitations it remains for us to
   know that we have therein sufficient materials for prayer, since our
   prayers depend on no merit of our own, but all their worth and hope of
   success are founded and depend on the promises of God, so that they
   need no other support, and require not to look up and down on this hand
   and on that. It must therefore be fixed in our minds, that though we
   equal not the lauded sanctity of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles,
   yet as the command to pray is common to us as well as them, and faith
   is common, so if we lean on the word of God, we are in respect of this
   privilege their associates. For God declaring, as has already been
   seen, that he will listen and be favourable to all, encourages the most
   wretched to hope that they shall obtain what they ask; and,
   accordingly, we should attend to the general forms of expression,
   which, as it is commonly expressed, exclude none from first to last;
   only let there be sincerity of heart, self-dissatisfaction, humility,
   and faith, that we may not, by the hypocrisy of a deceitful prayer,
   profane the name of God. Our most merciful Father will not reject those
   whom he not only encourages to come, but urges in every possible way.
   Hence David's method of prayer to which I lately referred: "And now, O
   Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast
   promised this goodness unto thy servant, that it may continue for ever
   before thee" (2 Sam. 7:28). So also, in another passage, "Let, I pray
   thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word
   unto thy servant" (Psalm 119:76). And the whole body of the Israelites,
   whenever they fortify themselves with the remembrance of the covenant,
   plainly declare, that since God thus prescribes they are not to pray
   timorously (Gen. 32:13). In this they imitated the example of the
   patriarchs, particularly Jacob, who, after confessing that he was
   unworthy of the many mercies which he had received of the Lord's hand,
   says, that he is encouraged to make still larger requests, because God
   had promised that he would grant them. But whatever be the pretexts
   which unbelievers employ, when they do not flee to God as often as
   necessity urges, nor seek after him, nor implore his aid, they defraud
   him of his due honour just as much as if they were fabricating to
   themselves new gods and idols, since in this way they deny that God is
   the author of all their blessings. On the contrary, nothing more
   effectually frees pious minds from every doubt, than to be armed with
   the thought that no obstacle should impede them while they are obeying
   the command of God, who declares that nothing is more grateful to him
   than obedience. Hence, again, what I have previously said becomes still
   more clear, namely, that a bold spirit in prayer well accords with
   fear, reverence, and anxiety, and that there is no inconsistency when
   God raises up those who had fallen prostrate. In this way forms of
   expression apparently inconsistent admirably harmonize. Jeremiah and
   David speak of humbly laying their supplications [5] before God (Jer.
   42:9; Dan. 9:18). In another passage Jeremiah says "Let, we beseech
   thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto
   the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant" (Jer. 42:2). On the other
   hand, believers are often said to lift up prayer. Thus Hezekiah speaks,
   when asking the prophet to undertake the office of interceding (2 Kings
   19:4). And David says, "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as
   incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" (Ps.
   141:2). The explanation is, that though believers, persuaded of the
   paternal love of God, cheerfully rely on his faithfulness, and have no
   hesitation in imploring the aid which he voluntarily offers, they are
   not elated with supine or presumptuous security; but climbing up by the
   ladder of the promises, still remain humble and abased suppliants.

   Here, by way of objection, several questions are raised. Scripture
   relates that God sometimes complied with certain prayers which had been
   dictated by minds not duly calmed or regulated. It is true, that the
   cause for which Jotham imprecated on the inhabitants of Shechem the
   disaster which afterwards befell them was well founded; but still he
   was inflamed with anger and revenge (Judges 9:20); and hence God, by
   complying with the execration, seems to approve of passionate impulses.
   Similar fervour also seized Samson, when he prayed, " Strengthen me, I
   pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the
   Philistines for my two eyes" (Judges 16:28). For although there was
   some mixture of good zeal, yet his ruling feeling was a fervid, and
   therefore vicious longing for vengeance. God assents, and hence
   apparently it might be inferred that prayers are effectual, though not
   framed in conformity to the rule of the word. But I answer, first, that
   a perpetual law is not abrogated by singular examples; and, secondly,
   that special suggestions have sometimes been made to a few individuals,
   whose case thus becomes different from that of the generality of men.
   For we should attend to the answer which our Saviour gave to his
   disciples when they inconsiderately wished to imitate the example of
   Elias, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of" (Luke 9:55). We
   must, however, go farther and say, that the wishes to which God assents
   are not always pleasing to him; but he assents, because it is
   necessary, by way of example, to give clear evidence of the doctrine of
   Scripture, viz., that he assists the miserable, and hears the groans of
   those who unjustly afflicted implore his aid: and, accordingly, he
   executes his judgments when the complaints of the needy, though in
   themselves unworthy of attention, ascend to him. For how often, in
   inflicting punishment on the ungodly for cruelty, rapine, violence,
   lust, and other crimes, in curbing audacity and fury, and also in
   overthrowing tyrannical power, has he declared that he gives assistance
   to those who are unworthily oppressed though they by addressing an
   unknown deity only beat the air? There is one psalm which clearly
   teaches that prayers are not without effect, though they do not
   penetrate to heaven by faith (Ps. 107:6, 13, 19). For it enumerates the
   prayers which, by natural instinct, necessity extorts from unbelievers
   not less than from believers, and to which it shows by the event, that
   God is, notwithstanding, propitious. Is it to testify by such readiness
   to hear that their prayers are agreeable to him? Nay; it is, first, to
   magnify or display his mercy by the circumstance, that even the wishes
   of unbelievers are not denied; and, secondly, to stimulate his true
   worshippers to more urgent prayer, when they see that sometimes even
   the wailings of the ungodly are not without avail. This, however, is no
   reason why believers should deviate from the law divinely imposed upon
   them, or envy unbelievers, as if they gained much in obtaining what
   they wished. We have observed (chap. iii. sec. 25), that in this way
   God yielded to the feigned repentance of Ahab, that he might show how
   ready he is to listen to his elect when, with true contrition, they
   seek his favour. Accordingly, he upbraids the Jews, that shortly after
   experiencing his readiness to listen to their prayers, they returned to
   their own perverse inclinations. It is also plain from the Book of
   Judges that, whenever they wept, though their tears were deceitful,
   they were delivered from the hands of their enemies. Therefore, as God
   sends his sun indiscriminately on the evil and on the good, so he
   despises not the tears of those who have a good cause, and whose
   sorrows are deserving of relief. Meanwhile, though he hears them, it
   has no more to do with salvation than the supply of food which he gives
   to other despisers of his goodness.

   There seems to be a more difficult question concerning Abraham and
   Samuel, the one of whom, without any instruction from the word of God,
   prayed in behalf of the people of Sodom, and the other, contrary to an
   express prohibition, prayed in behalf of Saul (Gen. 18:23; 1 Sam.
   15:11). Similar is the case of Jeremiah, who prayed that the city might
   not be destroyed (Jer. 32:16 ff). It is true their prayers were
   refused, but it seems harsh to affirm that they prayed without faith.
   Modest readers will, I hope, be satisfied with this solution, viz.,
   that leaning to the general principle on which God enjoins us to be
   merciful even to the unworthy, they were not altogether devoid of
   faith, though in this particular instance their wish was disappointed.
   Augustine shrewdly remarks, "How do the saints pray in faith when they
   ask from God contrary to what he has decreed? Namely, because they pray
   according to his will, not his hidden and immutable will, but that
   which he suggests to them, that he may hear them in another manner; as
   he wisely distinguishes" (August. de Civit. Dei, Lib. xxii. c. 2). This
   is truly said: for, in his incomprehensible counsel, he so regulates
   events, that the prayers of the saints, though involving a mixture of
   faith and error, are not in vain. And yet this no more sanctions
   imitation than it excuses the saints themselves, who I deny not
   exceeded due bounds. Wherefore, whenever no certain promise exists, our
   request to God must have a condition annexed to it. Here we may refer
   to the prayer of David, "Awake for me to the judgment that thou hast
   commanded" (Ps. 7:6); for he reminds us that he had received special
   instruction to pray for a temporal blessing. 

   It is also of importance to observe, that the four laws of prayer of
   which I have treated are not so rigorously enforced, as that God
   rejects the prayers in which he does not find perfect faith or
   repentance, accompanied with fervent zeal and wishes duly framed. We
   have said (sec. 4), that though prayer is the familiar intercourse of
   believers with God, yet reverence and modesty must be observed: we must
   not give loose reins to our wishes, nor long for anything farther than
   God permits; and, moreover, lest the majesty of God should be despised,
   our minds must be elevated to pure and chaste veneration. This no man
   ever performed with due perfection. For, not to speak of the generality
   of men, how often do David's complaints savour of intemperance? Not
   that he actually means to expostulate with God, or murmur at his
   judgments, but failing, through infirmity, he finds no better solace
   than to pour his griefs into the bosom of his heavenly Father. Nay,
   even our stammering is tolerated by God, and pardon is granted to our
   ignorance as often as anything rashly escapes us: indeed, without this
   indulgence, we should have no freedom to pray. But although it was
   David's intention to submit himself entirely to the will of God, and he
   prayed with no less patience than fervour, yet irregular emotions
   appear, nay, sometimes burst forth, -- emotions not a little at
   variance with the first law which we laid down. In particular, we may
   see in a clause of the thirty-ninth Psalm, how this saint was carried
   away by the vehemence of his grief, and unable to keep within bounds.
   "O spare me, [7] that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be
   no more" (Ps. 39:13). You would call this the language of a desperate
   man, who had no other desire than that God should withdraw and leave
   him to relish in his distresses. Not that his devout mind rushes into
   such intemperance, or that, as the reprobate are wont, he wishes to
   have done with God; he only complains that the divine anger is more
   than he can bear. During those trials, wishes often escape which are
   not in accordance with the rule of the word, and in which the saints do
   not duly consider what is lawful and expedient. Prayers contaminated by
   such faults, indeed, deserve to be rejected; yet provided the saints
   lament, administer self-correction and return to themselves, God

   Similar faults are committed in regard to the second law (as to which,
   see sec. 6), for the saints have often to struggle with their own
   coldness, their want and misery not urging them sufficiently to serious
   prayer. It often happens, also, that their minds wander, and are almost
   lost; hence in this matter also there is need of pardon, lest their
   prayers, from being languid or mutilated, or interrupted and wandering,
   should meet with a refusal. One of the natural feelings which God has
   imprinted on our mind is, that prayer is not genuine unless the
   thoughts are turned upward. Hence the ceremony of raising the hands, to
   which we have adverted, a ceremony known to all ages and nations, and
   still in common use. But who, in lifting up his hands, is not conscious
   of sluggishness, the heart cleaving to the earth? In regard to the
   petition for remission of sins (sec. 8), though no believer omits it,
   yet all who are truly exercised in prayer feel that they bring scarcely
   a tenth of the sacrifice of which David speaks, "The sacrifices of God
   are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt
   not despise" (Ps. 51:17). Thus a twofold pardon is always to be asked;
   first, because they are conscious of many faults the sense of which,
   however, does not touch them so as to make them feel dissatisfied with
   themselves as they ought; and, secondly, in so far as they have been
   enabled to profit in repentance and the fear of God, they are humbled
   with just sorrow for their offenses, and pray for the remission of
   punishment by the judge. The thing which most of all vitiates prayer,
   did not God indulgently interpose, is weakness or imperfection of
   faith; but it is not wonderful that this defect is pardoned by God, who
   often exercises his people with severe trials, as if he actually wished
   to extinguish their faith. The hardest of such trials is when believers
   are forced to exclaim, "O Lord God of hosts, how long wilt thou be
   angry against the prayer of thy people?" (Ps. 80:4), as if their very
   prayers offended him. In like manner, when Jeremiah says "Also when I
   cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayers (Lam. 3:8), there cannot be a
   doubt that he was in the greatest perturbation. Innumerable examples of
   the same kind occur in the Scriptures, from which it is manifest that
   the faith of the saints was often mingled with doubts and fears, so
   that while believing and hoping, they, however, betrayed some degree of
   unbelief. But because they do not come so far as were to be wished,
   that is only an additional reason for their exerting themselves to
   correct their faults, that they may daily approach nearer to the
   perfect law of prayer, and at the same time feel into what an abyss of
   evils those are plunged, who, in the very cures they use, bring new
   diseases upon themselves: since there is no prayer which God would not
   deservedly disdain, did he not overlook the blemishes with which all of
   them are polluted. I do not mention these things that believers may
   securely pardon themselves in any faults which they commit, but that
   they may call themselves to strict account, and thereby endeavour to
   surmount these obstacles; and though Satan endeavours to block up all
   the paths in order to prevent them from praying, they may,
   nevertheless, break through, being firmly persuaded that though not
   disencumbered of all hinderances, their attempts are pleasing to God,
   and their wishes are approved, provided they hasten on and keep their
   aim, though without immediately reaching it.

   But since no man is worthy to come forward in his own name, and appear
   in the presence of God, our heavenly Father, to relieve us at once from
   fear and shame, with which all must feel oppressed, [8] has given us
   his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to be our Advocate and Mediator, that
   under his guidance we may approach securely, confiding that with him
   for our Intercessor nothing which we ask in his name will be denied to
   us, as there is nothing which the Father can deny to him (1 Tim. 2:5; 1
   John 2:1; see sec. 36, 37). To this it is necessary to refer all that
   we have previously taught concerning faith; because, as the promise
   gives us Christ as our Mediator, so, unless our hope of obtaining what
   we ask is founded on him, it deprives us of the privilege of prayer.
   For it is impossible to think of the dread majesty of God without being
   filled with alarm; and hence the sense of our own unworthiness must
   keep us far away, until Christ interpose, and convert a throne of
   dreadful glory into a throne of grace, as the Apostle teaches that thus
   we can "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy,
   and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). And as a rule has
   been laid down as to prayer, as a promise has been given that those who
   pray will be heard, so we are specially enjoined to pray in the name of
   Christ, the promise being that we shall obtain what we ask in his name.
   "Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name," says our Saviour, "that will I
   do; that the Father may be glorified in the Son;" " Hitherto ye have
   asked nothing in my name; ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may
   be full" (John 14:13; 16:24). Hence it is incontrovertibly clear that
   those who pray to God in any other name than that of Christ
   contumaciously falsify his orders, and regard his will as nothing,
   while they have no promise that they shall obtain. For, as Paul says
   "All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen;" (2 Cor.
   1:20), that is, are confirmed and fulfilled in him.

   And we must carefully attend to the circumstance of time. Christ
   enjoins his disciples to have recourse to his intercession after he
   shall have ascended to heaven: "At that day ye shall ask in my name"
   (John 16:26). It is certain, indeed, that from the very first all who
   ever prayed were heard only for the sake of the Mediator. For this
   reason God had commanded in the Law, that the priest alone should enter
   the sanctuary, bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on his
   shoulders, and as many precious stones on his breast, while the people
   were to stand at a distance in the outer court, and thereafter unite
   their prayers with the priest. Nay, the sacrifice had even the effect
   of ratifying and confirming their prayers. That shadowy ceremony of the
   Law therefore taught, first, that we are all excluded from the face of
   God, and, therefore, that there is need of a Mediator to appear in our
   name, and carry us on his shoulders and keep us bound upon his breast,
   that we may be heard in his person; And secondly, that our prayers,
   which, as has been said, would otherwise never be free from impurity,
   are cleansed by the sprinkling of his blood. And we see that the
   saints, when they desired to obtain anything, founded their hopes on
   sacrifices, because they knew that by sacrifice all prayers were
   ratified: " Remember all thy offerings," says David, "and accept thy
   burnt sacrifice" (Ps. 20:3). Hence we infer, that in receiving the
   prayers of his people, God was from the very first appeased by the
   intercession of Christ. Why then does Christ speak of a new period ("at
   that day") when the disciples were to begin to pray in his name, unless
   it be that this grace, being now more brightly displayed, ought also to
   be in higher estimation with us? In this sense he had said a little
   before, "Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name; ask." Not that they
   were altogether ignorant of the office of Mediator (all the Jews were
   instructed in these first rudiments), but they did not clearly
   understand that Christ by his ascent to heaven would be more the
   advocate of the Church than before. Therefore, to solace their grief
   for his absence by some more than ordinary result, he asserts his
   office of advocate, and says, that hitherto they had been without the
   special benefit which it would be their privilege to enjoy, when aided
   by his intercession they should invoke God with greater freedom. In
   this sense the Apostle says that we have "boldness to enter into the
   holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath
   consecrated for us" (Heb. 10:19, 20). Therefore, the more inexcusable
   we are, if we do not with both hands (as it is said) embrace the
   inestimable gift which is properly destined for us.

   Moreover since he himself is the only way and the only access by which
   we can draw near to God, those who deviate from this way, and decline
   this access, have no other remaining; his throne presents nothing but
   wrath, judgment, and terror. In short, as the Father has consecrated
   him our guide and head, those who abandon or turn aside from him in any
   way endeavour, as much as in them lies, to sully and efface the stamp
   which God has impressed. Christ, therefore, is the only Mediator by
   whose intercession the Father is rendered propitious and exorable (1
   Tim. 2:5). For though the saints are still permitted to use
   intercessions, by which they mutually beseech God in behalf of each
   other's salvation, and of which the Apostle makes mention (Eph. 6:18,
   19; 1 Tim. 2:1); yet these depend on that one intercession, so far are
   they from derogating from it. For as the intercessions which, as
   members of one body we offer up for each other, spring from the feeling
   of love, so they have reference to this one head. Being thus also made
   in the name of Christ, what more do they than declare that no man can
   derive the least benefit from any prayers without the intercession of
   Christ? As there is nothing in the intercession of Christ to prevent
   the different members of the Church from offering up prayers for each
   other, so let it be held as a fixed principle, that all the
   intercessions thus used in the Church must have reference to that one
   intercession. Nay, we must be specially careful to show our gratitude
   on this very account, that God pardoning our unworthiness, not only
   allows each individual to pray for himself, but allows all to intercede
   mutually for each other. God having given a place in his Church to
   intercessors who would deserve to be rejected when praying privately on
   their own account, how presumptuous were it to abuse this kindness by
   employing it to obscure the honour of Christ?

   Moreover, the Sophists are guilty of the merest trifling when they
   allege that Christ is the Mediator of redemption, but that believers
   are mediators of intercession; as if Christ had only performed a
   temporary mediation, and left an eternal and imperishable mediation to
   his servants. Such, forsooth, is the treatment which he receives from
   those who pretend only to take from him a minute portion of honour.
   Very different is the language of Scripture, with whose simplicity
   every pious man will be satisfied, without paying any regard to those
   importers. For when John says, "If any man sin, we have an advocate
   with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1), does he mean
   merely that we once had an advocate; does he not rather ascribe to him
   a perpetual intercession? What does Paul mean when he declares that he
   "is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for
   us"? (Rom. 8:32). But when in another passage he declares that he is
   the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), is he not referring
   to the supplications which he had mentioned a little before? Having
   previously said that prayers were to be offered up for all men, he
   immediately adds, in confirmation of that statement, that there is one
   God, and one Mediator between God and man. Nor does Augustine give a
   different interpretation when he says, "Christian men mutually
   recommend each other in their prayers. But he for whom none intercedes,
   while he himself intercedes for all, is the only true Mediator. Though
   the Apostle Paul was under the head a principal member, yet because he
   was a member of the body of Christ, and knew that the most true and
   High Priest of the Church had entered not by figure into the inner veil
   to the holy of holies, but by firm and express truth into the inner
   sanctuary of heaven to holiness, holiness not imaginary, but eternal
   (Heb. 9:11, 24), he also commends himself to the prayers of the
   faithful (Rom. 15:30; Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3). He does not make himself a
   mediator between God and the people, but asks that all the members of
   the body of Christ should pray mutually for each other, since the
   members are mutually sympathetic: if one member suffers, the others
   suffer with it (1 Cor. 12:26). And thus the mutual prayers of all the
   members still labouring on the earth ascend to the Head, who has gone
   before into heaven, and in whom there is propitiation for our sins. For
   if Paul were a mediator, so would also the other apostles, and thus
   there would be many mediators, and Paul's statement could not stand,
   'There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ
   Jesus;' (1 Tim. 2:5) in whom we also are one (Rom. 12:5) if we keep the
   unity of the faith in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3)," (August. Contra
   Parmenian, Lib. ii. cap. 8). Likewise in another passage Augustine
   says, "If thou requirest a priest, he is above the heavens, where he
   intercedes for those who on earth died for thee" (August. in Ps. 94).
   We imagine not that he throws himself before his Father's knees, and
   suppliantly intercedes for us; but we understand with the Apostle, that
   he appears in the presence of God, and that the power of his death has
   the effect of a perpetual intercession for us; that having entered into
   the upper sanctuary, he alone continues to the end of the world to
   present the prayers of his people, who are standing far off in the
   outer court.

   In regard to the saints who having died in the body live in Christ, if
   we attribute prayer to them, let us not imagine that they have any
   other way of supplicating God than through Christ who alone is the way,
   or that their prayers are accepted by God in any other name. Wherefore,
   since the Scripture calls us away from all others to Christ alone,
   since our heavenly Father is pleased to gather together all things in
   him, it were the extreme of stupidity, not to say madness, to attempt
   to obtain access by means of others, so as to be drawn away from him
   without whom access cannot be obtained. But who can deny that this was
   the practice for several ages, and is still the practice, wherever
   Popery prevails? To procure the favour of God, human merits are ever
   and anon obtruded, and very frequently while Christ is passed by, God
   is supplicated in their name. I ask if this is not to transfer to them
   that office of sole intercession which we have above claimed for
   Christ? Then what angel or devil ever announced one syllable to any
   human being concerning that fancied intercession of theirs? There is
   not a word on the subject in Scripture. What ground then was there for
   the fiction? Certainly, while the human mind thus seeks help for itself
   in which it is not sanctioned by the word of God, it plainly manifests
   its distrust (see s. 27). But if we appeal to the consciences of all
   who take pleasure in the intercession of saints, we shall find that
   their only reason for it is, that they are filled with anxiety, as if
   they supposed that Christ were insufficient or too rigorous. By this
   anxiety they dishonour Christ, and rob him of his title of sole
   Mediator, a title which being given him by the Father as his special
   privilege, ought not to be transferred to any other. By so doing they
   obscure the glory of his nativity and make void his cross; in short,
   divest and defraud of due praise everything which he did or suffered,
   since all which he did and suffered goes to show that he is and ought
   to be deemed sole Mediator. At the same time, they reject the kindness
   of God in manifesting himself to them as a Father, for he is not their
   Father if they do not recognize Christ as their brother. This they
   plainly refuse to do if they think not that he feels for them a
   brother's affection; affection than which none can be more gentle or
   tender. Wherefore Scripture offers him alone, sends us to him, and
   establishes us in him. "He," says Ambrose, "is our mouth by which we
   speak to the Father; our eye by which we see the Father; our right hand
   by which we offer ourselves to the Father. Save by his intercession
   neither we nor any saints have any intercourse with God" (Ambros. Lib.
   de Isaac et Anima). If they object that the public prayers which are
   offered up in churches conclude with the words, through Jesus Christ
   our Lord, it is a frivolous evasion; because no less insult is offered
   to the intercession of Christ by confounding it with the prayers and
   merits of the dead, than by omitting it altogether, and making mention
   only of the dead. Then, in all their litanies, hymns, and proses where
   every kind of honour is paid to dead saints, there is no mention of

   But here stupidity has proceeded to such a length as to give a
   manifestation of the genius of superstition, which, when once it has
   shaken off the rein, is wont to wanton without limit. After men began
   to look to the intercession of saints, a peculiar administration was
   gradually assigned to each, so that, according to diversity of
   business, now one, now another, intercessor was invoked. Then
   individuals adopted particular saints, and put their faith in them,
   just as if they had been tutelar deities. And thus not only were gods
   set up according to the number of the cities (the charge which the
   prophet brought against Israel of old, Jer. 2:28; 11:13), but according
   to the number of individuals. But while the saints in all their desires
   refer to the will of God alone, look to it, and acquiesce in it, yet to
   assign to them any other prayer than that of longing for the arrival of
   the kingdom of God, is to think of them stupidly, carnally, and even
   insultingly. Nothing can be farther from such a view than to imagine
   that each, under the influence of private feeling, is disposed to be
   most favourable to his own worshippers. At length vast numbers have
   fallen into the horrid blasphemy of invoking them not merely as helping
   but presiding over their salvation. See the depth to which miserable
   men fall when they forsake their proper station, that is, the word of
   God. I say nothing of the more monstrous specimens of impiety in which,
   though detestable to God, angels, and men, they themselves feel no pain
   or shame. Prostrated at a statue or picture of Barbara or Catherine,
   and the like, they mutter a Pater Noster; [9] and so far are their
   pastors [10] from curing or curbing this frantic course, that, allured
   by the scent of gain, they approve and applaud it. But while seeking to
   relieve themselves of the odium of this vile and criminal procedure,
   with what pretext can they defend the practice of calling upon Eloy
   (Eligius) or Medard to look upon their servants, and send them help
   from heaven, or the Holy Virgin to order her Son to do what they ask?
   [11] The Council of Carthage forbade direct prayer to be made at the
   altar to saints. It is probable that these holy men, unable entirely to
   suppress the force of depraved custom, had recourse to this check, that
   public prayers might not be vitiated with such forms of expression as
   Sancte Petre, ora pro nobis -- St Peter, pray for us. But how much
   farther has this devilish extravagance proceeded when men hesitate not
   to transfer to the dead the peculiar attributes of Christ and God?
   9 Erasmus, though stumbling and walking blindfold in clear light,
   ventures to write thus in a letter to Sadolet, 1530: "Primum, constat
   nullum esse locum in divinis voluminibus, qui permittat invocare divos
   nisi fortasse detorquere huc placet, quod dives in Evangelica parabola
   implorat opem Abrahae. Quanquam autem in re tanta novare quicquam
   praeter auctoritatem Scripturae, merito periculosum videri possit,
   tamen invocationem divorum nusquam improbo," &c.--First, it is clear
   that there is no passage in the Sacred Volume which permits the
   invocation of saints, unless we are pleased to wrest to this purpose
   what is said in the parable as to the rich man imploring the help of
   Abraham. But though in so weighty a matter it may justly seem dangerous
   to introduce anything without the authority of Scripture, I by no means
   condemn the invocation of saints, &c.

   10 Latin, "Pastores;"--French, "ceux qui se disent prelats, curés, ou
   precheurs;"--those who call themselves prelates, curates, or preachers.

   11 French, "Mais encore qu'ils taschent de laver leur mains d'un si
   vilain sacrilege, d'autant qu'il ne se commet point en leurs messes ni
   en leurs vespres; sous quelle couleur defendront ils ces blasphemes
   qu'il lisent a pleine gorge, où ils prient St Eloy ou St Medard, de
   regarder du ciel leurs serviteurs pour les aider? mesmes ou ils
   supplient la vierge Marie de commander a son fils qu'il leur ottroye
   leur requestes?"--But although they endeavour to wash their hands of
   the vile sacrilege, inasmuch as it is not committed in their masses or
   vespers, under what pretext will they defend those blasphemies which
   they repeat with full throat, in which they pray St Eloy or St Medard
   to look from heaven upon their servants and assist them; even
   supplicate the Virgin Mary to command her Son to grant their requests?

   In endeavouring to prove that such intercession derives some support
   from Scripture they labour in vain. We frequently read (they say) of
   the prayers of angels, and not only so, but the prayers of believers
   are said to be carried into the presence of God by their hands. But if
   they would compare saints who have departed this life with angels, it
   will be necessary to prove that saints are ministering spirits, to whom
   has been delegated the office of superintending our salvation, to whom
   has been assigned the province of guiding us in all our ways, of
   encompassing, admonishing, and comforting us, of keeping watch over us.
   All these are assigned to angels, but none of them to saints. How
   preposterously they confound departed saints with angels is
   sufficiently apparent from the many different offices by which
   Scripture distinguishes the one from the other. No one unless admitted
   will presume to perform the office of pleader before an earthly judge;
   whence then have worms such license as to obtrude themselves on God as
   intercessors, while no such office has been assigned them? God has been
   pleased to give angels the charge of our safety. Hence they attend our
   sacred meetings, and the Church is to them a theatre in which they
   behold the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). Those who transfer to
   others this office which is peculiar to them, certainly pervert and
   confound the order which has been established by God and ought to be
   inviolable. With similar dexterity they proceed to quote other
   passages. God said to Jeremiah, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before
   me, yet my mind could not be toward this people" (Jer. 15:1). How (they
   ask) could he have spoken thus of the dead but because he knew that
   they interceded for the living? My inference, on the contrary, is this:
   since it thus appears that neither Moses nor Samuel interceded for the
   people of Israel, there was then no intercession for the dead. For who
   of the saints can be supposed to labour for the salvation of the
   peoples while Moses who, when in life, far surpassed all others in this
   matter, does nothing? Therefore, if they persist in the paltry quibble,
   that the dead intercede for the living, because the Lord said, "If they
   stood before me," (intercesserint), I will argue far more speciously in
   this way: Moses, of whom it is said, "if he interceded," did not
   intercede for the people in their extreme necessity: it is probable,
   therefore, that no other saint intercedes, all being far behind Moses
   in humanity, goodness, and paternal solicitude. Thus all they gain by
   their cavilling is to be wounded by the very arms with which they deem
   themselves admirably protected. But it is very ridiculous to wrest this
   simple sentence in this manner; for the Lord only declares that he
   would not spare the iniquities of the people, though some Moses or
   Samuel, to whose prayers he had shown himself so indulgent, should
   intercede for them. This meaning is most clearly elicited from a
   similar passage in Ezekiel: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and
   Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their
   righteousness, saith the Lord God" (Ezek. 14:14). Here there can be no
   doubt that we are to understand the words as if it had been said, If
   two of the persons named were again to come alive; for the third was
   still living, namely, Daniel, who it is well known had then in the
   bloom of youth given an incomparable display of piety. Let us therefore
   leave out those whom Scripture declares to have completed their course.
   Accordingly, when Paul speaks of David, he says not that by his prayers
   he assisted posterity, but only that he "served his own generation"
   (Acts 13:36).

   They again object, Are those, then, to be deprived of every pious wish,
   who, during the whole course of their lives, breathed nothing but piety
   and mercy? I have no wish curiously to pry into what they do or
   meditate; but the probability is, that instead of being subject to the
   impulse of various and particular desires, they, with one fixed and
   immoveable will, long for the kingdom of God, which consists not less
   in the destruction of the ungodly than in the salvation of believers.
   If this be so, there cannot be a doubt that their charity is confined
   to the communion of Christ's body, and extends no farther than is
   compatible with the nature of that communion. But though I grant that
   in this way they pray for us, they do not, however, lose their
   quiescence so as to be distracted with earthly cares: far less are
   they, therefore, to be invoked by us. Nor does it follow that such
   invocation is to be used because, while men are alive upon the earth,
   they can mutually commend themselves to each other's prayers. It serves
   to keep alive a feeling of charity when they, as it were, share each
   other's wants, and bear each other's burdens. This they do by the
   command of the Lord, and not without a promise, the two things of
   primary importance in prayer. But all such reasons are inapplicable to
   the dead, with whom the Lord, in withdrawing them from our society, has
   left us no means of intercourse (Eccles. 9:5, 6), and to whom, so far
   as we can conjecture, he has left no means of intercourse with us. But
   if any one allege that they certainly must retain the same charity for
   us, as they are united with us in one faith, who has revealed to us
   that they have ears capable of listening to the sounds of our voice, or
   eyes clear enough to discern our necessities? Our opponents, indeed,
   talk in the shade of their schools of some kind of light which beams
   upon departed saints from the divine countenance, and in which, as in a
   mirror, they, from their lofty abode, behold the affairs of men; but to
   affirm this with the confidence which these men presume to use, is just
   to desire, by means of the extravagant dreams of our own brain, and
   without any authority, to pry and penetrate into the hidden judgments
   of God, and trample upon Scripture, which so often declares that the
   wisdom of our flesh is at enmity with the wisdom of God, utterly
   condemns the vanity of our mind, and humbling our reason, bids us look
   only to the will of God.

   The other passages of Scripture which they employ to defend their error
   are miserably wrested. Jacob (they say) asks for the sons of Joseph,
   "Let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers, Abraham and
   Isaac" (Gen. 48:16). First, let us see what the nature of this
   invocation was among the Israelites. They do not implore their fathers
   to bring succour to them, but they beseech God to remember his
   servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their example, therefore, gives no
   countenance to those who use addresses to the saints themselves. But
   such being the dulness of these blocks, that they comprehend not what
   it is to invoke the name of Jacob, nor why it is to be invoked, it is
   not strange that they blunder thus childishly as to the mode of doing
   it. The expression repeatedly occurs in Scripture. Isaiah speaks of
   women being called by the name of men, when they have them for husbands
   and live under their protection (Isa. 4:1). The calling of the name of
   Abraham over the Israelites consists in referring the origin of their
   race to him, and holding him in distinguished remembrance as their
   author and parent. Jacob does not do so from any anxiety to extend the
   celebrity of his name, but because he knows that all the happiness of
   his posterity consisted in the inheritance of the covenant which God
   had made with them. Seeing that this would give them the sum of all
   blessings, he prays that they may be regarded as of his race, this
   being nothing else than to transmit the succession of the covenant to
   them. They again, when they make mention of this subject in their
   prayers, do not betake themselves to the intercession of the dead, but
   call to remembrance that covenant in which their most merciful Father
   undertakes to be kind and propitious to them for the sake of Abraham,
   Isaac, and Jacob. How little, in other respects, the saints trusted to
   the merits of their fathers, the public voice of the Church declares in
   the prophets "Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant
   of us, and Israel acknowledge us not; thou, O Lord, art our Father, our
   Redeemer" (Isa. 63:16). And while the Church thus speaks, she at the
   same time adds, " Return for thy servants' sake," not thinking of
   anything like intercession, but adverting only to the benefit of the
   covenant. Now, indeed, when we have the Lord Jesus, in whose hand the
   eternal covenant of mercy was not only made but confirmed, what better
   name can we bear before us in our prayers? And since those good Doctors
   would make out by these words that the Patriarchs are intercessors, I
   should like them to tell me why, in so great a multitude, [12] no place
   whatever is given to Abraham, the father of the Church? We know well
   from what a crew they select their intercessors. [13] Let them then
   tell me what consistency there is in neglecting and rejecting Abraham,
   whom God preferred to all others, and raised to the highest degree of
   honour. The only reason is, that as it was plain there was no such
   practice in the ancient Church, they thought proper to conceal the
   novelty of the practice by saying nothing of the Patriarchs: as if by a
   mere diversity of names they could excuse a practice at once novel and
   impure. They sometimes, also, object that God is entreated to have
   mercy on his people "for David's sake" (Ps. 132:10; see Calv. Com.).
   This is so far from supporting their error, that it is the strongest
   refutation of it. We must consider the character which David bore. He
   is set apart from the whole body of the faithful to establish the
   covenant which God made in his hand. Thus regard is had to the covenant
   rather than to the individual. Under him as a type the sole
   intercession of Christ is asserted. But what was peculiar to David as a
   type of Christ is certainly inapplicable to others.
   12 The French adds, "et quasi en une fourmiliere de saincts;"--and as
   it were a swarm of saints.

   13 French, "C'est chose trop notoire de quel bourbieu ou de quelle
   racaille ils tirent leur saincts."--It is too notorious out of what
   mire or rubbish they draw their saints.

   But some seem to be moved by the fact, that the prayers of saints are
   often said to have been heard. Why? Because they prayed. "They cried
   unto thee" (says the Psalmist), "and were delivered: they trusted in
   thee, and were not confounded" (Ps. 22:5). Let us also pray after their
   example, that like them we too may be heard. Those men, on the
   contrary, absurdly argue that none will be heard but those who have
   been heard already. How much better does James argue, "Elias was a man
   subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it
   might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three
   years and six months. And he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and
   the earth brought forth her fruit" (James 5:17, 18). What? Does he
   infer that Elias possessed some peculiar privilege, and that we must
   have recourse to him for the use of it? By no means. He shows the
   perpetual efficacy of a pure and pious prayer, that we may be induced
   in like manner to pray. For the kindness and readiness of God to hear
   others is malignantly interpreted, if their example does not inspire us
   with stronger confidence in his promise, since his declaration is not
   that he will incline his ear to one or two, or a few individuals, but
   to all who call upon his name. In this ignorance they are the less
   excusable, because they seem as it were avowedly to contemn the many
   admonitions of Scripture. David was repeatedly delivered by the power
   of God. Was this to give that power to him that we might be delivered
   on his application? Very different is his affirmation: "The righteous
   shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me" (Ps.
   142:7). Again, "The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh
   at him" (Ps. 52:6). "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and
   saved him out of all his troubles" (Ps. 34:6). In The Psalms are many
   similar prayers, in which David calls upon God to give him what he
   asks, for this reason, viz., that the righteous may not be put to
   shame, but by his example encouraged to hope. Here let one passage
   suffice, "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a
   time when thou mayest be found" (Ps. 32:6, Calv. Com.). This passage I
   have quoted the more readily, because those ravers who employ their
   hireling tongues in defense of the Papacy, are not ashamed to adduce it
   in proof of the intercession of the dead. As if David intended anything
   more than to show the benefit which he shall obtain from the divine
   clemency and condescension when he shall have been heard. In general,
   we must hold that the experience of the grace of God, as well towards
   ourselves as towards others, tends in no slight degree to confirm our
   faith in his promises. I do not quote the many passages in which David
   sets forth the loving-kindness of God to him as a ground of confidence,
   as they will readily occur to every reader of The Psalms. Jacob had
   previously taught the same thing by his own example, "I am not worthy
   of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast
   showed unto thy servant: for with my staff I passed over this Jordan;
   and now I am become two bands" (Gen. 32:10). He indeed alleges the
   promise, but not the promise only; for he at the same time adds the
   effect, to animate him with greater confidence in the future kindness
   of God. God is not like men who grow weary of their liberality, or
   whose means of exercising it become exhausted; but he is to be
   estimated by his own nature, as David properly does when he says, "Thou
   hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth" (Ps. 31:5). After ascribing the
   praise of his salvation to God, he adds that he is true: for were he
   not ever like himself, his past favour would not be an infallible
   ground for confidence and prayer. But when we know that as often as he
   assists us, he gives us a specimen and proof of his goodness and
   faithfulness, there is no reason to fear that our hope will be ashamed
   or frustrated.

   On the whole, since Scripture places the principal part of worship in
   the invocation of God (this being the office of piety which he requires
   of us in preference to all sacrifices), it is manifest sacrilege to
   offer prayer to others. Hence it is said in the psalm: "If we have
   forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange
   god, shall not God search this out?" (Ps. 44:20, 21). Again, since it
   is only in faith that God desires to be invoked, and he distinctly
   enjoins us to frame our prayers according to the rule of his word: in
   fine, since faith is founded on the word, and is the parent of right
   prayer, the moment we decline from the word, our prayers are impure.
   But we have already shown, that if we consult the whole volume of
   Scripture, we shall find that God claims this honour to himself alone.
   In regard to the office of intercession, we have also seen that it is
   peculiar to Christ, and that no prayer is agreeable to God which he as
   Mediator does not sanctify. And though believers mutually offer up
   prayers to God in behalf of their brethren, we have shown that this
   derogates in no respect from the sole intercession of Christ, because
   all trust to that intercession in commending themselves as well as
   others to God. Moreover, we have shown that this is ignorantly
   transferred to the dead, of whom we nowhere read that they were
   commanded to pray for us. The Scripture often exhorts us to offer up
   mutual prayers; but says not one syllable concerning the dead; nay,
   James tacitly excludes the dead when he combines the two things, to
   "confess our sins one to another, and to pray one for another" (James
   5:16). Hence it is sufficient to condemn this error, that the beginning
   of right prayer springs from faith, and that faith comes by the hearing
   of the word of God, in which there is no mention of fictitious
   intercession, superstition having rashly adopted intercessors who have
   not been divinely appointed. While the Scripture abounds in various
   forms of prayer, we find no example of this intercession, without which
   Papists think there is no prayer. Moreover, it is evident that this
   superstition is the result of distrust, because they are either not
   contented with Christ as an intercessor, or have altogether robbed him
   of this honour. This last is easily proved by their effrontery in
   maintaining, as the strongest of all their arguments for the
   intercession of the saints, that we are unworthy of familiar access to
   God. This, indeed, we acknowledge to be most true, but we thence infer
   that they leave nothing to Christ, because they consider his
   intercession as nothing, unless it is supplemented by that of George
   and Hypolyte, and similar phantoms.

   But though prayer is properly confined to vows and supplications, yet
   so strong is the affinity between petition and thanksgiving, that both
   may be conveniently comprehended under one name. For the forms which
   Paul enumerates (1 Tim. 2:1) fall under the first member of this
   division. By prayer and supplication we pour out our desires before
   God, asking as well those things which tend to promote his glory and
   display his name, as the benefits which contribute to our advantage. By
   thanksgiving we duly celebrate his kindnesses toward us, ascribing to
   his liberality every blessing which enters into our lot. David
   accordingly includes both in one sentence, "Call upon me in the day of
   trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me" (Ps. 50:15).
   Scripture, not without reason, commands us to use both continually. We
   have already described the greatness of our want, while experience
   itself proclaims the straits which press us on every side to be so
   numerous and so great, that all have sufficient ground to send forth
   sighs and groans to God without intermission, and suppliantly implore
   him. For even should they be exempt from adversity, still the holiest
   ought to be stimulated first by their sins, and, secondly, by the
   innumerable assaults of temptation, to long for a remedy. The sacrifice
   of praise and thanksgiving can never be interrupted without guilt,
   since God never ceases to load us with favour upon favour, so as to
   force us to gratitude, however slow and sluggish we may be. In short,
   so great and widely diffused are the riches of his liberality towards
   us, so marvellous and wondrous the miracles which we behold on every
   side, that we never can want a subject and materials for praise and

   To make this somewhat clearer: since all our hopes and resources are
   placed in God (this has already been fully proved), so that neither our
   persons nor our interests can prosper without his blessing, we must
   constantly submit ourselves and our all to him. Then whatever we
   deliberate, speak, or do, should be deliberated, spoken, and done under
   his hand and will; in fine, under the hope of his assistance. God has
   pronounced a curse upon all who, confiding in themselves or others,
   form plans and resolutions, who, without regarding his will, or
   invoking his aid, either plan or attempt to execute (James 4:14; Isaiah
   30:1; Isaiah 31:1). And since, as has already been observed, he
   receives the honour which is due when he is acknowledged to be the
   author of all good, it follows that, in deriving all good from his
   hand, we ought continually to express our thankfulness, and that we
   have no right to use the benefits which proceed from his liberality, if
   we do not assiduously proclaim his praise, and give him thanks, these
   being the ends for which they are given. When Paul declares that every
   creature of God "is sanctified by the word of God and prayers" (1 Tim.
   4:5), he intimates that without the word and prayers none of them are
   holy and pure, word being used metonymically for faith. Hence David, on
   experiencing the loving-kindness of the Lord, elegantly declares, "He
   hath put a new song in my mouth" (Ps. 40:3); intimating, that our
   silence is malignant when we leave his blessings unpraised, seeing
   every blessing he bestows is a new ground of thanksgiving. Thus Isaiah,
   proclaiming the singular mercies of God, says, "Sing unto the Lord a
   new song" (Is. 42:10). In the same sense David says in another passage,
   "O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall show forth thy praise"
   (Ps. 41:15). In like manner, Hezekiah and Jonah declare that they will
   regard it as the end of their deliverance "to celebrate the goodness of
   God with songs in his temple" (Is. 38:20; Jonah 2:10). David lays down
   a general rule for all believers in these words, "What shall I render
   unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of
   salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord" (Ps. 116:12, 13). This
   rule the Church follows in another psalm, "Save us, O Lord our God, and
   gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name,
   and to triumph in thy praise" (Ps. 106:47). Again, " He will regard the
   prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer. This shall be
   written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be
   created shall praise the Lord." "To declare the name of the Lord in
   Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem" (Ps. 102:18, 21). Nay, whenever
   believers beseech the Lord to do anything for his own name's sake, as
   they declare themselves unworthy of obtaining it in their own name, so
   they oblige themselves to give thanks, and promise to make the right
   use of his lovingkindness by being the heralds of it. Thus Hosea,
   speaking of the future redemption of the Church, says, "Take away all
   iniquity, and receive us graciously; so will we render the calves of
   our lips" (Hos. 14:2). Not only do our tongues proclaim the kindness of
   God, but they naturally inspire us with love to him. "I love the Lord,
   because he hath heard my voice and my supplications" (Ps. 116:1). In
   another passage, speaking of the help which he had experienced, he
   says, "I will love thee, O Lord, my strength" (Ps. 18:1). No praise
   will ever please God that does not flow from this feeling of love. Nay,
   we must attend to the declaration of Paul, that all wishes are vicious
   and perverse which are not accompanied with thanksgiving. His words
   are, "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let
   your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). Because many, under
   the influence of moroseness, weariness, impatience, bitter grief and
   fear, use murmuring in their prayers, he enjoins us so to regulate our
   feelings as cheerfully to bless God even before obtaining what we ask.
   But if this connection ought always to subsist in full vigour between
   things that are almost contrary, the more sacred is the tie which binds
   us to celebrate the praises of God whenever he grants our requests. And
   as we have already shown that our prayers, which otherwise would be
   polluted, are sanctified by the intercession of Christ, so the Apostle,
   by enjoining us "to offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually"
   by Christ (Heb. 13:15), reminds us, that without the intervention of
   his priesthood our lips are not pure enough to celebrate the name of
   God. Hence we infer that a monstrous delusion prevails among Papists,
   the great majority of whom wonder when Christ is called an intercessor.
   The reason why Paul enjoins, "Pray without ceasing; in everything give
   thanks" (1 Thess. 5:17, 18), is, because he would have us with the
   utmost assiduity, at all times, in every place, in all things, and
   under all circumstances, direct our prayers to God, to expect all the
   things which we desire from him, and when obtained ascribe them to him;
   thus furnishing perpetual grounds for prayer and praise.

   This assiduity in prayer, though it specially refers to the peculiar
   private prayers of individuals, extends also in some measure to the
   public prayers of the Church. These, it may be said, cannot be
   continual, and ought not to be made, except in the manner which, for
   the sake of order, has been established by public consent. This I
   admit, and hence certain hours are fixed beforehand, hours which,
   though indifferent in regard to God, are necessary for the use of man,
   that the general convenience may be consulted, and all things be done
   in the Church, as Paul enjoins, "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40).
   But there is nothing in this to prevent each church from being now and
   then stirred up to a more frequent use of prayer and being more
   zealously affected under the impulse of some greater necessity. Of
   perseverance in prayer, which is much akin to assiduity, we shall speak
   towards the close of the chapter (sec. 51, 52). This assiduity,
   moreover, is very different from the BATTOLOGIAN (Greek -- English
   "yammering"), vain speaking, which our Saviour has prohibited (Matth.
   6:7). For he does not there forbid us to pray long or frequently, or
   with great fervour, but warns us against supposing that we can extort
   anything from God by importuning him with garrulous loquacity, as if he
   were to be persuaded after the manner of men. We know that hypocrites,
   because they consider not that they have to do with God, offer up their
   prayers as pompously as if it were part of a triumphal show. The
   Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men, no doubt
   proclaimed his praises before men, as if he had wished to gain a
   reputation for sanctity by his prayers. Hence that vain speaking, which
   for a similar reason prevails so much in the Papacy in the present day,
   some vainly spinning out the time by a reiteration of the same
   frivolous prayers, and others employing a long series of verbiage for
   vulgar display. [14] This childish garrulity being a mockery of God, it
   is not strange that it is prohibited in the Church, in order that every
   feeling there expressed may be sincere, proceeding from the inmost
   heart. Akin to this abuse is another which our Saviour also condemns,
   namely, when hypocrites for the sake of ostentation court the presence
   of many witnesses, and would sooner pray in the market-place than pray
   without applause. The true object of prayer being, as we have already
   said (sec. 4, 5), to carry our thoughts directly to God, whether to
   celebrate his praise or implore his aid, we can easily see that its
   primary seat is in the mind and heart, or rather that prayer itself is
   properly an effusion and manifestation of internal feeling before Him
   who is the searcher of hearts. Hence (as has been said), when our
   divine Master was pleased to lay down the best rule for prayer, his
   injunction was, "Enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy
   door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth
   in secret shall reward thee openly" (Matth. 6:6). Dissuading us from
   the example of hypocrites, who sought the applause of men by an
   ambitious ostentation in prayer, he adds the better course -- enter thy
   chamber, shut thy door, and there pray. By these words (as I understand
   them) he taught us to seek a place of retirement which might enable us
   to turn all our thoughts inwards and enter deeply into our hearts,
   promising that God would hold converse with the feelings of our mind,
   of which the body ought to be the temple. He meant not to deny that it
   may be expedient to pray in other places also, but he shows that prayer
   is somewhat of a secret nature, having its chief seat in the mind, and
   requiring a tranquillity far removed from the turmoil of ordinary
   cares. And hence it was not without cause that our Lord himself, when
   he would engage more earnestly in prayer, withdrew into a retired spot
   beyond the bustle of the world, thus reminding us by his example that
   we are not to neglect those helps which enable the mind, in itself too
   much disposed to wander, to become sincerely intent on prayer.
   Meanwhile, as he abstained not from prayer when the occasion required
   it, though he were in the midst of a crowd, so must we, whenever there
   is need, lift up "pure hands" (1 Tim. 2:8) at all places. And hence we
   must hold that he who declines to pray in the public meeting of the
   saints, knows not what it is to pray apart, in retirement, or at home.
   On the other hand, he who neglects to pray alone and in private,
   however sedulously he frequents public meetings, there gives his
   prayers to the wind, because he defers more to the opinion of man than
   to the secret judgment of God. Still, lest the public prayers of the
   Church should be held in contempt, the Lord anciently bestowed upon
   them the most honourable appellation, especially when he called the
   temple the "house of prayer" (Isa. 56:7). For by this expression he
   both showed that the duty of prayer is a principal part of his worship,
   and that to enable believers to engage in it with one consent his
   temple is set up before them as a kind of banner. A noble promise was
   also added, "Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee
   shall the vow be performed" (Ps. 65:1). [15] By these words the
   Psalmist reminds us that the prayers of the Church are never in vain;
   because God always furnishes his people with materials for a song of
   joy. But although the shadows of the law have ceased, yet because God
   was pleased by this ordinance to foster the unity of the faith among us
   also, there can be no doubt that the same promise belongs to us -- a
   promise which Christ sanctioned with his own lips, and which Paul
   declares to be perpetually in force.
   14 French, "Cette longueur de priere a aujourd'hui sa vogue en la
   Papauté, et procede de cette mesme source; c'est que les uns barbotant
   force Ave Maria, et reiterant cent fois un chapelet, perdent une partie
   du temps; les autres, comme les chanoines et caphars, en abayant le
   parchemin jour et nuict, et barbotant leur breviaire vendent leur
   coquilles au peuple."--This long prayer is at present in vogue among
   the Papists, and proceeds from the same cause: some muttering a host of
   Ave Marias, and going over their beads a hundred times, lose part of
   their time; others, as the canons and monks grumbling over their
   parchment night and day, and muttering their breviary, sell their
   cockleshells to the people.

   15 Calvin translates, "Te expectat Deus, laus in Sion,"--God, the
   praise in Sion waiteth for thee.

   As God in his word enjoins common prayer, so public temples are the
   places destined for the performance of them, and hence those who refuse
   to join with the people of God in this observance have no ground for
   the pretext, that they enter their chamber in order that they may obey
   the command of the Lord. For he who promises to grant whatsoever two or
   three assembled in his name shall ask (Matth. 18:20), declares, that he
   by no means despises the prayers which are publicly offered up,
   provided there be no ostentation, or catching at human applause, and
   provided there be a true and sincere affection in the secret recesses
   of the heart. [16] If this is the legitimate use of churches (and it
   certainly is), we must, on the other hand, beware of imitating the
   practice which commenced some centuries ago, of imagining that churches
   are the proper dwellings of God, where he is more ready to listen to
   us, or of attaching to them some kind of secret sanctity, which makes
   prayer there more holy. For seeing we are the true temples of God, we
   must pray in ourselves if we would invoke God in his holy temple. Let
   us leave such gross ideas to the Jews or the heathen, knowing that we
   have a command to pray without distinction of place, "in spirit and in
   truth" (John 4:23). It is true that by the order of God the temple was
   anciently dedicated for the offering of prayers and sacrifices, but
   this was at a time when the truth (which being now fully manifested, we
   are not permitted to confine to any material temple) lay hid under the
   figure of shadows. Even the temple was not represented to the Jews as
   confining the presence of God within its walls, but was meant to train
   them to contemplate the image of the true temple. Accordingly, a severe
   rebuke is administered both by Isaiah and Stephen, to those who thought
   that God could in any way dwell in temples made with hands (Isa. 66:2;
   Acts 7:48).
  16 See Book I. chap. xi. sec. 7,13, on the subject of images in
   churches. Also Book IV. chap. iv. sec. 8, and chap. v. sec. 18, as to
   the ornaments of churches.

   Hence it is perfectly clear that neither words nor singing (if used in
   prayer) are of the least consequence, or avail one iota with God,
   unless they proceed from deep feeling in the heart. Nay, rather they
   provoke his anger against us, if they come from the lips and throat
   only, since this is to abuse his sacred name, and hold his majesty in
   derision. This we infer from the words of Isaiah, which, though their
   meaning is of wider extent, go to rebuke this vice also: "Forasmuch as
   this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do
   honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear
   toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will
   proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous
   work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and
   the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid" (Isa. 29:13).
   Still we do not condemn words or singing, but rather greatly commend
   them, provided the feeling of the mind goes along with them. For in
   this way the thought of God is kept alive on our minds, which, from
   their fickle and versatile nature, soon relax, and are distracted by
   various objects, unless various means are used to support them.
   Besides, since the glory of God ought in a manner to be displayed in
   each part of our body, the special service to which the tongue should
   be devoted is that of singing and speaking, inasmuch as it has been
   expressly created to declare and proclaim the praise of God. This
   employment of the tongue is chiefly in the public services which are
   performed in the meeting of the saints. In this way the God whom we
   serve in one spirit and one faith, we glorify together as it were with
   one voice and one mouth; and that openly, so that each may in turn
   receive the confession of his brother's faith, and be invited and
   incited to imitate it.

   It is certain that the use of singing in churches (which I may mention
   in passing) is not only very ancient, but was also used by the
   Apostles, as we may gather from the words of Paul, "I will sing with
   the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (1 Cor.
   14:15). In like manner he says to the Colossians, "Teaching and
   admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,
   singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). In the
   former passage, he enjoins us to sing with the voice and the heart; in
   the latter, he commends spiritual Songs, by which the pious mutually
   edify each other. That it was not an universal practice, however, is
   attested by Augustine (Confess. Lib. ix. cap. 7), who states that the
   church of Milan first began to use singing in the time of Ambrose, when
   the orthodox faith being persecuted by Justina, the mother of
   Valentinian, the vigils of the people were more frequent than usual;
   [17] and that the practice was afterwards followed by the other Western
   churches. He had said a little before that the custom came from the
   East. [18] He also intimates (Retract. Lib. ii). that it was received
   in Africa in his own time. His words are, "Hilarius, a man of
   tribunitial rank, assailed with the bitterest invectives he could use
   the custom which then began to exist at Carthage, of singing hymns from
   the book of Psalms at the altar, either before the oblation, or when it
   was distributed to the people; I answered him, at the request of my
   brethren." [19] And certainly if singing is tempered to a gravity
   befitting the presence of God and angels, it both gives dignity and
   grace to sacred actions, and has a very powerful tendency to stir up
   the mind to true zeal and ardour in prayer. We must, however, carefully
   beware, lest our ears be more intent on the music than our minds on the
   spiritual meaning of the words. Augustine confesses (Confess. Lib. x.
   cap. 33) that the fear of this danger sometimes made him wish for the
   introduction of a practice observed by Athanasius, who ordered the
   reader to use only a gentle inflection of the voice, more akin to
   recitation than singing. But on again considering how many advantages
   were derived from singing, he inclined to the other side. [20] If this
   moderation is used, there cannot be a doubt that the practice is most
   sacred and salutary. On the other hand, songs composed merely to tickle
   and delight the ear are unbecoming the majesty of the Church, and
   cannot but be most displeasing to God.
 17 This clause of the sentence is omitted in the French.

  18 The French adds, "où on en avoit tousjours usé;"--where it had
   always been used.

   19 The whole of this quotation is omitted in the French.

   [20] French, "Mais il adjouste d'autre part, que quand il se souvenoit
   du fruict et de l'edification qu'il avoit recue en oyant chanter
   àl'Eglise il enclinoit plus à l'autre partie, c'est, approuver le
   chant;"--but he adds on the other hand that when he called to mind the
   fruit and edification which he had received from hearing singing in the
   church, he inclined more to the other side; that is, to approve

   It is also plain that the public prayers are not to be couched in Greek
   among the Latins, nor in Latin among the French or English (as hitherto
   has been every where practised), but in the vulgar tongue, so that all
   present may understand them, since they ought to be used for the
   edification of the whole Church, which cannot be in the least degree
   benefited by a sound not understood. Those who are not moved by any
   reason of humanity or charity, ought at least to be somewhat moved by
   the authority of Paul, whose words are by no means ambiguous: "When
   thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room
   of the unlearned say, Amen, at thy giving of thanks, seeing he
   understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks, but
   the other is not edified" (1 Cor. 14:16, 17). How then can one
   sufficiently admire the unbridled license of the Papists, who, while
   the Apostle publicly protests against it, hesitate not to bawl out the
   most verbose prayers in a foreign tongue, prayers of which they
   themselves sometimes do not understand one syllable, and which they
   have no wish that others should understand? [21] Different is the
   course which Paul prescribes, "What is it then? I will pray with the
   spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also; I will sing with
   the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also:" meaning by
   the spirit the special gift of tongues, which some who had received it
   abused when they dissevered it from the mind, that is, the
   understanding. The principle we must always hold is, that in all
   prayer, public and private, the tongue without the mind must be
   displeasing to God. Moreover, the mind must be so incited, as in ardour
   of thought far to surpass what the tongue is able to express. Lastly,
   the tongue is not even necessary to private prayer, unless in so far as
   the internal feeling is insufficient for incitement, or the vehemence
   of the incitement carries the utterance of the tongue along with it.
   For although the best prayers are sometimes without utterance, yet when
   the feeling of the mind is overpowering, the tongue spontaneously
   breaks forth into utterance, and our other members into gesture. Hence
   that dubious muttering of Hannah (1 Sam. 1:13), something similar to
   which is experienced by all the saints when concise and abrupt
   expressions escape from them. The bodily gestures usually observed in
   prayer, such as kneeling and uncovering of the head (Calv. in Acts
   20:36), are exercises by which we attempt to rise to higher veneration
   of God.
   21 French, "Qui est-ce donc qui se pourra assez esmerveiller d'une
   audace tant effrenee qu'ont eu les Papistes et ont encore, qui contre
   la defense de l'Apostre, chantent et brayent de langue estrange et
   inconnue, en laquelle le plus souvent ils n'entendent pas eux mesmes
   une syllabe, et ne veulent que les autres y entendent?"--Who then can
   sufficiently admire the unbridled audacity which the Papists have had,
   and still have, who, contrary to the prohibition of the Apostle, chant
   and bray in a foreign and unknown tongue, in which, for the most part,
   they do not understand one syllable, and which they have no wish that
   others understand?

   We must now attend not only to a surer method, but also form of prayer,
   that, namely, which our heavenly Father has delivered to us by his
   beloved Son, and in which we may recognize his boundless goodness and
   condescension (Matth. 6:9; Luke 11:2). Besides admonishing and
   exhorting us to seek him in our every necessity (as children are wont
   to betake themselves to the protection of their parents when oppressed
   with any anxiety), seeing that we were not fully aware how great our
   poverty was, or what was right or for our interest to ask, he has
   provided for this ignorance; that wherein our capacity failed he has
   sufficiently supplied. For he has given us a form in which is set
   before us as in a picture everything which it is lawful to wish,
   everything which is conducive to our interest, everything which it is
   necessary to demand. From his goodness in this respect we derive the
   great comfort of knowing, that as we ask almost in his words, we ask
   nothing that is absurd, or foreign, or unseasonable; nothing, in short,
   that is not agreeable to him. Plato, seeing the ignorance of men in
   presenting their desires to God, desires which if granted would often
   be most injurious to them, declares the best form of prayer to be that
   which an ancient poet has furnished: "O king Jupiter, give what is
   best, whether we wish it or wish it not; but avert from us what is evil
   even though we ask it" (Plato, Alcibiad. ii). This heathen shows his
   wisdom in discerning how dangerous it is to ask of God what our own
   passion dictates; while, at the same time, he reminds us of our unhappy
   condition in not being able to open our lips before God without dangers
   unless his Spirit instruct us how to pray aright (Rom. 8:26). The
   higher value, therefore, ought we to set on the privilege, when the
   only begotten Son of God puts words into our lips, and thus relieves
   our minds of all hesitation.

   This form or rule of prayer is composed of six petitions. For I am
   prevented from agreeing with those who divide it into seven by the
   adversative mode of diction used by the Evangelist, who appears to have
   intended to unite the two members together; as if he had said, Do not
   allow us to be overcome by temptation, but rather bring assistance to
   our frailty, and deliver us that we may not fall. Ancient writers [22]
   also agree with us, that what is added by Matthew as a seventh head is
   to be considered as explanatory of the sixth petition. [23] But though
   in every part of the prayer the first place is assigned to the glory of
   God, still this is more especially the object of the three first
   petitions, in which we are to look to the glory of God alone, without
   any reference to what is called our own advantage. The three remaining
   petitions are devoted to our interest, and properly relate to things
   which it is useful for us to ask. When we ask that the name of God may
   be hallowed, as God wishes to prove whether we love and serve him
   freely, or from the hope of reward, we are not to think at all of our
   own interest; we must set his glory before our eyes, and keep them
   intent upon it alone. In the other similar petitions, this is the only
   manner in which we ought to be affected. It is true, that in this way
   our own interest is greatly promoted, because, when the name of God is
   hallowed in the way we ask, our own sanctification also is thereby
   promoted. But in regard to this advantage, we must, as I have said,
   shut our eyes, and be in a manner blind, so as not even to see it; and
   hence were all hope of our private advantage cut off, we still should
   never cease to wish and pray for this hallowing, and everything else
   which pertains to the glory of God. We have examples in Moses and Paul,
   who did not count it grievous to turn away their eyes and minds from
   themselves, and with intense and fervent zeal long for death, if by
   their loss the kingdom and glory of God might be promoted (Exod. 32:32;
   Rom. 9:3). On the other hand, when we ask for daily bread, although we
   desire what is advantageous for ourselves, we ought also especially to
   seek the glory of God, so much so that we would not ask at all unless
   it were to turn to his glory. Let us now proceed to an exposition of
   the Prayer.

   22 Augustine in Enchiridion ad Laurent. xxx. 116. Pseudo-Chrysost. in
   Homilies on Matthew, hom. xiv. See end of sec. 53.

   23 "Dont il est facile de juger que ce qui est adjousté en S.
   Matthieu, et qu'aucuns ont pris pour une septieme requeste, n'est qu'un
   explication de la sixieme, et se doit a icelle rapporter;"--Whence it
   is easy to perceive that what is added in St Matthew, and which some
   have taken for a seventh petition, is only an explanation of the sixth,
   and ought to be referred to it.

   The first thing suggested at the very outset is, as we have already
   said (sec. 17-19), that all our prayers to God ought only to be
   presented in the name of Christ, as there is no other name which can
   recommend them. In calling God our Father, we certainly plead the name
   of Christ. For with what confidence could any man call God his Father?
   Who would have the presumption to arrogate to himself the honour of a
   son of God were we not gratuitously adopted as his sons in Christ? He
   being the true Son, has been given to us as a brother, so that that
   which he possesses as his own by nature becomes ours by adoption, if we
   embrace this great mercy with firm faith. As John says, "As many as
   received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to
   them that believe in his name" (John 1:12). Hence he both calls himself
   our Father, and is pleased to be so called by us, by this delightful
   name relieving us of all distrust, since nowhere can a stronger
   affection be found than in a father. Hence, too, he could not have
   given us a stronger testimony of his boundless love than in calling us
   his sons. But his love towards us is so much the greater and more
   excellent than that of earthly parents, the farther he surpasses all
   men in goodness and mercy (Isaiah 63:16). Earthly parents, laying aside
   all paternal affection, might abandon their offspring; he will never
   abandon us (Ps. 27:10), seeing he cannot deny himself. For we have his
   promise, "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your
   children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good
   things to them that ask him?" (Matth. 7:11). In like manner in the
   prophet, "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not
   have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will
   not I forget thee" (Isaiah 49:15). But if we are his sons, then as a
   son cannot betake himself to the protection of a stranger and a
   foreigner without at the same time complaining of his father's cruelty
   or poverty, so we cannot ask assistance from any other quarter than
   from him, unless we would upbraid him with poverty, or want of means,
   or cruelty and excessive austerity.

   Nor let us allege that we are justly rendered timid by a consciousness
   of sin, by which our Father, though mild and merciful, is daily
   offended. For if among men a son cannot have a better advocate to plead
   his cause with his father, and cannot employ a better intercessor to
   regain his lost favour, than if he come himself suppliant and downcast,
   acknowledging his fault, to implore the mercy of his father, whose
   paternal feelings cannot but be moved by such entreaties, what will
   that "Father of all mercies, and God of all comfort," do? (2 Cor. 1:3).
   Will he not rather listen to the tears and groans of his children, when
   supplicating for themselves (especially seeing he invites and exhorts
   us to do so), than to any advocacy of others to whom the timid have
   recourse, not without some semblance of despair, because they are
   distrustful of their father's mildness and clemency? The exuberance of
   his paternal kindness he sets before us in the parable (Luke 15:20; see
   Calv. Comm). when the father with open arms receives the son who had
   gone away from him, wasted his substance in riotous living, and in all
   ways grievously sinned against him. He waits not till pardon is asked
   in words, but, anticipating the request, recognizes him afar off, runs
   to meet him, consoles him, and restores him to favour. By setting
   before us this admirable example of mildness in a man, he designed to
   show in how much greater abundance we may expect it from him who is not
   only a Father, but the best and most merciful of all fathers, however
   ungrateful, rebellious, and wicked sons we may be, provided only we
   throw ourselves upon his mercy. And the better to assure us that he is
   such a Father if we are Christians, he has been pleased to be called
   not only a Father, but our Father, as if we were pleading with him
   after this manner, O Father, who art possessed of so much affection for
   thy children, and art so ready to forgive, we thy children approach
   thee and present our requests, fully persuaded that thou hast no other
   feelings towards us than those of a father, though we are unworthy of
   such a parent. [24] But as our narrow hearts are incapable of
   comprehending such boundless favour, Christ is not only the earnest and
   pledge of our adoption, but also gives us the Spirit as a witness of
   this adoption, that through him we may freely cry aloud, Abba, Father.
   Whenever, therefore, we are restrained by any feeling of hesitation,
   let us remember to ask of him that he may correct our timidity, and
   placing us under the magnanimous guidance of the Spirit, enable us to
   pray boldly.
24 French, "Quelque mauvaistié qu'ayons euë, ou quelque imperfection
   ou poureté qui soit en nous;"--whatever wickedness we may have done, or
   whatever imperfection or poverty there may be in us.

   The instruction given us, however, is not that every individual in
   particular is to call him Father, but rather that we are all in common
   to call him Our Father. By this we are reminded how strong the feeling
   of brotherly love between us ought to be, since we are all alike, by
   the same mercy and free kindness, the children of such a Father. For if
   He from whom we all obtain whatever is good is our common Father
   (Matth. 23:9), everything which has been distributed to us we should be
   prepared to communicate to each other, as far as occasion demands. But
   if we are thus desirous as we ought, to stretch out our hands and give
   assistance to each other, there is nothing by which we can more benefit
   our brethren than by committing them to the care and protection of the
   best of parents, since if He is propitious and favourable nothing more
   can be desired. And, indeed, we owe this also to our Father. For as he
   who truly and from the heart loves the father of a family, extends the
   same love and good-will to all his household, so the zeal and affection
   which we feel for our heavenly Parent it becomes us to extend towards
   his people, his family, and, in fine, his heritage, which he has
   honoured so highly as to give them the appellation of the " fulness" of
   his only begotten Son (Ephesians 1:23). Let the Christian, then, so
   regulate his prayers as to make them common, and embrace all who are
   his brethren in Christ; not only those whom at present he sees and
   knows to be such, but all men who are alive upon the earth. What God
   has determined with regard to them is beyond our knowledge, but to wish
   and hope the best concerning them is both pious and humane. Still it
   becomes us to regard with special affection those who are of the
   household of faith, and whom the Apostle has in express terms
   recommended to our care in everything (Gal. 6:10). In short, all our
   prayers ought to bear reference to that community which our Lord has
   established in his kingdom and family.

   This, however, does not prevent us from praying specially for
   ourselves, and certain others, provided our mind is not withdrawn from
   the view of this community, does not deviate from it, but constantly
   refers to it. For prayers, though couched in special terms, keeping
   that object still in view, cease not to be common. All this may easily
   be understood by analogy. There is a general command from God to
   relieve the necessities of all the poor, and yet this command is obeyed
   by those who with that view give succour to all whom they see or know
   to be in distress, although they pass by many whose wants are not less
   urgent, either because they cannot know or are unable to give supply to
   all. In this way there is nothing repugnant to the will of God in those
   who, giving heed to this common society of the Church, yet offer up
   particular prayers, in which, with a public mind, though in special
   terms, they commend to God themselves or others, with whose necessity
   he has been pleased to make them more familiarly acquainted.

   It is true that prayer and the giving of our substance are not in all
   respects alike. We can only bestow the kindness of our liberality on
   those of whose wants we are aware, whereas in prayer we can assist the
   greatest strangers, how wide soever the space which may separate them
   from us. This is done by that general form of prayer which, including
   all the sons of God, includes them also. To this we may refer the
   exhortation which Paul gave to the believers of his age, to lift up
   "holy hands without wrath and doubting" (1 Tim. 2:8). By reminding them
   that dissension is a bar to prayer, he shows it to be his wish that
   they should with one accord present their prayers in common.

   The next words are, WHICH ART IN HEAVEN. From this we are not to infer
   that he is enclosed and confined within the circumference of heaven, as
   by a kind of boundaries. Hence Solomon confesses, "The heaven of
   heavens cannot contain thee" (1 Kings 8:27); and he himself says by the
   Prophet, "The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool" (Isa.
   56:1); thereby intimating, that his presence, not confined to any
   region, is diffused over all space. But as our gross minds are unable
   to conceive of his ineffable glory, it is designated to us by heaven,
   nothing which our eyes can behold being so full of splendour and
   majesty. While, then, we are accustomed to regard every object as
   confined to the place where our senses discern it, no place can be
   assigned to God; and hence, if we would seek him, we must rise higher
   than all corporeal or mental discernment. Again, this form of
   expression reminds us that he is far beyond the reach of change or
   corruption, that he holds the whole universe in his grasp, and rules it
   by his power. The effect of the expressions therefore, is the same as
   if it had been said, that he is of infinite majesty, incomprehensible
   essence, boundless power, and eternal duration. When we thus speak of
   God, our thoughts must be raised to their highest pitch; we must not
   ascribe to him anything of a terrestrial or carnal nature, must not
   measure him by our little standards, or suppose his will to be like
   ours. At the same time, we must put our confidence in him,
   understanding that heaven and earth are governed by his providence and
   power. In short, under the name of Father is set before us that God,
   who hath appeared to us in his own image, that we may invoke him with
   sure faith; the familiar name of Father being given not only to inspire
   confidence, but also to curb our minds, and prevent them from going
   astray after doubtful or fictitious gods. We thus ascend from the only
   begotten Son to the supreme Father of angels and of the Church. Then
   when his throne is fixed in heaven, we are reminded that he governs the
   world, and, therefore, that it is not in vain to approach him whose
   present care we actually experience. "He that cometh to God," says the
   Apostle, "must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them
   that diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6). Here Christ makes both claims
   for his Father, first, that we place our faith in him; and, secondly,
   that we feel assured that our salvation is not neglected by him,
   inasmuch as he condescends to extend his providence to us. By these
   elementary principles Paul prepares us to pray aright; for before
   enjoining us to make our requests known unto God, he premises in this
   way, "The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing" (Phil. 4:5, 6).
   Whence it appears that doubt and perplexity hang over the prayers of
   those in whose minds the belief is not firmly seated, that "the eyes of
   the Lord are upon the righteous" (Ps. 34:15).

   The first petition is, HALLOWED BE THY NAME. The necessity of
   presenting it bespeaks our great disgrace. For what can be more
   unbecoming than that our ingratitude and malice should impair, our
   audacity and petulance should as much as in them lies destroy, the
   glory of God? But though all the ungodly should burst with sacrilegious
   rage, the holiness of God's name still shines forth. Justly does the
   Psalmist exclaim, "According to thy name, O God, so is thy praise unto
   the ends of the earth" (Ps. 48:10). For wherever God hath made himself
   known, his perfections must be displayed, his power, goodness, wisdom,
   justice, mercy, and truth, which fill us with admiration, and incite us
   to show forth his praise. Therefore, as the name of God is not duly
   hallowed on the earth, and we are otherwise unable to assert it, it is
   at least our duty to make it the subject of our prayers. The sum of the
   whole is, It must be our desire that God may receive the honour which
   is his due: that men may never think or speak of him without the
   greatest reverence. The opposite of this reverence is profanity, which
   has always been too common in the world, and is very prevalent in the
   present day. Hence the necessity of the petition, which, if piety had
   any proper existence among us, would be superfluous. But if the name of
   God is duly hallowed only when separated from all other names it alone
   is glorified, we are in the petition enjoined to ask not only that God
   would vindicate his sacred name from all contempt and insult, but also
   that he would compel the whole human race to reverence it. Then since
   God manifests himself to us partly by his word, and partly by his
   works, he is not sanctified unless in regard to both of these we
   ascribe to him what is due, and thus embrace whatever has proceeded
   from him, giving no less praise to his justice than to his mercy. On
   the manifold diversity of his works he has inscribed the marks of his
   glory, and these ought to call forth from every tongue an ascription of
   praise. Thus Scripture will obtain its due authority with us, and no
   event will hinder us from celebrating the praises of God, in regard to
   every part of his government. On the other hand, the petition implies a
   wish that all impiety which pollutes this sacred name may perish and be
   extinguished, that everything which obscures or impairs his glory, all
   detraction and insult, may cease; that all blasphemy being suppressed,
   the divine majesty may be more and more signally displayed.

   The second petition is, THY KINGDOM COME. This contains nothing new,
   and yet there is good reason for distinguishing it from the first. For
   if we consider our lethargy in the greatest of all matters, we shall
   see how necessary it is that what ought to be in itself perfectly known
   should be inculcated at greater length. Therefore, after the injunction
   to pray that God would reduce to order, and at length completely efface
   every stain which is thrown on his sacred name, another petition,
   containing almost the same wish, is added, viz., Thy kingdom come.
   Although a definition of this kingdom has already been given, I now
   briefly repeat that God reigns when men, in denial of themselves and
   contempt of the world and this earthly life, devote themselves to
   righteousness and aspire to heaven (see Calvin, Harm. Matth. 6). Thus
   this kingdom consists of two parts; the first is, when God by the
   agency of his Spirit corrects all the depraved lusts of the flesh,
   which in bands war against Him; and the second, when he brings all our
   thoughts into obedience to his authority. This petition, therefore, is
   duly presented only by those who begin with themselves; in other words,
   who pray that they may be purified from all the corruptions which
   disturb the tranquillity and impair the purity of God's kingdom. Then
   as the word of God is like his royal sceptre, we are here enjoined to
   pray that he would subdue all minds and hearts to voluntary obedience.
   This is done when by the secret inspiration of his Spirit he displays
   the efficacy of his word, and raises it to the place of honour which it
   deserves. We must next descend to the wicked, who perversely and with
   desperate madness resist his authority. God, therefore, sets up his
   kingdom, by humbling the whole world, though in different ways, taming
   the wantonness of some, and breaking the ungovernable pride of others.
   We should desire this to be done every day, in order that God may
   gather churches to himself from all quarters of the world, may extend
   and increase their numbers, enrich them with his gifts, establish due
   order among them; on the other hand, beat down all the enemies of pure
   doctrine and religion, dissipate their counsels, defeat their attempts.
   Hence it appears that there is good ground for the precept which
   enjoins daily progress, for human affairs are never so prosperous as
   when the impurities of vice are purged away, and integrity flourishes
   in full vigour. The completion, however, is deferred to the final
   advent of Christ, when, as Paul declares, "God will be all in all" (1
   Cor. 15:28). This prayer, therefore, ought to withdraw us from the
   corruptions of the world which separate us from God, and prevent his
   kingdom from flourishing within us; secondly, it ought to inflame us
   with an ardent desire for the mortification of the flesh; and, lastly,
   it ought to train us to the endurance of the cross; since this is the
   way in which God would have his kingdom to be advanced. It ought not to
   grieve us that the outward man decays provided the inner man is
   renewed. For such is the nature of the kingdom of God, that while we
   submit to his righteousness he makes us partakers of his glory. This is
   the case when continually adding to his light and truth, by which the
   lies and the darkness of Satan and his kingdom are dissipated,
   extinguished, and destroyed, he protects his people, guides them aright
   by the agency of his Spirit, and confirms them in perseverance; while,
   on the other hand, he frustrates the impious conspiracies of his
   enemies, dissipates their wiles and frauds, prevents their malice and
   curbs their petulance, until at length he consume Antichrist "with the
   spirit of his mouth," and destroy all impiety "with the brightness of
   his coming" (2 Thess. 2:8, Calv. Comm.).

   The third petition is, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.
   Though this depends on his kingdom, and cannot be disjoined from it,
   yet a separate place is not improperly given to it on account of our
   ignorance, which does not at once or easily apprehend what is meant by
   God reigning in the world. This, therefore, may not improperly be taken
   as the explanation, that God will be King in the world when all shall
   subject themselves to his will. We are not here treating of that secret
   will by which he governs all things, and destines them to their end
   (see chap. xxiv. s. 17). For although devils and men rise in tumult
   against him, he is able by his incomprehensible counsel not only to
   turn aside their violence, but make it subservient to the execution of
   his decrees. What we here speak of is another will of God, namely, that
   of which voluntary obedience is the counterpart; and, therefore, heaven
   is expressly contrasted with earth, because, as is said in The Psalms,
   the angels "do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word"
   (Ps. 103:20). We are, therefore, enjoined to pray that as everything
   done in heaven is at the command of God, and the angels are calmly
   disposed to do all that is right, so the earth may be brought under his
   authority, all rebellion and depravity having been extinguished. In
   presenting this request we renounce the desires of the flesh, because
   he who does not entirely resign his affections to God, does as much as
   in him lies to oppose the divine will, since everything which proceeds
   from us is vicious. Again, by this prayer we are taught to deny
   ourselves, that God may rule us according to his pleasure; and not only
   so, but also having annihilated our own may create new thoughts and new
   minds so that we shall have no desire save that of entire agreement
   with his will; in short, wish nothing of ourselves, but have our hearts
   governed by his Spirit, under whose inward teaching we may learn to
   love those things which please and hate those things which displease
   him. Hence also we must desire that he would nullify and suppress all
   affections which are repugnant to his will.

   Such are the three first heads of the prayer, in presenting which we
   should have the glory of God only in view, taking no account of
   ourselves, and paying no respect to our own advantage, which, though it
   is thereby greatly promoted, is not here to be the subject of request.
   And though all the events prayed for must happen in their own time,
   without being either thought of, wished, or asked by us, it is still
   our duty to wish and ask for them. And it is of no slight importance to
   do so, that we may testify and profess that we are the servants and
   children of God, desirous by every means in our power to promote the
   honour due to him as our Lord and Father, and truly and thoroughly
   devoted to his service. Hence if men, in praying that the name of God
   may be hallowed, that his kingdom may come, and his will be done, are
   not influenced by this zeal for the promotion of his glory, they are
   not to be accounted among the servants and children of God; and as all
   these things will take place against their will, so they will turn out
   to their confusion and destruction.

   Now comes the second part of the prayer, in which we descend to our own
   interests, not, indeed, that we are to lose sight of the glory of God
   (to which, as Paul declares, we must have respect even in meat and
   drink, 1 Cor. 10:31), and ask only what is expedient for ourselves; but
   the distinction, as we have already observed, is this: God claiming the
   three first petitions as specially his own, carries us entirely to
   himself, that in this way he may prove our piety. Next he permits us to
   look to our own advantage, but still on the condition, that when we ask
   anything for ourselves it must be in order that all the benefits which
   he confers may show forth his glory, there being nothing more incumbent
   on us than to live and die to him.

   By the first petition of the second part, GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY
   BREAD, we pray in general that God would give us all things which the
   body requires in this sublunary state, not only food and clothing, but
   everything which he knows will assist us to eat our bread in peace. In
   this way we briefly cast our care upon him, and commit ourselves to his
   providence, that he may feed, foster, and preserve us. For our heavenly
   Father disdains not to take our body under his charge and protection,
   that he may exercise our faith in those minute matters, while we look
   to him for everything, even to a morsel of bread and a drop of water.
   For since, owing to some strange inequality, we feel more concern for
   the body than for the soul, many who can trust the latter to God still
   continue anxious about the former, still hesitate as to what they are
   to eat, as to how they are to be clothed, and are in trepidation
   whenever their hands are not filled with corn, and wine, and oil (Ps.
   4:8): so much more value do we set on this shadowy, fleeting life, than
   on a blessed immortality. But those who, trusting to God, have once
   cast away that anxiety about the flesh, immediately look to him for
   greater gifts, even salvation and eternal life. It is no slight
   exercise of faith, therefore, to hope in God for things which would
   otherwise give us so much concern; nor have we made little progress
   when we get quit of this unbelief, which cleaves, as it were, to our
   very bones.

   The speculations of some concerning supersubstantial bread seem to be
   very little accordant with our Saviour's meaning; for our prayer would
   be defective were we not to ascribe to God the nourishment even of this
   fading life. The reason which they give is heathenish, viz., that it is
   inconsistent with the character of sons of God, who ought to be
   spiritual, not only to occupy their mind with earthly cares, but to
   suppose God also occupied with them. As if his blessing and paternal
   favour were not eminently displayed in giving us food, or as if there
   were nothing in the declaration that godliness hath "the promise of the
   life that now is, and of that which is to come" (1 Tim. 4:8). But
   although the forgiveness of sins is of far more importance than the
   nourishment of the body, yet Christ has set down the inferior in the
   prior place, in order that he might gradually raise us to the other two
   petitions, which properly belong to the heavenly life, -- in this
   providing for our sluggishness. We are enjoined to ask our bread, that
   we may be contented with the measure which our heavenly Father is
   pleased to dispense, and not strive to make gain by illicit arts.
   Meanwhile, we must hold that the title by which it is ours is donation,
   because, as Moses says (Levit. 26:20, Deut. 8:17), neither our
   industry, nor labour, nor hands, acquire anything for us, unless the
   blessing of God be present; nay, not even would abundance of bread be
   of the least avail were it not divinely converted into nourishment. And
   hence this liberality of God is not less necessary to the rich than the
   poor, because, though their cellars and barns were full, they would be
   parched and pine with want did they not enjoy his favour along with
   their bread. The terms this day, or, as it is in another Evangelist,
   daily, and also the epithet daily, lay a restraint on our immoderate
   desire of fleeting good -- a desire which we are extremely apt to
   indulge to excess, and from which other evils ensue: for when our
   supply is in richer abundance we ambitiously squander it in pleasure,
   luxury, ostentation, or other kinds of extravagance. Wherefore, we are
   only enjoined to ask as much as our necessity requires, and as it were
   for each day, confiding that our heavenly Father, who gives us the
   supply of to-day, will not fail us on the morrow. How great soever our
   abundance may be, however well filled our cellars and granaries, we
   must still always ask for daily bread, for we must feel assured that
   all substance is nothing, unless in so far as the Lord, by pouring out
   his blessing, make it fruitful during its whole progress; for even that
   which is in our hand is not ours except in so far as he every hour
   portions it out, and permits us to use it. As nothing is more difficult
   to human pride than the admission of this truth, the Lord declares that
   he gave a special proof for all ages, when he fed his people with manna
   in the desert (Deut. 8:3), that he might remind us that "man shall not
   live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth
   of God" (Matth. 4:4). It is thus intimated, that by his power alone our
   life and strength are sustained, though he ministers supply to us by
   bodily instruments. In like manner, whenever it so pleases, he gives us
   a proof of an opposite description, by breaking the strength, or, as he
   himself calls it, the staff of bread (Levit. 26:26), and leaving us
   even while eating to pine with hunger, and while drinking to be parched
   with thirst. Those who, not contented with daily bread, indulge an
   unrestrained insatiable cupidity, or those who are full of their own
   abundance, and trust in their own riches, only mock God by offering up
   this prayer. For the former ask what they would be unwilling to obtain,
   nay, what they most of all abominate, namely, daily bread only, and as
   much as in them lies disguise their avarice from God, whereas true
   prayer should pour out the whole soul and every inward feeling before
   him. The latter, again, ask what they do not at all expect to obtain,
   namely, what they imagine that they in themselves already possess. In
   its being called ours, God, as we have already said, gives a striking
   display of his kindness, making that to be ours to which we have no
   just claim. Nor must we reject the view to which I have already
   adverted, viz., that this name is given to what is obtained by just and
   honest labour, as contrasted with what is obtained by fraud and rapine,
   nothing being our own which we obtain with injury to others. When we
   ask God to give us, the meaning is, that the thing asked is simply and
   freely the gift of God, whatever be the quarter from which it comes to
   us, even when it seems to have been specially prepared by our own art
   and industry, and procured by our hands, since it is to his blessing
   alone that all our labours owe their success.

   The next petition is, FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS. In this and the following
   petition our Saviour has briefly comprehended whatever is conducive to
   the heavenly life, as these two members contain the spiritual covenant
   which God made for the salvation of his Church, "I will put my law in
   their inward parts, and write it on their hearts." "I will pardon all
   their iniquities" (Jer. 31:33; 33:8). Here our Saviour begins with the
   forgiveness of sins, and then adds the subsequent blessing, viz., that
   God would protect us by the power, and support us by the aid of his
   Spirit, so that we may stand invincible against all temptations. To
   sins he gives the name of debts, because we owe the punishment due to
   them, a debt which we could not possibly pay were we not discharged by
   this remission, the result of his free mercy, when he freely expunges
   the debt, accepting nothing in return; but of his own mercy receiving
   satisfaction in Christ, who gave himself a ransom for us (Rom. 3:24).
   Hence, those who expect to satisfy God by merits of their own or of
   others, or to compensate and purchase forgiveness by means of
   satisfactions, have no share in this free pardon, and while they
   address God in this petition, do nothing more than subscribe their own
   accusation, and seal their condemnation by their own testimony. For
   they confess that they are debtors, unless they are discharged by means
   of forgiveness. This forgiveness, however, they do not receive, but
   rather reject, when they obtrude their merits and satisfactions upon
   God, since by so doing they do not implore his mercy, but appeal to his
   justice. Let those, again, who dream of a perfection which makes it
   unnecessary to seek pardon, find their disciples among those whose
   itching ears incline them to imposture, [25] (see Calv. on Dan. 9:20);
   only let them understand that those whom they thus acquire have been
   carried away from Christ, since he, by instructing all to confess their
   guilt, receives none but sinners, not that he may soothe, and so
   encourage them in their sins, but because he knows that believers are
   never so divested of the sins of the flesh as not to remain subject to
   the justice of God. It is, indeed, to be wished, it ought even to be
   our strenuous endeavour, to perform all the parts of our duty, so as
   truly to congratulate ourselves before God as being pure from every
   stain; but as God is pleased to renew his image in us by degrees, so
   that to some extent there is always a residue of corruption in our
   flesh, we ought by no means to neglect the remedy. But if Christ,
   according to the authority given him by his Father, enjoins us, during
   the whole course of our lives, to implore pardon, who can tolerate
   those new teachers who, by the phantom of perfect innocence, endeavour
   to dazzle the simple, and make them believe that they can render
   themselves completely free from guilt? This, as John declares, is
   nothing else than to make God a liar (1 John 1:10). In like manner,
   those foolish men mutilate the covenant in which we have seen that our
   salvation is contained by concealing one head of it, and so destroying
   it entirely; being guilty not only of profanity in that they separate
   things which ought to be indissolubly connected; but also of wickedness
   and cruelty in overwhelming wretched souls with despair -- of treachery
   also to themselves and their followers, in that they encourage
   themselves in a carelessness diametrically opposed to the mercy of God.
   It is excessively childish to object, that when they long for the
   advent of the kingdom of God, they at the same time pray for the
   abolition of sin. In the former division of the prayer absolute
   perfection is set before us; but in the latter our own weakness. Thus
   the two fitly correspond to each other -- we strive for the goal, and
   at the same time neglect not the remedies which our necessities

   In the next part of the petition we pray to be forgiven, "as we forgive
   our debtors;" that is, as we spare and pardon all by whom we are in any
   way offended, either in deed by unjust, or in word by contumelious
   treatment. Not that we can forgive the guilt of a fault or offence;
   this belongs to God only; but we can forgive to this extent: we can
   voluntarily divest our minds of wrath, hatred, and revenge, and efface
   the remembrance of injuries by a voluntary oblivion. Wherefore, we are
   not to ask the forgiveness of our sins from God, unless we forgive the
   offenses of all who are or have been injurious to us. If we retain any
   hatred in our minds, if we meditate revenge, and devise the means of
   hurting; nay, if we do not return to a good understanding with our
   enemies, perform every kind of friendly office, and endeavour to effect
   a reconciliation with them, we by this petition beseech God not to
   grant us forgiveness. For we ask him to do to us as we do to others.
   This is the same as asking him not to do unless we do also. What, then,
   do such persons obtain by this petition but a heavier judgment? Lastly,
   it is to be observed that the condition of being forgiven as we forgive
   our debtors, is not added because by forgiving others we deserve
   forgiveness, as if the cause of forgiveness were expressed; but by the
   use of this expression the Lord has been pleased partly to solace the
   weakness of our faith, using it as a sign to assure us that our sins
   are as certainly forgiven as we are certainly conscious of having
   forgiven others, when our mind is completely purged from all envy,
   hatred, and malice; and partly using as a badge by which he excludes
   from the number of his children all who, prone to revenge and reluctant
   to forgive, obstinately keep up their enmity, cherishing against others
   that indignation which they deprecate from themselves; so that they
   should not venture to invoke him as a Father. In the Gospel of Luke, we
   have this distinctly stated in the words of Christ.
  25 French, "Telles disciples qu'ils voudront;"--such disciples as
   they will.

   The sixth petition corresponds (as we have observed) to the promise
   [26] of writing the law upon our hearts; but because we do not obey God
   without a continual warfare, without sharp and arduous contests, we
   here pray that he would furnish us with armour, and defend us by his
   protection, that we may be able to obtain the victory. By this we are
   reminded that we not only have need of the gift of the Spirit inwardly
   to soften our hearts, and turn and direct them to the obedience of God,
   but also of his assistance, to render us invincible by all the wiles
   and violent assaults of Satan. The forms of temptation are many and
   various. The depraved conceptions of our minds provoking us to
   transgress the law -- conceptions which our concupiscence suggests or
   the devil excites, are temptations; and things which in their own
   nature are not evil, become temptations by the wiles of the devil, when
   they are presented to our eyes in such a way that the view of them
   makes us withdraw or decline from God. [27] These temptations are both
   on the right hand and on the left. [28] On the right, when riches,
   power, and honours, which by their glare, and the semblance of good
   which they present, generally dazzle the eyes of men, and so entice by
   their blandishments, that, caught by their snares, and intoxicated by
   their sweetness, they forget their God: on the left, when offended by
   the hardship and bitterness of poverty, disgrace, contempt,
   afflictions, and other things of that description, they despond, cast
   away their confidence and hope, and are at length totally estranged
   from God. In regard to both kinds of temptation, which either enkindled
   in us by concupiscence, or presented by the craft of Satan's war
   against us, we pray God the Father not to allow us to be overcome, but
   rather to raise and support us by his hand, that strengthened by his
   mighty power we may stand firm against all the assaults of our
   malignant enemy, whatever be the thoughts which he sends into our
   minds; next we pray that whatever of either description is allotted us,
   we may turn to good, that is, may neither be inflated with prosperity,
   nor cast down by adversity. Here, however, we do not ask to be
   altogether exempted from temptation, which is very necessary to excite,
   stimulate, and urge us on, that we may not become too lethargic. It was
   not without reason that David wished to be tried, [29] nor is it
   without cause that the Lord daily tries his elect, chastising them by
   disgrace, poverty, tribulation, and other kinds of cross. [30] But the
   temptations of God and Satan are very different: Satan tempts, that he
   may destroy, condemn, confound, throw headlong; God, that by proving
   his people he may make trial of their sincerity, and by exercising
   their strength confirm it; may mortify, tame, and cauterize their
   flesh, which, if not curbed in this manner, would wanton and exult
   above measure. Besides, Satan attacks those who are unarmed and
   unprepared, that he may destroy them unawares; whereas whatever God
   sends, he "will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye
   may be able to bear it." [31] Whether by the term evil we understand
   the devil or sin, is not of the least consequence. Satan is indeed the
   very enemy who lays snares for our life, [32] but it is by sin that he
   is armed for our destruction.

   Our petition, therefore, is, that we may not be overcome or overwhelmed
   with temptation, but in the strength of the Lord may stand firm against
   all the powers by which we are assailed; in other words, may not fall
   under temptation: that being thus taken under his charge and
   protection, we may remain invincible by sin, death, the gates of hell,
   and the whole power of the devil; in other words, be delivered from
   evil. Here it is carefully to be observed, that we have no strength to
   contend with such a combatant as the devil, or to sustain the violence
   of his assault. Were it otherwise, it would be mockery of God to ask of
   him what we already possess in ourselves. Assuredly those who in
   self-confidence prepare for such a fight, do not understand how bold
   and well-equipped the enemy is with whom they have to do. Now we ask to
   be delivered from his power, as from the mouth of some furious raging
   lion, who would instantly tear us with his teeth and claws, and swallow
   us up, did not the Lord rescue us from the midst of death; at the same
   time knowing that if the Lord is present and will fight for us while we
   stand by, through him "we shall do valiantly" (Ps. 60:12). Let others
   if they will confide in the powers and resources of their free will
   which they think they possess; enough for us that we stand and are
   strong in the power of God alone. But the prayer comprehends more than
   at first sight it seems to do. For if the Spirit of God is our strength
   in waging the contest with Satan, we cannot gain the victory unless we
   are filled with him, and thereby freed from all infirmity of the flesh.
   Therefore, when we pray to be delivered from sin and Satan, we at the
   same time desire to be enriched with new supplies of divine grace,
   until completely replenished with them, we triumph over every evil. To
   some it seems rude and harsh to ask God not to lead us into temptation,
   since, as James declares (James 1:13), it is contrary to his nature to
   do so. This difficulty has already been partly solved by the fact that
   our concupiscence is the cause, and therefore properly bears the blame
   of all the temptations by which we are overcome. All that James means
   is, that it is vain and unjust to ascribe to God vices which our own
   consciousness compels us to impute to ourselves. But this is no reason
   why God may not when he sees it meet bring us into bondage to Satan,
   give us up to a reprobate mind and shameful lusts, and so by a just,
   indeed, but often hidden judgment, lead us into temptation. Though the
   cause is often concealed from men, it is well known to him. Hence we
   may see that the expression is not improper, if we are persuaded that
   it is not without cause he so often threatens to give sure signs of his
   vengeance, by blinding the reprobate, and hardening their hearts.
  26 The French adds, "que Dieu nous a donnee et faite;"--which God has
   given and performed to us.

   These three petitions, in which we specially commend ourselves and all
   that we have to God, clearly show what we formerly observed (sec. 38,
   39), that the prayers of Christians should be public, and have respect
   to the public edification of the Church and the advancement of
   believers in spiritual communion. For no one requests that anything
   should be given to him as an individual, but we all ask in common for
   daily bread and the forgiveness of sins, not to be led into temptation,
   but delivered from evil. Moreover, there is subjoined the reason for
   our great boldness in asking and confidence of obtaining (sec. 11, 36).
   Although this does not exist in the Latin copies, yet as it accords so
   well with the whole, we cannot think of omitting it.

   EVER. Here is the calm and firm assurance of our faith. For were our
   prayers to be commended to God by our own worth, who would venture even
   to whisper before him? Now, however wretched we may be, however
   unworthy, however devoid of commendation, we shall never want a reason
   for prayer, nor a ground of confidence, since the kingdom, power, and
   glory, can never be wrested from our Father. The last word is AMEN, by
   which is expressed the eagerness of our desire to obtain the things
   which we ask, while our hope is confirmed, that all things have already
   been obtained and will assuredly be granted to us, seeing they have
   been promised by God, who cannot deceive. This accords with the form of
   expression to which we have already adverted: "Grant, O Lord, for thy
   name's sake, not on account of us or of our righteousness." By this the
   saints not only express the end of their prayers, but confess that they
   are unworthy of obtaining did not God find the cause in himself and
   were not their confidence founded entirely on his nature.

   All things that we ought, indeed all that we are able, to ask of God,
   are contained in this formula, and as it were rule, of prayer delivered
   by Christ, our divine Master, whom the Father has appointed to be our
   teacher, and to whom alone he would have us to listen (Matth. 17:5).
   For he ever was the eternal wisdom of the Father, and being made man,
   was manifested as the Wonderful, the Counsellor (Isa. 11:2; 9:6).
   Accordingly, this prayer is complete in all its parts, so complete,
   that whatever is extraneous and foreign to it, whatever cannot be
   referred to it, is impious and unworthy of the approbation of God. For
   he has here summarily prescribed what is worthy of him, what is
   acceptable to him, and what is necessary for us; in short, whatever he
   is pleased to grant. Those, therefore, who presume to go further and
   ask something more from God, first seek to add of their own to the
   wisdom of God (this it is insane blasphemy to do); secondly, refusing
   to confine themselves within the will of God, and despising it, they
   wander as their cupidity directs; lastly, they will never obtain
   anything, seeing they pray without faith. For there cannot be a doubt
   that all such prayers are made without faith, because at variance with
   the word of God, on which if faith do not always lean it cannot
   possibly stand. Those who, disregarding the Master's rule, indulge
   their own wishes, not only have not the word of God, but as much as in
   them lies oppose it. Hence Tertullian (De Fuga in Persecutione) has not
   less truly than elegantly termed it Lawful Prayer, tacitly intimating
   that all other prayers are lawless and illicit.

   By this, however, we would not have it understood that we are so
   restricted to this form of prayer as to make it unlawful to change a
   word or syllable of it. For in Scripture we meet with many prayers
   differing greatly from it in word, yet written by the same Spirit, and
   capable of being used by us with the greatest advantage. Many prayers
   also are continually suggested to believers by the same Spirit, though
   in expression they bear no great resemblance to it. All we mean to say
   is, that no man should wish, expect, or ask anything which is not
   summarily comprehended in this prayer. Though the words may be very
   different, there must be no difference in the sense. In this way, all
   prayers, both those which are contained in the Scripture, and those
   which come forth from pious breasts, must be referred to it, certainly
   none can ever equal it, far less surpass it in perfection. It omits
   nothing which we can conceive in praise of God, nothing which we can
   imagine advantageous to man, and the whole is so exact that all hope of
   improving it may well be renounced. In short, let us remember that we
   have here the doctrine of heavenly wisdom. God has taught what he
   willed; he willed what was necessary.

   But although it has been said above (sec. 7, 27, &c.), that we ought
   always to raise our minds upwards towards God, and pray without
   ceasing, yet such is our weakness, which requires to be supported, such
   our torpor, which requires to be stimulated, that it is requisite for
   us to appoint special hours for this exercise, hours which are not to
   pass away without prayer, and during which the whole affections of our
   minds are to be completely occupied; namely, when we rise in the
   morning, before we commence our daily work, when we sit down to food,
   when by the blessing of God we have taken it, and when we retire to
   rest. This, however, must not be a superstitious observance of hours,
   by which, as it were, performing a task to God, we think we are
   discharged as to other hours; it should rather be considered as a
   discipline by which our weakness is exercised, and ever and anon
   stimulated. In particular, it must be our anxious care, whenever we are
   ourselves pressed, or see others pressed by any strait, instantly to
   have recourse to him not only with quickened pace, but with quickened
   minds; and again, we must not in any prosperity of ourselves or others
   omit to testify our recognition of his hand by praise and thanksgiving.
   Lastly, we must in all our prayers carefully avoid wishing to confine
   God to certain circumstances, or prescribe to him the time, place, or
   mode of action. In like manner, we are taught by this prayer not to fix
   any law or impose any condition upon him, but leave it entirely to him
   to adopt whatever course of procedure seems to him best, in respect of
   method, time, and place. For before we offer up any petition for
   ourselves, we ask that his will may be done, and by so doing place our
   will in subordination to his, just as if we had laid a curb upon it,
   that, instead of presuming to give law to God, it may regard him as the
   ruler and disposer of all its wishes.

   If, with minds thus framed to obedience, we allow ourselves to be
   governed by the laws of Divine Providence, we shall easily learn to
   persevere in prayer, and suspending our own desires wait patiently for
   the Lord, certain, however little the appearance of it may be, that he
   is always present with us, and will in his own time show how very far
   he was from turning a deaf ear to prayers, though to the eyes of men
   they may seem to be disregarded. This will be a very present
   consolation, if at any time God does not grant an immediate answer to
   our prayers, preventing us from fainting or giving way to despondency,
   as those are wont to do who, in invoking God, are so borne away by
   their own fervour, that unless he yield on their first importunity and
   give present help, they immediately imagine that he is angry and
   offended with them and abandoning all hope of success cease from
   prayer. On the contrary, deferring our hope with well tempered
   equanimity, let us insist with that perseverance which is so strongly
   recommended to us in Scripture. We may often see in The Psalms how
   David and other believers, after they are almost weary of praying, and
   seem to have been beating the air by addressing a God who would not
   hear, yet cease not to pray because due authority is not given to the
   word of God, unless the faith placed in it is superior to all events.
   Again, let us not tempt God, and by wearying him with our importunity
   provoke his anger against us. Many have a practice of formally
   bargaining with God on certain conditions, and, as if he were the
   servant of their lust, binding him to certain stipulations; with which
   if he do not immediately comply, they are indignant and fretful,
   murmur, complain, and make a noise. Thus offended, he often in his
   anger grants to such persons what in mercy he kindly denies to others.
   Of this we have a proof in the children of Israel, for whom it had been
   better not to have been heard by the Lord, than to swallow his
   indignation with their flesh (Num. 11:18, 33).

   But if our sense is not able till after long expectation to perceive
   what the result of prayer is, or experience any benefit from it, still
   our faith will assure us of that which cannot be perceived by sense,
   viz., that we have obtained what was fit for us, the Lord having so
   often and so surely engaged to take an interest in all our troubles
   from the moment they have been deposited in his bosom. In this way we
   shall possess abundance in poverty, and comfort in affliction. For
   though all things fail, God will never abandon us, and he cannot
   frustrate the expectation and patience of his people. He alone will
   suffice for all, since in himself he comprehends all good, and will at
   last reveal it to us on the day of judgment, when his kingdom shall be
   plainly manifested. We may add, that although God complies with our
   request, he does not always give an answer in the very terms of our
   prayers but while apparently holding us in suspense, yet in an unknown
   way, shows that our prayers have not been in vain. This is the meaning
   of the words of John, "If we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask,
   we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John
   5:15). It might seem that there is here a great superfluity of words,
   but the declaration is most useful, namely, that God, even when he does
   not comply with our requests, yet listens and is favourable to our
   prayers, so that our hope founded on his word is never disappointed.
   But believers have always need of being supported by this patience, as
   they could not stand long if they did not lean upon it. For the trials
   by which the Lord proves and exercises us are severe, nay, he often
   drives us to extremes, and when driven allows us long to stick fast in
   the mire before he gives us any taste of his sweetness. As Hannah says,
   "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave, and
   bringeth up" (1 Sam. 2:6). What could they here do but become
   dispirited and rush on despair, were they not, when afflicted,
   desolate, and half dead, comforted with the thought that they are
   regarded by God, and that there will be an end to their present evils.
   But however secure their hopes may stand, they in the meantime cease
   not to pray, since prayer unaccompanied by perseverance leads to no


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