Lecture: John Calvin's Prayers by Dr. David Calhoun of Covenant Theological Seminary



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Dr. David Calhoun lectures on John Calvin’s chapter on prayer from his Institutes.

“[Calvin’s description of prayer]…is a very practical orientation to prayer, which you will recognize if you read… It is not only a doctrine of prayer, but it is also a practical manual on how to pray. One could turn this… into a prayer itself rather easily.”
—Dr. David Calhoun of Covenant Theological University

Used with kind permission of Covenant Seminary.
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I like all the classes I teach but because especially like this one I always look forward to getting into this again and it's been a couple of years since I've taught it and I learned something every time reading through Calvin and also find it a blessing in different ways to go through this material again so I'm looking forward to doing that with you this semester I'll use a pray are from Calvin to begin each class we have a lot of Calvin sprayers his students took these down as he prayed them fortunately and those have been preserved so there are numerous prayers that we can use from Calvin but the one I want to use today is one that we're not really sure it's from Calvin but it's often attributed to Calvin it is in our hymn book I greet thee whom I sure Redeemer art is how it begins and you'll notice in the Trinity him no that's not ascribed to Calvin it is ascribed to the Strasbourg Salter of 1545 and we know Calvin was in Strasbourg from 1538 to 1541 so called three golden years Calvin's life when he was working with Martin Buser in Strasbourg and we know Calvin also highly recommended this 1545 Salter as meeting his criteria for acceptable worship so these words are not by Calvin they were words that Calvin knew and approved of and I'd like to pray the prayer in in two parts I'll pray part of the film it's really a prayer I greet thee whom I shew Redeemer art and then I'll make a few more comments and pray the rest of it let's pray I greet thee whom I sure Redeemer aren't my only trust and Savior of my heart who pain didst undergo for my poor sake I pray thee from our hearts all cares to take thou art the king of mercy and of grace reigning omnipotent in every place so come o king in our whole being sway shine on us with the light of thy pure day amen thick as I was praying that you may have detected some some expected notes of Calvin's theology coming through God is king who demands our full Allegiance so come o King and our whole being sway I will see that statements like that I will appear quite often in Institute's which is not just scientific theology but a book of piety a book of devotion Kelvin minute to be dead and those words that I just prayed speak about God as sovereign God God is Almighty reigning omnipotent in every place so God's sovereignty God's Sun kingship demanding our allegiance these are themes that we come to expect from tell me but the hem goes on to enumerate other characteristics of God God's love God's gentleness the importance of Christians being one unity of the church those are themes that we probably don't as readily associate with Calvin but I think we should and I hope by the time we've studied this semester through the Institute's we'll see that we can think of the love and mercy of God as just as prominent in Calvin's thought as the sovereignty of God so let me praise the rest of the hymn now let's pray thou art the life by which alone we live and all our substance and our strength received oh comfort us in deaths approaching our strong hearted then to face it by thy power thou has the true and perfect gentleness no harshness as thou and no bitterness make us to taste the sweet grace found in thee and ever stay in thy sweet unity our hope is in no other save in thee our faith is built upon thy promise free Oh grant to us such stronger hope ensure that we can boldly conquer and endure event now you're going to need the syllabus the two volumes of the McNeal battles edition of the Institute's of the Christian religion notice that some of your copy is like a little different line is one of the older ones so it's the same same book let's turn to the syllabus and I'll go through some of this in terms of what we're going to be doing in class and we'll look at our schedule and then today we'll look at the first of our lectures Galvin's institutes structure and organization the description of the class is a reading and analysis of the Institute's of the Christian religion with attention to Calvin's method arrangement of material and biblical devotional theological content objectives one understanding the contents and Theological method of the Institute's now you probably expect that that is what you would expect to get out of a class in Calvin's Institute's but two other objectives very real objectives which maybe you would not think about increase knowledge of the Bible class in theology but is also a class in Bible and you'll become aware of the fact that Calvin's Institutes is packed full of Scripture well used well executed and she read the Institute's you not only come to understand Calvin's theological method but hopefully your appreciation of the Bible your love for the Bible and your knowledge of the Bible will be increased as well and then thirdly deeper personal piety already spoken about that that's very much at the center of what Calvin is writing this is not hard high scientific theology it's very much theology written from the passion of a man's heart and he exposes his heart to us as he writes his theology and he expects us to be moved to deeper allegiance and love to God as we study his writing so keep those objectives in mind those are they are not just because I have to have some objectives for this class but I think there are there truly important objectives that we should set the force methods a lot of reading and read not all of these two volumes but a good bit of it almost all of the first three books and not all of book four we could read all of it and would be good to read all of it but book 4 does have some extended passages related to Roman Catholic sacraments that Calvin rejects a lot of that has to do with a church history and with matters related to medieval Catholicism it's very valuable very useful but um we won't read it now because you'll find enough reading without that if you do want to read it now it's fine but you won't have to so you'll be reading and I'll be talking about what you're reading so those are the methods you read I talk and we can discuss things in class as well requirements read the assigned sections of the Institute's will read eleven hundred and forty-six pages out of the fourteen hundred and eighty six which we find in the McNeal battles' edition the reading is to be completed before class on the date assigned and we'll come to that in a moment that has to do with this reading schedule note that the number total number of pages required for each class is indicated in parentheses these totals generally fall between thirty and fifty pages a pretty manageable chunk although you won't be able to skim this this is the kind of reading that you're going to have to allow some some time for occasionally the reading will exceed these numbers it's important to keep up with the reading and even read ahead in order to be able to accommodate the longer assignments in your reading schedule so you'll notice that if you turn to the reading schedule have 34 pages 27 pages 63 pages 37 pages 40 pages and then suddenly 99 pages so kind of keep that in mind because you'll see the heavier reading assignments coming and either get ahead or reserve some time extra time for those so reading secondly here's the second assignment keep a journal as you read the Institute's record memorable quotations striking ideas sermonic possibilities illustrations questions your own thoughts and responses to Calvin's material this should not be an outline don't try to outline the Institute's if you want to look at a pretty substantial outline you can check Ford Lewis battles analysis of the Institute's of the Christian religion which is really a pretty good sized book so his outline is a detailed outline and it's valuable but I don't want you to to do an outline I want you to carry on a conversation with Calvin could be very personal things that need a lot to you perhaps things that don't questions you have things you don't agree with things you don't understand things you do understand ideas for sermons illustrations personal applications anything you want to write in your journal it's just to keep you engaged with the material to give you something that you can use later not only to remind you that you've actually read through most of Calvin's Institute's which is something that most people have not done in fact most Presbyterians have not done in fact most Presbyterian ministers have not done so this is your opportunity to do it but to also have a journal yes you can do it any way you want to you can write it out paragraph form you can do it in shorter sentences or excerpts and you can do it in any form you can do it by hand have a little notebook and put your notes in there if you'd like to use a computer you can do that so it's entirely up to you as to how you do the the journal but I will have a look at it so you need to do the reading and do the journal and then the last day the class meets I'll collect the journals and have a look at those and you'll get a grade on those the grade really is just to indicate that you did it you know I'm not going to read every word that all of you have written about the Institute's but I will scan through each one read parts get an idea of what's going on in your journal if you want to put things in there that are very personal you can do that and if you don't need to see it just indicate such or don't include those pages or something so I won't read what you don't wait to read but I will have a look at the journals to see what you're doing one other assignment research paper on some topic of Calvin's theology kind of a traditional typical seminary research paper ten to fifteen pages and you choose if you want to do this you choose a topic in Calvin that interests you knowledge of God creation Providence scripture baptism infant baptism civil government whatever it is that you want to work on and if you do a paper what you should do with that is to summarize Calvin's treatment of that material in the Institute's but also go beyond the Institute's to Calvin's treatises his commentaries perhaps even its letters to fill out as much as you can of what Calvin has to say on that particular topic you can do that or you can take up idle exam don't do both you want to do a paper you do a paper if you not really into papers and would rather take an exam then there will be a final comprehensive exam okay the text I've already said is McNeal battles edition of the Institute's of the Christian religion the grading journal half paper or exam and okay questions about any of that let's go to the reading schedule today we're going to do Calvin's Institute structure and organization this is just the introductory material in the McNeal battles' edition of the Institute's Roman numeral 29 through page 31 if you have it read that'd be a good idea to read it sometime along the way okay our next class will be knowledge of God one you'll see the reading in the Institute's now I haven't put page numbers they are the way that traditionally the Institute's is referred to is not by page numbers and that's because different editions and different translations will have different pagination so they're different ways this is done this is the way I've chosen to do it the one stands for book one and the one through five chapters one through five so book one chapters one through five you should read before next Tuesday that's 34 pages just to give you an idea as to how much is coming knowledge of God to doctrine of God creation providence sin gospel and law only New Testaments and then priced one and Christ to Holy Spirit and faith repentance Christian life justification and Christian freedom prayer election resurrection church one church two and we will do both sacraments and baptism and Lord's Supper and civil government I am going to move on now I'll look in some detail with you on this matter of structure and outline but I'll postpone that for a moment and we'll go to lesson one

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