Blog 148: 3.20.31 - 3.20.36
In these paragraphs, Calvin addresses the rudiments of public worship. He sees speaking and singing in prayer to be highly commendable when they are connected to the heart's longing for God, as they help to exercise the mind and keep it attentive in its devotions. Indeed, he notes that public singing in church dates back to the time of the apostles, though evidence from Augustine indicates it was not universally practiced in the fourth century.
The engagement of heart and mind in prayer inevitably means that public prayer should be offered in the vernacular. Greek for the Greeks, French for the French; English for the English. This is a typical Reformation rallying cry, and reflects the shift from a medieval, sacramentally oriented piety to one focused on faith in God', which consists of six petitions word. As an aid to our prayers, God has provided us with the Lord's Prayer, the whole of which is designed for God's glory, and which contains six petitions, the first three referring to God, the second three to us and our needs. The order is significant, for God always has priority, and it is through God's being and action that we become who we are intended to be. Further, that the prayer begins by addressing God as `our Father' reveals to us much of the sweetness and tenderness of his attitude towards us as we come in to his presence.
What is so striking to us today, is surely the God focus of prayer as Calvin sees it. In world full of books masquerading as Christian yet which consistently place human needs (self-image, prosperity, a happy life) at the centre, Calvin's words stand as a warning and a judgment: Christianity is not about us; it is not designed ultimately for our benefit and well-being; rather, it is designed for God's glory, and this fact should shape our prayer life, from the way in which we approach him, to the order of priorities, to the kind of things for which we plead. This is why cognitive knowledge of who God is critical: without this, we cannot know ourselves and we cannot approach him as we should.