Blog 149: 3.20.37 - 3.20.42
In this section, Calvin addresses the first two petition sin the Lord's Prayer. First, he reflects upon the importance of saying that God is our Father. This allows us to approach him with confidence, knowing the our relationship to him is one of love, but also with reverence and fear, as we would approach our earthly fathers. It also points us to the Trinitarian nature of the Christian life and of prayer in particular. We are God's children by adoption through Christ, his only begotten Son; and we are united to Christ by the Spirit of adoption.
In addition, by calling on God as our Father, we express the filial relationship that exists between all believers. We are all children of the Most High God. This shapes the way we relate to each other, and also encourages us to commend them to our heavenly Father as his beloved children and our beloved siblings. In this, prayer is a little like almsgiving: Christians are called to relieve the poor in their midst; and yet prayer is more liberal, because we can even pray for those who are not near to us and of whom we may not know specific details.
Calvin also reflects on God being our Father in heaven, which designation he takes as emphasizing God's uniqueness and his absolute sovereignty: beside him, there are no other Gods; he is in complete control of everything; and so the stage is set for us to approach his throne in prayer with full confidence that he will hear us and can answer.
Calvin then deals with the first two petitions. The first requires that we honour and reverence him as we should, and never speak lightly of him or his great works. The second is, for Calvin, a virtual repetition of the first, but this time in the form almost of a reminder to us that God will finally and definitively crush his enemies and reign in glory.
Again, the comparisons with much prayer today, public and private, is painful. Here is Calvin whose doctrine of God drives him to his knees in reverence and awe, for whom every petition in the Lord's Prayer is shot through with God's glory and focused on the manifestation of that glory. Those who do not see Christian doctrine as practical, who wonder why seminaries still teach courses on the doctrine of God because `it doesn't connect with my ministry' have never understood God at all. Only by knowing who God is can the believer do that most practical of things - pray - in a manner which is at all appropriate and informed.