One of the blessings of coming to church is experiencing the sense that God is real. We feel encouraged, hopeful, and even motivated to make some positive changes in our lives and in circumstances around us. But then Monday comes…and those feelings fade away. How do we keep those Sunday hopes when Monday comes? Prayer is an essential means to experiencing God’s grace, mercy, presence and power in our daily lives.

This fall we will learn how to make prayer a way of life by using the 40 Day Prayer Covenant. To help “set the table” for this season, I’d like to share some thoughts from the “father” of Presbyterian theology, John Calvin. While many find Calvin’s theology a bit daunting, his piety and passion for God are models for us all. In his rich teaching on the Lord’s Prayer, Calvin offers the following six reasons for prayer:

“First, that our hearts may be fired with a zealous and burning desire ever to seek, love, and serve God, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to him as to a sacred anchor.” Prayer whets our appetite for fellowship with God, awakening our faith, love and hope.

“Secondly, that there may enter our hearts no desire and no wish at all of which we should be ashamed to make God a witness, while we learn to set all our wishes before his eyes, and even to pour out our whole hearts.” Prayer purifies our hearts and provides a measure of protection against temptation. In prayer we learn to consider our requests in light of God’s truth and character.

“Thirdly, that we be prepared to receive God’s benefits with true gratitude of heart and thanksgiving, benefits that our prayer reminds us come from his hand.” Prayer stimulates gratitude, reminding us that all that we have comes from God (Psalm 145:15-16).

“Fourthly, moreover, that, having obtained what we were seeking, and being convinced that God has answered our prayers, we should be led to meditate upon his kindness more ardently.” Answered prayer demonstrates God’s care for the details of our own lives.

“And fifthly, that at the same time we embrace with greater delight those things which we acknowledge to have been obtained by prayers.” Prayer sensitizes us to the daily benefits God provides, so that we don’t take anything for granted (see Deuteronomy 8:11-18). It enables us to slow down long enough to meditate on God’s goodness.

“Finally, that use and experience may…confirm God’s providence, while we understand not only that he promises never to fail us…but also that he ever extends his hand to help his own…defending them with present help.” A deepening prayer life provides the inner witness that God is faithful. Prayer helps us to know that when we don’t understand, we trust.

See you in church—and let’s take a new step in praying!