Historic Prayers - John Calvin, Geneva, 1566

One consistent source of blessing in my devotional life is using prayers from different times and places in the history of the church. I thought I'd share a few of them over the coming weeks. Here is the regular Sunday pastoral prayer used by John Calvin in Geneva in the 1500s, which I have been appreciating recently.

"Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have promised to answer the requests that we bring you in the name of your beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and we are also instructed by his teaching and that of his Apostles to gather in his name with the promise that he will be in our midst and be our Intercessor before you, that we might receive all things for which we agree on earth.

First, you command us to pray for those whom you have established over us as superiors and governors, and then for all the needs of your people, and even of all people. Therefore, confident in your holy teaching and promises, and all the more since we are gathered here in your presence and in the name of your Son our Lord Jesus; we fondly plead with you, our good God and Father, that in the name of our only Savior and Mediator, by your infinite mercy, you would freely forgive our transgressions and so draw and lift our thoughts and desires to you, that from our whole heart we may seek you, and that according to your good pleasure and will, which alone is reasonable.

We therefore pray to you, heavenly Father, for all princes and lords, your servants, to whom you have committed the administration of your justice, and especially for the lords of this city; we pray that you would be pleased to send your Spirit to them, the only good and true Head; so impart your Spirit daily to them, that as they acknowledge in true faith that Jesus Christ your Son our Lord is the King of kings and Lord of all lords – since you have given him all power in heaven and on earth – they would seek to serve him and exalt his reign in their rule, governing their subjects, who are the work of your hands and the sheep of your pasture, according to your good pleasure, so that here as well as over all the earth, being kept in good peace, we would serve you in all holiness and honesty, and being delivered from the fear of our enemies, we would be able to praise you throughout our whole life.

We also pray to you, true Father and Savior, for all those whom you have ordained as pastors for your faithful ones, and to whom you have entrusted the charge of souls and the dispensation of your holy gospel; we pray that you would guide them by your Holy Spirit, that they may be found to be faithful and loyal ministers of your glory, always having this aim, that all the poor, lost sheep would be gathered and brought back to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Chief Shepherd and Prince of the overseers, so that they would benefit from, and grow in him, day by day, in all righteousness and holiness. Moreover, be pleased to deliver all churches from the mouths of ravenous wolves and from all hired hands who seek their own ambition or profit and not the exaltation of your holy name alone, and the salvation of your flock.

We also pray to you, most kind God and merciful Father, for all people generally, since you desire to be known as Savior of the whole world, through the redemption accomplished by your Son Jesus Christ; we pray that those who are still estranged from the knowledge of him, in darkness and the captivity of error and ignorance, would be brought back to the straight way of salvation, which is to know the only true God and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ, through the illumination of your Holy Spirit and the preaching of your gospel. May those whom you have already visited in your grace and illumined with the knowledge of your Word grow daily in goodness, being enriched with your spiritual blessings, so that we may adore you together with one heart and one mouth and give honor and homage to your Christ, our Master, King, and Lawgiver.

Likewise, O God of all comfort, we commend to you all those whom you are visiting and chastising with cross and tribulation, the peoples that you afflict with plague, or war, or famine: people struck with poverty, or prison, or sickness, or exile, or other physical distress, or spiritual affliction; that you would be pleased to let them understand your fatherly affection in your chastising them for their improvement, that they might turn to you with their whole heart, and being converted, receive full comfort and be delivered from all evil.

We particularly commend to you all our poor brothers, who are dispersed under the tyranny of the antichrist, being destitute of living pasture, and deprived of the freedom of calling upon your name publicly, even those who are imprisoned or persecuted by the enemies of your gospel. Be pleased, O gracious Father, to strengthen them by the power of your Spirit, so that they would never falter, but constantly persevere in your holy calling; rescue and help them, as you know their need; comfort them in their afflictions; keep watch over them against the rage of wolves; grow them in all the gifts of your Spirit, that they might glorify you in both life and death.

Finally, O God and Father, for us also who are gathered here in the name of your Son Jesus, because of his Word and his Holy Supper, grant us rightly to acknowledge, without hypocrisy, the ruin that is ours by nature, and the condemnation we deserve and amass” for ourselves day by day, by our miserable and disorderly life, so as we see that there is nothing good in us, and that our flesh and blood cannot take possession of your kingdom as an in. heritance, we might give ourselves entirely to your dear Son Jesus our Lord, the only Savior and Redeemer, with all our affection and firm confidence; so that as he dwells in us, he might mortify our old Adam, renewing us for a better life, by which your name, as it is holy and worthy, might be exalted and glorified everywhere and in all places; likewise, be lord and governor over us all, and may we learn to submit and subject ourselves to your Majesty more and more each day; such that you would be king and ruler everywhere, leading your people with the scepter of your Word and by the power of your Spirit, confounding your enemies by the strength of your truth and justice.

And just as every power and dominion that defies your glory is destroyed and abolished day by day until your kingdom comes and its perfection is completely established when you appear in judgment in the person of your Son; that with all creatures we might obey you truly and perfectly, just as your heavenly angels” ask only to execute your commandments; and that in this way your will be done, without any contradiction; and that all would come to serve and please you, renouncing their own will and all the desires of their flesh; that as we walk in the love and fear of your name, may we be fed by your goodness; and may you give all things necessary and expedient for us to eat our bread peacefully, so that, seeing that you care for us, we would better acknowledge you to be our Father and await all good things from your hand, withdrawing and removing our trust from all created things to place it entirely in you and your kindness.

And because in this mortal life, we are poor sinners, so full of frailty that we constantly grow faint and go astray from the right path, be pleased to forgive our faults for which we deserve your judgment; and by this remission, deliver us from the obligation of eternal death that faces us. Be pleased therefore not to impute to us the evil that is in us; just as we forget the wrong done to us, as you have commanded, and obtain good for our enemies rather than seeking vengeance.

Finally, be pleased from now on to sustain us by your power, that we might not stumble in the weakness of our flesh. And as we are so feeble in ourselves that we cannot stand firm for a minute, and as we are also continually surrounded and assailed by so many enemies, and as the devil, the World, sin, and our own flesh do not cease to make war against us, be pleased to strengthen us by your Holy Spirit and to equip us with your graces that we may continually resist all temptations, and persevere in this spiritual battle until we attain full victory, that at last we may triumph finally in your kingdom with our Captain and Protector, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."

(John Calvin, Form of Ecclesiastical Prayers, adapted from Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present.)