Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
~ 2 Chronicles 33:11-12
A Song of degrees. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
~ Psalm 130:1-2
I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry.
~ Lamentations 3:55-56
Then Jonah prayed unto the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly, And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.
~ Jonah 2:1-2
And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
~ Luke 23:42-43
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
~ John 4:21
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
~ John 4:23-24
And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.
~ Acts 21:5
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the LORD.
~ Psalm 134:2
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
~ Proverbs 15:8
A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
~ Acts 10:2
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.
~ Hebrews 10:22
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
~ James 4:8
For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
~ 1 John 3:20-22
A Sermon on 1 Timothy, Chap. ii. verse 8, by John Calvin.
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
~ 1 Timothy, Chap. ii. verse 8.
After St. Paul hath informed us that our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, and gave himself a ransom for all, and that the message of salvation is carried in his name to all people, both small and great, he exhorteth every one to call upon God. For this is the true fruit of faith, to know that God is our Father, and to be moved by his love. The way is open for us to run to him, and it is easy to pray to him when we are convinced that his eyes are upon us, and that he is ready to help us in all our necessities.
Until God hath called us, we cannot come to him without too much impudent boldness. Is it not rashness for mortal man to presume to address himself to God? Therefore we must wait till God calleth us, which he also doth by his word. He promiseth to be our Saviour, and showeth that he will always be ready to receive us. He doth not tarry till we come to seek him, but he offereth himself, and exhorteth us to pray to him, yea, and therein proveth our faith.
St. Paul saith, Romans x. 14. “How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Thus it may be understood, that God is ready to receive us, although we be not worthy: when we once know his will, we may come to him with boldness, because he maketh himself familiar to us. The apostle addeth, Romans xv. “ Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people: giving us to understand thereby, that the gospel belongeth to the Gentiles as well as the Jews, and that every mouth ought to be open to call upon God for help.
We must call upon God in all places, seeing we are received into his flock. The Gentiles were strangers to all the promises which God had made to his people Israel. But the apostle saith, behold, God hath gathered you into his flock: he hath sent you his only begotten Son, even for the fatherly love which he bare you: you may therefore boldly call upon him, for it is to this end, and for this purpose that he hath given you this witness of his good will.
As often as the goodness of God is witnessed by us, and his grace promised, (although we be wretched sinners, as oft also as we hear that our sins were forgiven us by the death and suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that atonement was made for our transgressions and the obligations which were against us, and that God is at peace with us, the way is opened for us to pray to him and implore his blessings.
It is said in Hosea ii. “ I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people, and they shall say, Thou art my God.”
Therefore, as soon as our Lord God maketh us taste his goodness, and promiseth that even as he sent his only begotten Son into the world, he will accept us in his name, let us doubt not, but come immediately to him in prayer and supplication. If we have faith, we must show it by calling upon God. If we make no account of prayer, it is a sure sign that we are infidels; notwithstanding we may make great pretence to a belief in the gospel.
Thus we see what great blessings God bestoweth upon us, when we can have the privilege of prayer.
God informeth us that if we call upon him, it shall not be in vain; we shall not be deceived in our expectations if we come to him aright; we shall never be cast off, if we keep in the way which St. Paul hath marked out; namely, if we have Jesus Christ for our mediator, and trust in the merits of his death and passion, knowing that it is his office to keep us. And as he hath made reconciliation between God and us, he will keep us through his grace and mercy, if we put our trust in him.
When we are made sensible of the blessings which God hath bestowed upon us, in granting us the privilege of calling upon him by prayer, we must exercise ourselves in this duty faithfully: we must be careful both morning and evening to call upon God, for we have need of his assistance every hour. Again; we cannot pray to God unless we have the spirit of adoption; that is, unless we be assured that he taketh us for his children, and giveth us witness thereof by his gospel. As oft therefore as we read in holy writ, pray to God, praise him, &c. we must know that the fruit of our faith is set forth by these words; because God hath revealed himself to us, and hath made the way easy whereby we may come to him.
I will therefore that men pray every where: ‘we see also in the first epistle to the Corinthians, that the apostle saluteth all the faithful who call upon God, both theirs and ours: chap. i. 2. Here he joineth the Gentiles with the Jews; as if he had said, I will not confine the church of God to one particular people. It was so under the law, but after the wall was broken down, and the enmity between the Jews and Gentiles taken away, there was liberty among all nations and people, of calling upon God; because his grace is common to both Jew and Gentile.
Moreover, St. Paul meant to show that the ceremonies of the law were not to be continued after Jesus Christ was made manifest to the world. For in the time of the law, men were constrained to come together at the temple, to call upon God. It is true that the Jews prayed, every man at his own house, but it was not lawful to offer a solemn sacrifice except in the temple; for that was the place that God had chosen. According to the grossness of the people, it was requisite to have sacrifices, until the truth should be declared more plainly. The temple was a sign, which represents that we must come to God in one way only; and what is that? through our Lord Jesus Christ.
We cannot come nigh to God, unless we have one to lead us; we must therefore trust in him through the merits of Jesus Christ. The Jews had this in a figure; we have it in substance and in truth. Again; God thought proper to hold them as little children in the unity of faith, by means which were suitable for their rudeness; but at present we have such a clearness in the gospel, that we need those old shadows no more. Seeing that the order which God had established under the law is now abolished, that is to say, the order of the temple of Jerusalem, and all the rest of the ceremonies; we must stay ourselves no more upon them.
Our Lord Jesus Christ said to the woman of Samaria, John iv. 21. 23. “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” In those days there was a great controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans; the temple of Samaria being built in despite of the Jews. Those that worshipped at the temple of Samaria, claimed the example of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. The Jews had the word of God. Christ saith, that in times past, the Jews knew what they worshipped, for they were ruled by a doctrine which was certain; but that the Samaritans were idolaters. But now, (saith he,) you must strive no more for the temple of Jerusalem, or for the temple of Samaria: and why so? because God shall be called upon in spirit and in truth throughout all the world.
Jesus Christ having made his appearance, the old shadows of the law are taken away; let us content ourselves therefore, seeing we have a temple which is not material, nor visible: yea, all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is sufficient for us, that he reacheth out his hand, being ready to present us before God: and that through his means we have an entrance into the true spiritual sanctuary, that God receiveth us, that the veil of the temple is rent, that we may no more worship afar off in the court of the temple, but may come and cry with open mouth, Abba, Father.
Abba, was a customary word, used in the Hebrew tongue; that is, in the Syrian tongue. St. Paul putteth two words, Abba, Father, in Hebrew and Greek, to show us that every man in his own tongue hath now liberty to call upon God. Yea, there is no more a particular place where we must come to worship: but as the gospel hath been preached throughout all the world, we must show that at this day every man may call upon God, and pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
It is true, we may now have temples for our convenience, but not in such a manner as the Jews had them: that is, we are not under the necessity of coming to some particular place in order to be heard of God. If there were other places as convenient for us as this, there would be no difference between them. Let us therefore learn that all ceremonies ended at the coming of Christ. This is very necessary to be understood, in order to draw us from the superstitious notions of the papists, which only darken prayer.
The Jews had their lights, perfumes, incense, &c.; and they had their priests of the law; by which we may understand, that we have need of a mediator between God and man. The papists keep all those things still; and in so doing, it is as much as if they renounced Jesus Christ. It pleased God to be served in shadows, (as St. Paul showeth, Col. ii.) before the coming of Jesus Christ, who is the true body; that is, the substance of all. Do not those that seek such ceremonies, estrange themselves from Christ? Do they not know that when Christ was here in the world, and took our flesh upon him, and suffered and died, that it was for this purpose, that we might put our trust in him, and have no more of these childish figures, which served only for a season? Thus, the papists, with all the fooleries which they use, not only darken the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, but utterly deface it.
Let us therefore learn to worship God, and call upon him out of a pure heart; without all these mixtures, and things devised by our own brains; yea, and without borrowing that from the old law, which is no longer proper for us. We now have a full revelation in the gospel: let us not, therefore, do this injury to God, to put away the brightness which he hath caused to shine before our eyes; seeing the Son of justice, that is to say, our Lord Jesus Christ, is now made manifest to us. Why should we talk any more of walking in dark shadows, which were only of use when we were far from that great brightness which afterwards appeared?:
We must pray to God as he hath commanded us in the gospel. The papists make pilgrimages, and go trotting up and down, this way and that, to find God: but in so doing they forsake him, and with, draw themselves wholly from him. Let us not follow these examples, but be confirmed in the doctrine of the gospel, wherein we are exhorted to pray daily, mot doubting but God will hear us in all our requests.
When we make our prayers to God, we must not bring thither our melancholy or fretful passions, as though we would be at defiance with him, as one that prayeth when he is angry, or murmuring, be quieted by reason of affliction which God sendeth, for in so doing we dishonour him.
There are some who make a show, as though they prayed to God, by protesting against him, because they are not dealt with according to their own fancy. Thus, they will come to God, but it is to be at defiance with him, as if a woman should ask something of her husband, and at the same time say, Oh, you care not for me! This is the manner of prayer which some use, but it would be better for them not to pray at all, than to come to God with a heart so envenomed with wrath. Let us learn therefore to pray to God with a peaceable heart. St. Paul showeth us, that besides diligence in our prayers, we must also join thanksgiving: and if we do not immediately receive what we desire, wait patiently, and be content until God be pleased to grant our requests.
So, then, we must pray to God without murmuring, without fretting or foaming, yea, without using any reply, to ask him why he suffereth us to languish. It appears that St. Paul had another meaning in this place; for he regarded the circumstance which we have mentioned before; to wit, that the Jews would gladly have shut out the Gentiles. For, say they, we are the children of God, he hath chosen us; and shall not the stock of Abraham have more privileges than the uncircumcised nations? The Gentiles, on the other side, mocked the Jews, and considered them as children, not knowing that the ceremonies of the law were at an end.
Thus, the Jews despised the Gentiles, and disdạined them, and would not receive them into their company. The Gentiles, on the other hand, mocked the Jews for their rudeness, because they continued to hold fast the rudiments of the law. Here arose many schisms; one party setting themselves against the other; and the church was, as it were, torn in pieces; yet above all things, God commendeth unity and brotherly love. Let us examine the form of prayer given us by our Lord Jesus Christ: Qur Father which art in heaven, &c. He doth not say, that every one, when he calleth upon God, shall say, my Father! therefore, when I say, “ Our,” I speak in the name of all; and every man must say the same.
We shall not have access to God by prayer, unless we be joined together; for he that separateth himself from his neighbours, shutteth his own mouth, so that he cannot pray to God as our Lord Jesus Christ hath commanded. To be short, we must agree together, and be bound in a bond of peace, before we can come nigh, and present ourselves to God. These discords and debates of which we have spoken, existed between the Jews and Gentiles. St. Paul showeth that they cannot call upon God, without being refused and cast back, until they be at peace one with another. This is the reason why he requesteth them here, to lift up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Thus the apostle advised them, not to enter into debates and contentions one with another. The Jews must not advance themselves above the Gentiles, because they were called first; nor the Gentiles condemn the Jews for the grossness of their understanding: all these contentions must cease, and a perfect reconciliation must be made, to show that they all have the spirit of adoption; that is to say, that they are governed by the spirit of God, even that spirit which bringeth peace and unity. Let us understand this doctrine: that before we can dispose ourselves to pray aright, we must have this brotherly love which God commandeth, and this unity and nearness.
He would not have each one to remain by himself, but would have us unite in peace and concord: although every one speak, though every one be apart in his own place, and pray to God in secret, yet must our consent come to heaven, and we must all say with one affection, and in truth, Our Father. This word Our, must bind us together, and so make us in fellowship one with another, that there will be, as it were, but one voice, one heart, and one spirit. Moreover, when we pray, let the churches be joined together. If we wish to pray aright, we must not do like those who endeavour to divide that which God hath joined together, under colour of some little ceremony which is not worthy of our notice, separating ourselves one from another, and dismembering the body; for those that conduct themselves in this manner, show plainly that they are possessed with the spirit of Satan, and are endeavouring to destroy the union that exists among the children of God.
Therefore let all controversy be laid aside, and trodden under foot; and let us in liberty and with freedom pray to God, being assured that our Lord Jesus Christ hath manifested himself to us, and that through his merits we shall obtain favour in the sight of God the Father. Truly, we cannot join with those that separate themselves from us: for example, the papists call themselves christians; and cannot we communicate with them in prayer? No; because they have forsaken Christ Jesus. We know that if we swerve from him the least jot, we get out of the way: therefore, seeing the papists have ses parated themselves from Jesus Christ, the distance is too great between them and us, to be joined together. But we must give our hand to all those that will submit themselves to Jesus Christ; and with mutual accord come and render ourselves up to God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ saith, Mat. v. 23 and 24, “ If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Do we wish God to be merciful to us? If we do, we must lay aside all enmity one against another: for if we be divided among ourselves, God will cast us off; for he will receive none but those that are members of his Son. We cannot be members of Jesus Christ, unless we be governed by his spirit: which is the spirit of peace and unity, as we have already shown. Let us therefore learn to live in friendship and brotherly love, if we wish to be received when we come to God.
When we see any thing that may hinder our prayers, we must remember that the devil goeth about to put stumbling-blocks in our way; let us therefore shun them as most deadly plagues. There are many who seek nothing else, but to raise difficulties and disputations; as though the word of God was made to separate us one from another. We have already mentioned that the true intent of the gospel is, to call us to God; that we may be joined together, and made one in our prayers and requests to him. Those that indulge in contentious debates, and endeavour to advance themselves one above another, pervert good doctrine, and fight against it; and endeavour to bring the glory of God to nought. Therefore, they must not think that God will hear them when they pray to him, seeing they have not this unity and concord to go to him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
St. Paul saith, lifting up holy hands. By this he would have us understand, that we must not abuse God’s name, by coming to him in our filthiness; but that we must be purged and made clean: for prayer is called a sacrifice; and we know that in the time of the law, when they sacrificed, they first washed themselves. And why so? Our Lord meant thereby to show us that we are full of filthiness, unclean, and not worthy to come to him, until we have been cleansed. But the figures of the law are now at an end; we must therefore come to Christ, for he is our true washing. Yet notwithstanding, we must not continue in filthiness, for Christ Jesus was given that he might renew us by his holy spirit, and that we might forsake our wicked lusts.
God doth not command us to bring our filthiness, and infections before him, but we must pray to him, acknowledging ourselves utterly confounded and ashamed, full of uncleanness and filthiness, ready to be cast off, unless cleansed through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, by acknowledging our faults and blemishes, we must run to this fountain, where we may be washed: that is, Christ having shed his blood to wash away our sins, we shall be accounted pure before God, and wholly clean. When Jesus Christ gave us the spirit of sanctification, although there was nothing but infection in us, he cleansed us from our faults, and gave us free access to God. Therefore, the apostle saith we must pray, lifting up holy hands.
In the time of the law and the Old Testament, God entertained the people with this ceremony, that he would have them purified before they offered sacrifice; yea, before they made solemn profession of their faith in the temple. These things are not in use at present, among the ehristians, but we must keep the substance, And what is the substance? It is this; although we have no visible water for cleansing, yet we must come to the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is our spiritual washing. Sometimes the Holy Ghost is represented as clean water: as it is said in Ezekiel xxxvi. 25. “ Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, I will cleanse you.” This promise referreth to the coming of Jesus Christ. So then, God showeth us that instead of the old figures which he gave to the Jews, and instead of material and corruptible water, we shall be purified and made clean by the holy spirit.
David saith, Psalm xxvi.. 6. “I will wash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord.” When David speaketh thus, he hath respect to the figures of the law. We shall understand this more easily, by noticing the passage where God reproacheth the Jews by his prophet Isaiah, because they came into the temple with filthy hands. It is said, Isa. i. “When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with: it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons, and your appointed feasts, my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes: cease to do evil.”
As our Lord God reproved the Jews for coming before him with filthy or bloody hands, so he commandeth us by the mouth of St. Paul, to lift up holy hands: that is, not to be inwrapped in our evil affections, Thus we see what St. Paul meant; seeing we have this privilege, that we may pray to God, and draw near to him as our Father, we must not think that he will hear us, if we come to him in our natural state of filthiness; for he will not hold those guiltless that take his name in vain. On the contrary, seeing Jesus Christ hath come to purge us, and. make us partakers of the Holy Ghost, we must endeavour to become pure; and as we cannot do it ourselves, we must have recourse to our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the fountain of all pureness, and the source of perfection.
We must not pray to God, as though he were an idol, and required to be served in a worldly manner; but our minds must be raised above our earthly affections: and as we lift up our hands, so must our hearts be lifted on high by faith. As oft’ then as we have our hands lifted up toward heaven, so oft should our minds be led to God in consideration of our weakness: knowing that we cannot have access to him, unless we lift ourselves above the world: that is, unless we withdraw ourselves from unruly passions, and vain affections. When we say, Our Father which art in heaven, we are reminded that we must seek him there, and must climb up thither by faith, though we still dwell on earth.
Let us learn therefore to renounce every thing which God doth not allow, knowing that our salvation is in him alone. Let us put our whole trust in him, believing that he will aid and assist us in all our troubles and afflictions: for if we do not pray in faith, although the ceremony may be good of itself, yet shall it be vain and superfluous. Those who lift up their hands to heaven, and at the same time remain fastened to things on earth, condemn themselves; yea, as much as though they should set down their condemnation in writing, and ratify it by their own hand and seal; condemning themselves as hypocrites, liars, and forsworn persons. For they come before God, protesting that they seek him, and at the same time remain attached to things below. They say they put their trust in him, and at the same time trust in themselves or some other creature: they pretend to be lifted up to heaven by faith, and at the same time are drowned in earthly pleasures.
Let us therefore learn, when we pray to God, to be void of all earthly cares and wicked affections; knowing that there are many things which hinder us from coming to God. When we lift up our hands to heaven, it must be for the purpose of seeking God by faith; which we cannot do, unless we withdraw ourselves from the cares and wicked affections of the flesh.
Now let us fall down before the face of our good God, confessing our faults, and praying him to put them out of his remembrance, that we may be received by him; and in the mean time, that he would strengthen us, and sanctify us from day to day by his holy spirit, until we wholly cast off all our imperfections and sins: but as this cannot be done so long as we live in this mortal life, that he would bear with our infirmities, until he hath utterly put them away. And thus let us all say: Almighty God, our heavenly Father…