Nov 3, 2023

John Calvin


The Reformation leaders, Martin Luther and John Calvin, never met in person. When Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Calvin was eight years old. Calvin sent a letter to Luther through a mutual friend, Melanchthon, that was never delivered. Melanchthon wrote to Calvin, “I have not given your letter to Doctor Martin, as he looks at such things with suspicion.” Luther was touchy and weary as he was nearing the end of his life. The temperaments of these two reformers were poles apart. Luther said of himself, “I am rough, boisterous, stormy and belligerent. I was born to fight against monsters and demons.” He was outgoing and extroverted, a true “people person.” Calvin, by contrast, was a classic introvert (I’d wager INTJ on the Myers-Briggs Scale). He described himself, “I assure you that by nature I am shy and timid “. Calvin had deep respect for “father Luther” yet described him as “immoderately ardent and violent in character.” Luther admired Calvin yet also wrote that he was “educated but strongly suspected of the error of the Sacramentarians,” a reference to their dispute over the Lord’s Supper. Calvin following in Luther’s footsteps was surely an act of God. Luther functioned as pioneer and trailblazer, the heart of the Reformation. Calvin was its head, the scholar who provided this fledgling movement with theological rigor and depth. Despite their differences, they shared a deep commitment to God in prayer. Calvin devoted 100 pages of his Institutes of the Christian Religion to prayer, which he described as “intimate conversation with God.” He wrote that God’s very character gives us every assurance that God hears and answers prayer. Luther’s references to prayer permeate his writings. He consistently advocated that prayer be frequent, bold, honest and forthright. We begin this day with a morning prayer by John Calvin:

My God, Father and Savior, since you have been pleased to give me the grace to come through the night to the present day, now grant that I may employ it entirely in your service, so that all my works may be to the glory of your name and the edification of my neighbors. As you have been pleased to make your sun shine upon the earth to give us bodily light, grant the light of your Spirit to illumine my understanding and my heart. And because it means nothing to begin well if one does not persevere, I ask that you continue to increase your grace in me until you have led me into full communion with your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the true Sun of our souls, shining day and night, eternally and without end. Hear me, merciful Father, by our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.