“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. 6 But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. 8 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 9 Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
10 May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today the food we need,
12 and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
13 And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
– Matthew 6:5-13
Martin Luther centered his theological teaching on the grace of God. John Calvin centered his teaching on the sovereignty of God. Lutherans acknowledge and believe in God’s sovereignty. But it takes a back seat to God’s grace. Calvinists believe in God’s grace as well. Their primary starting point, however, is God’s sovereignty. We prefer to refer to God’s providence – with the emphasis on God’s provision because of his love for us and his desire for all people to be saved.
As you pray today, use the Lord’s Prayer. But pray it slowly, thoughtfully, faithfully, and hopefully. In the end we’re all like the soldier Olasky speaks of below: taking shelter behind whatever gatepost of God’s special providence he supplies. God knows what we need, but asks that we pray. By doing so we are acknowledging his providential, faithful, loving care.
Marvin Olasky, writing in World Magazine, provided an insightful commentary regarding how God gives us means to protect ourselves and others. He wrote:
Faith in God’s sovereignty has one thing in common with fatalism:Both words begin with the letter F. I’m impressed with the way many Christians are responding to coronavirus pressure, but depressed by those who blithely equate social isolation and theological surrender.
Here’s a quick reminder of what the past millennium’s prime proponent of God’s sovereignty, John Calvin, wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 1, Chapter 17): “For he who has set the limits to our life has at the same time entrusted to us its care. He has provided means and helps to preserve it. … Thus if the Lord has committed to us the protection of our life, our duty is to protect it; if he offers helps, to use them; if he forewarns us of dangers, not to plunge headlong; if he makes remedies available, not to neglect them.”
What’s the practical application? One Sunday in 1862 pastor and soldier Robert L. Dabney preached a sermon on God’s “special providence,” noting that in a recent battle “every shot and shell and bullet was directed by the God of battles.” Not much later Dabney found himself under fire and took cover behind a large gate post. A nearby officer kidded him: “If the God of battles directs every shot, why do you want to put a gate-post between you and a special providence?” Dabney replied, “Just here the gate-post is the special providence.”