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THE WORD AND PRAYER: 52 Classic Devotions from the Minor Prophets
John Calvin compiled by Charles E. Edwards

In 1897 the Presbyterian Board of Publication first published this Devotional Gem drawn from John Calvin's remarkable teaching on the Minor Prophets. Rev. Charles E. Edwards did a masterful job of selecting an exposition from Calvin's Lectures to stand beside the actual prayer that Calvin used to close that particular Lecture.

The Apostle's declared, "But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4). Exposition and prayer are found here in the perfect introduction to John Calvin. This can serve as a tool to help the reader go through the Minor Prophets with the able assistance of the Prince of Expositors.

"Here, in these words from his lectures and prayers in the Geneva Academy, John Calvin most fully revealed his heart. As he prepared an international gathering of talented young men for gospel ministry--and not a few for martyrdom--he poured his knowledge into them and prayed fervently with them. Here he models what he sought to teach: if a man would be a pastor he must know God. If he would know God and serve man he must devote himself to prayer and the ministry of the word." -Sinclair B. Ferguson

"Calvin is the spiritual grandfather of us all because most Pauline and most consumed with the Spirit of Christ. This is a fine introduction to his teaching and spirit." - Geoff Thomas

"This precious book confirms Calvin's conviction that the Word and prayer work together to develop genuine piety in the Christian. Calvin taught that the Word is God's communication to us, providing us with spiritual food and medicine for spiritual health. Prayer is our communication to God by which we express praise and adoration, and bow in submissive piety before Him. May God mightily use this little volume to foster this spirit of devotion in many hearts and lives." --Dr. Joel R. Beeke

"Having made use of Calvin's devotions and prayers from the Minor Prophets since I was a high school student, I am delighted to commend them to a new generation (my old small green paperback edition is now flimsy and dog-eared!). THE WORD AND PRAYER: Classic Devotions from the Minor Prophets by John Calvin, compiled by Charles E. Edwards, will prove a welcome aid to the cultivation of Christian piety, as well as public prayer." - Ligon Duncan

"In a day when there are as many pieties as Christians, this volume will be a fresh breeze from a time and a tradition which gave thought to prayer, prayed fervently, carefully, and biblically. Calvin is perhaps the preeminent model for those who refuse to divorce intellect and heart, who would pray when they study and study when they pray." -R. Scott Clark



1. The Solitary Lamb - Hosea 4:16

2. A Sovereign Word - Hosea 5:1

3. Kindness and Faith - Hosea 6:6

4. Sin and Punishment - Hosea 9:9

5. The Divinity of Christ - Hosea 12:4,5

6. A Gracious Reminder - Hosea 13:5

7. The True King - Hosea 13:10

8. A Kind Invitation - Hosea 14:1

9. Worship and Joy - Joel 1:16

10. Sounding the Alarm - Joel 2:1

11. The Outpouring of the Spirit - Joel 2:28

12. An Admonition - Joel 2:30,31

13. Calling on the Lord - Joel 2:32

14. A Blessed Experience - Joel 3:17

15. The Law of Worship - Amos 4:5

16. A Solemn Exhortation - Amos 4:12

17. Herdman and Prophet - Amos 7:14

18. The Power of God - Amos 9:6

19. Wisdom Destroyed - Obadiah 8

20. A Fearless Preacher - Jonah 3:4

21. The Mercy of God - Jonah 4:10,11

22. A Prophet's Lamentation - Micah 1:9

23. Strengthened by the Spirit - Micah 3:8

24. A Fellowship of Nations - Micah 4:2

25. The Constancy of Faith - Micah 4:5

26. God's Requirements - Micah 6:8

27. A Prayer for God's Heritage - Micah 7:14

28. Nineveh's Fall - Nahum 2:8

29. The Watch Tower - Habakkuk 2:1

30. Punishment for Avarice - Habakkuk 2:6

31. Chariot's of Salvation - Habakkuk 3:8

32. Rejoicing in the Lord - Habakkuk 3:17,18

33. Pride and Destruction - Zephaniah 2:15

34. Pure Lips - Zephaniah 3:9

35. Uses of Affliction - Zephaniah 3:12

36. A Mirror for Ingratitude - Haggai 1:2

37. A Glorious Temple - Haggai 2:8

38. Abundant Blessing - Haggai 2:18,19

39. Horns and Carpenters - Zechariah 1:18-21

40. The True Priest - Zechariah 3:1

41. The Day of Small Things - Zechariah 4:10

42. The Providence of God - Zechariah 6:8

43. Brotherly Kindness - Zechariah 7:9

44. Deliverance by Covenant - Zechariah 9:11

45. An Abundant Blessing - Zechariah 9:17

46. Promise of Restoration - Zechariah 10:6

47. Beauty and Bands - Zechariah 11:7

48. True Repentance - Zechariah 12:10

49. Impure Worship Banished - Zechariah 13:2

50. Saved by Grace - Malachi 1:2

51. The Calling of the Gentiles - Malachi 1:11

52. Christ's Forerunner - Malachi 4:5



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JOHN CALVIN was a man of God. He has been justly admired as the theologian of the Reformation; as the prince of commentators upon Holy Scripture, and the father of its scientific exegesis, and as the virtual founder of American common schools. He was also great in prayer. The system of Christian doctrine which bears his name has ever been the mother of devotion. It may be known by its fruits; for it has trained a noble army of martyrs, reformers, missionaries, and evangelists. It has inspired countless revivals of religion.[1] It lives in all the popular hymnals of Christendom. Prayer is the "vital breath," the "native air" of Calvinism. The prayers of John Calvin, however, have received little attention, as compared with the fame which crowns his theological writings. His commentaries upon Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Minor Prophets were originally delivered in the form of lectures, each followed by appropriate petitions. Both lectures and prayers were extemporaneous. In his epistle dedicatory, prefaced to the commentary upon the Minor Prophets, and addressed to the King of Sweden, Calvin says: "Had it been in my power I would rather have tried to prevent the wider circulation of that extemporaneous kind of teaching, intended for the particular benefit of my auditory, and with which benefit I was abundantly satisfied." John Budaeus,[2] in another preface, piously exhorts that we pray for the Spirit of God, that we may come to the reading of Scripture instructed by him. "And for this end," he says, "much help may be given us by the short prayers which we have taken care to add at the close of every lecture as gathered by us with the same care and fidelity as the lectures were; and the ignorant may also have in these a pattern, as it were, painted before them, by which they may form their prayers from the words of Scripture. For as at the beginning of the lectures he ever used the same form of prayer, so he was wont ever to finish every lecture by a new prayer formed at the time, as given him by the Spirit of God, and accommodated to the subject of the lecture."

The following passage from Calvin's commentary on Genesis shows how his oratory rises sometimes to the sublime: "It is vain for any to reason as philosophers on the workmanship of the world, except those who having been first humbled by the preaching of the gospel have learned to submit the whole of their intellectual wisdom (as Paul expresses it) to the foolishness of the cross. Nothing shall we find, I say, above or below, which can raise us up to God, until Christ shall have instructed us in his own school. Yet this cannot be done unless we, having emerged out of the lowest depths, are borne up above all heavens in the chariot of his cross, that there by faith we may apprehend those things which the eye has never seen, the ear never heard, and which far surpass our hearts and minds. There the invisible kingdom of Christ fills all things, and his spiritual grace is diffused through all. Yet this does not prevent us from applying our senses to the consideration of heaven and earth, that we may thence seek confirmation in the true knowledge of God. For Christ is that image in which God presents to our view not only his heart, but also his hands and his feet. I give the name of his heart to that secret love with which he embraces us in Christ, by his hands and feet I understand those works of his which are displayed before our eyes." His translator notes here that Calvin shows an intimate experimental acquaintance with the declaration of the apostle, "And made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus."[3]

Calvin's correspondence indicates how earnestly he watched and prayed for the salvation of our English and Scottish forefathers.

To his ardent disciple John Knox he writes: "It was a source of pleasure, not to me only, but to all the pious persons to whom I communicated the agreeable tidings, to hear of the very real success which has crowned your labors. But as we are astonished at such incredible progress in so brief a space of time, so we likewise give thanks to God whose extraordinary blessing is signally displayed herein."

In his suggestions to the Protector Somerset, he remarks: "Monsignor, it appears to me that there is very little preaching of a lively kind in the kingdom, but that the greater part deliver it by way of reading from a written discourse. Now this preaching ought not to be lifeless, but lively, to teach, to exhort, to reprove, as St. Paul says in speaking to Timothy (II Tim. 4:2). So indeed, that if an unbeliever enter, he may be so effectually arrested and convinced as to give glory to God, as Paul says in another passage (I Cor. 14). You are also aware, Monsignor, how he speaks of the lively power and energy with which they ought to speak, who would approve themselves as good and faithful ministers of God, who must not make a parade of rhetoric, only to gain esteem for themselves, but that the Spirit of God ought to sound forth by their voice, so as to work with mighty energy."

His letter to the boy-king, Edward the Sixth, deserves undying remembrance: "It is indeed a great thing to be a king, and yet more over such a country, nevertheless, I have no doubt that you reckon it beyond comparison better to be a Christian. It is therefore an invaluable privilege that God has vouchsafed you, sire, to be a Christian king, to serve as his lieutenant in ordering and maintaining the kingdom of Jesus Christ in England."

Lady Anne Seymour, daughter of the Protector Somerset, receives this message from him "Certainly among so many gifts with which God has endowed and adorned you, this stands unquestionably first--that he stretched out his hand to you in tender childhood to lead you to his own Son, who is the author of eternal salvation, and the fountain of all good."

Cranmer was one of his correspondents and co-laborers. He submitted to Calvin a proposal for a General Synod for the more close union of the Reformed churches. Calvin thus communicates his approval: "So much does this concern me that could I be of any service I would not grudge to cross even ten seas if need were on account of it." In another letter he says: "I highly commend the plan which your reverend sir, have adopted to make the English frame for themselves, without delay, a religious constitution, lest by matters remaining longer in an unsettled state, or not being sufficiently digested, the minds of the common people should be confirmed in suspense."

He wrote to Farel: "The Archbishop of Canterbury informed me that I could do nothing more useful than to write to the King more frequently. This gave me more pleasure than if I had come to the possession of a great sum of money."

When English exiles were scattered over the continent by Queen Mary's persecution Calvin's pen was exercised in their behalf. He welcomed them to the hospitality of Geneva, and thus revealed his sympathy: "We have good reason to feel anxiety--yea even torment--regarding that nation [England]. Scarcely has any other thing so distressed me as this English affair."

Upon the accession of Queen Elizabeth, Calvin dedicated to her a new edition of his commentary on Isaiah, in which he grandly pleads for the gospel: "It is not so much my object to be favored with your countenance in my personal labors as humbly to entreat, and by the sacred name of Christ to implore, not only that through your kindness all orthodox books may again be welcomed and freely circulated in England, but that your chief care may be directed to promote religion, which has fallen into shameful neglect. And if this is justly demanded from all kings of the earth by the only begotten Son of God, by a still more sacred tie does he hold you bound, most noble Queen, to perform this duty, for when even you, though a King's daughter, were not exempted from that dreadful storm which fell with severity on the heads of all the godly, by the wonderful manner in which he brought you out safe, though not unmoved by the fear of danger, he has laid you under obligation to devote yourself and all your exertions to his service. So far are you from having any reason to be ashamed of this deliverance that God has given you large and abundant grounds of boasting by conforming you to the image of his Son, on whom the prophet Isaiah bestows this among other commendations, that from prison and from judgment he was raised to the loftiest height of heavenly dominion."

The desire of this great reformer is thus ex-pressed to Bucer: "I pray that the English may make a stand for the genuine purity of Christianity, until everything in that country is seen to be regulated according to the rule which Christ himself has laid down."

The prayer of Calvin has been wonderfully answered. England was the bulwark of the Reformation. By the defeat of the Spanish Armada she became mistress of the seas. The sea power of the world then passed from Catholic to Protestant hands, which have firmly held it ever since. The English Puritan movement was Calvinistic to the core. As a result, the Westminster standards, the most complete of Calvinistic creeds, were formulated by the "first among Protestant councils,"[4] and adopted by the British Parliament. Green says: "The whole history of English progress since the Restoration, on its moral and spiritual sides, has been the history of Puritanism."[5] The majority of Calvinists now speak the English language. Dr. Schaff says:[6] "His religious influence upon the Anglo-Saxon race in both continents is greater than that of any native Englishman, and continues to this day." He quotes Baroness Bunsen's eulogy: "The merit of Calvin is his own, and he has been the creative instrument of the strength of England, of Scotland, of the United States of America."

The Calvin Translation Society has enriched English literature by the publication of a large part of his works in fifty-two noble volumes. Their translation has been revised for this brief compilation, which has been drawn entirely from the commentaries on the Minor Prophets. The hundreds of lectures and prayers found in his other writings are equally edifying, and deserve a world-wide circulation.

In conclusion, an exhortation taken from a quaint English translation of Calvin's homilies on Deuteronomy, and similar to many others which occur at the end of his sermons, is appropriate for the devout reader of the sentence prayers which follow: "Now let us kneel down in the presence of our good God, with acknowledgement of our faults, praying him to make us feel them more and more, that we may run wholly unto him, and that forasmuch as we have not now a Moses to lead us into the land of Canaan, but Jesus Christ, which is come down unto us to draw us up into heaven after him, we may follow such a guide, yielding ourselves wholly unto him, and in no wise dragging back from him, that it may please him to grant this grace, not only to us, but also to all people and nations of the earth."

Charles E. Edwards

[1] For clear evidence of these statements see Calvinism in History by Nathaniel S. McFetridge, recently republished by Solid Ground Christian Books (Nov. 2004).

[2] One of the men who labored in Geneva with Calvin to help edit his notes on the Prophets for publication.

[3] Ephesians 2:6.

[4] Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Vol. I, p. 728.

[5] Short History of the English People, Vol. III, chap. VIII ad fin.

[6] History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII, pp. 806,7.