Calvin and Watson on the Lord's Prayer


        What is the purpose of the Lord’s Prayer?   Why did Jesus command his disciples to pray in this way?   Do we have to pray these exact words in order to pray correctly?   These are important questions for Christians who earnestly desire to understand prayer and grow in their prayer life.   Both John Calvin, the great theologian, pastor, and reformer in Geneva, and Thomas Watson, one of the divines of the Puritan age in England, have made efforts to tackle these issues that stem from the Lord’s Prayer.   It is likely that their primary purpose in writing was not to tackle these specific issues, but to be faithful expositors of this important prayer.   Each of these men had a pastor’s heart and desired to build up of the body of Christ by teaching Christians how to pray properly.
        Each writer understands that the ultimate purpose for all things, including the Lord’s Prayer is the supreme glory of God.   This is somewhat assumed by Watson, but Calvin makes it abundantly clear that God’s glory is what the Lord’s Prayer is all about.   The question that both theologians answer is: what is the essential application of Jesus’ prayer for the Christian life?   Both Calvin and Watson agree that the essential application of Jesus giving this prayer is that it is to be the rule and model according to which Christians should frame all of their prayers.   In fact, when Watson opens his discussions, he defines the meaning of Jesus’ words: “After this manner pray ye” as such,   “The meaning is, let this be the rule and model according to which you frame your prayers.”[i]   He then summarizes Calvin from his Institutes in the same discussion writing:   “We ought to examine our prayers by this rule.”[ii]   Calvin writes in his commentary that Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:9, and Luke 11:1 mean that this prayer is not a set of words that has to be followed strictly, but that we should not depart from the limits that Christ has established in his...