In his book on Prayer, Tim Keller reflects on Calvin’s ’Rules for prayer’ which is contained in his ’Institutes of the Christian Religion’. Calvin’s first ‘rule of prayer’ is the principle of reverence or the ’fear of God’; this is the call for believers to have a true sense of the seriousness and magnitude of what prayer is – a personal audience and conversation with the Almighty God. The Bible speaks about having a ‘fear’ of God (c.f. Genesis 22:12; Ecclesiastes 12:13). Keller states, “Obviously, to ‘fear’ God means to be afraid, but afraid of what – and why?” Some have viewed this [fearing God] to mean that we need to be afraid that God is going to punish us. However, verses like Romans 8:1 remind us that ‘there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’. So, what is this proper ‘fear’ we should have all about?
Ultimately it comes down to having a deep sense of awe of God – to under-stand how holy and righteous and powerful and glorious He is, and to be ab-solutely transfixed by this. It also carries with it the sense of the complete undeserved grace we have received from God in reaching out to us in our sin and saving us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To truly fear God is to be afraid of offending Him; of grieving Him; of not honouring Him as we should for who He is and all He has done for us.
Calvin says that this sense of awe is a crucial part of prayer. Prayer both requires it and produces it.
Blessings, Pastor Duncan