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Everyday Prayer with John Calvin

Donald K. McKim

Reviewed by: G. Mark Sumpter

Date posted: 06/07/2020

Everyday Prayer with John Calvin, by Donald K. McKim. P&R, 2019. Hardcover, 136 pages, $12.00. Reviewed by OP minister G. Mark Sumpter.

My last name from the French and Latin means pack mule. That’s about right. But a noticeable shortfall about living up to my name is my inability to plod along, mule-like. Instead of slow, steady steps with one hoof in front of the other in the Christian life, I’m given to running wind sprints. I welcome a book like Everyday Prayer with John Calvin because it offers a bridle and bit, helping me to slow down. With Calvin as a model and teacher about the gift, importance, and practice of prayer, we get to be nurtured and discipled by the Protestant Reformer himself.

Donald K. McKim, pastor, theologian, and writer, has compiled eighty-five single-page devotional entries, developing themes about prayer, while weaving in quotes from John Calvin. Guidance for the reader comes from McKim’s own introduction and conclusion for each entry, along with a bulleted reflection question or prayer point. On every page, a four-course meal awaits us: Scripture, Calvin, teaching, and prayer.

The dominant themes of the book are: God’s invitation to pray; hope when despairing; perseverance and constancy; faith, humility, and dependency; liberty, sonship, and access; form (a directory, a method), promises, and supplication. As a sample, here is McKim’s entry on perseverance in prayer, based on Romans 12:9–13.

Paul’s next prescription to the Romans in verse 12 is to “persevere in prayer.” This is one thing we can do. We may not be able to manufacture hope or produce patience. But we can pray. We can pray and keep on praying. Calvin wrote that “Paul not only stimulates us to prayer, but expressly calls for perseverance, because our warfare is unceasing and various assaults arise daily. Even the strongest are unable to bear these without frequent acquisition of new vigor. But diligence in prayer is the best remedy to prevent our being wearied.” Our experience with prayer teaches us that prayer is a practice in which we engage over the “long haul” of our lives.

I give the book high marks as a readable, handy tool for personal or family use, though there are some weaknesses. When McKim traces prayer through the psalms with twenty-eight devotional entries, only one of them references the enemies of God, with their threats and mockery. You might think with King David’s own repetitive development of this theme, we’d find three or four entries on aspects of this teaching. Also, two other areas are overlooked altogether: prayer and the preached Word, and prayer and evangelism. Likely, McKim had to trim things down.

I invite you to come along with me, slow down and plod in our discipleship, always following the Lord Jesus Christ. Everyday Prayer with John Calvin provides plenty for pack mules.

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