Plato’s Prayer

Speaking of prayer and Plato, note this excerpt from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion:

“Plato, on seeing men’s want of skill in making requests to God, which, if granted, would often have been disadvantageous to them, declares this, taken from an ancient poet, to be the best prayer: ‘King Jupiter, bestow the best things upon us whether we wish for them or not, but command that evil things be far from us even when we request them.’ And, indeed, the heathen man is wise in that he judges how dangerous it is to seek from the Lord what our greed dictates; at the same time he discloses our unhappiness, in that we cannot even open our mouths before God without danger unless the Spirit instructs us in the right pattern for prayer.” [McNeill/Battles; 3.20.34; 2:897-898]

Of course this does not mean Calvin is uncritical of Plato. He certainly is critical of Plato in other places. But it’s interesting to me that Calvin feels the freedom to incorporate pagan literature into his instruction upon the Lord’s Prayer.

2 thoughts on “Plato’s Prayer

  1. Hey Tony,
    I love the blog! It has been very helpful to me especially in the area of Puritan literature.

    On the excerpt of Calvin’s, do you think he is pointing out that man, even with a fallen and pagan bent, would have whatever deity he may respect, honor him with such a request as a sign that even though fallen still has the imprint of a need for God on him?

    Thanks for your blog and God bless!

    Brandon Phillips

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