Recently I heard of a well-known Calvinist pastor, author, speaker, who, on a podcast, testified that he often goes into his little son’s bedroom after he’s asleep and prays over him that he be among the elect.
While I certainly understand the pastor’s sentiment and desire, I wonder if this is consistent with Calvinist theology? For any of you who are coming here without knowing me, let me assure you I have read a lot of Calvinist literature–from Calvin to John Piper and virtually every well-known Calvinist in between (including Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Lorraine Boettner, Charles Spurgeon, et al.).
Is it logically consistent for a Calvinist to believe that prayer can play a role (even as a foreordained means to a foreordained end) in bringing it about that a person prayed for be included among the elect?
This seems very different to me from the common Calvinist claim that prayer for the unsaved can be a “foreordained means” to help bring it about that the person, if he or she is elect, comes to repent and believe. (Although I admit having qualms about the logic of that as well!)
According to Calvinism, God elects individuals unconditionally. Salvation itself is not unconditional, so Calvin argued, because it depends on repentance and faith. However, according to Calvin and most Calvinists, an elect person will come to salvation. God will assure it via irresistible grace. But God uses means which he has foreordained to bring it about that the elect repent and believe.
But is it consistent with Calvinism to believe that God uses human means to decide who will be elect? I don’t think so. I do not remember any Calvinist theologian saying so.
If God used means to decide who is among the elect (e.g., prayer), then election would not be strictly unconditional. And it would raise questions such as what kind of prayer, how fervent, etc., can cause God to include someone among the elect. And it would raise serious questions for Calvinism about God’s sovereignty (as defined by Calvinists). It would no longer be absolute.
I think there are Calvinists who simply cannot stomach the implication of Calvinism that a loved one, especially a child, might not be elect, so they revert to inconsistency. Charles Spurgeon, for example, prayed “O God, save all the elect and then elect some more.”
If a Calvinist thinks that his or her prayer for his or her child might affect God to elect the child, why not pray Spurgeon’s prayer–for everyone in general, not just one’s own child?
But how consistent is Spurgeon’s prayer with Calvinist theology of God’s sovereignty? I don’t think it is at all.
Nor is the pastor’s prayer for his child.