Unusually, for a Baptist church, this morning's worship focused on John Wesley's Covenant Prayer. Of course, Methodists use this as the centerpiece of their annual Covenant Service, but I think this was new stuff to many of us. The preacher took us line-by-line through the prayer:
I am no longer my own, but yours,
Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whom you will;
Put me to doing, put me to suffering;
Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you,
Exalted for you or brought low for you;
Let me be full, let me be empty;
Let me have all things, let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things
To your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
You are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made one earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven.
He explained about covenant having two parts - God's promises and our commitment. And that the prayer's beginning -"I am no longer my own, but yours" - lies at the heart of Christian life. All my identity is found in Christ (Gal 2:20, Phil 1:21, 2 Cor .5:15). Who am I living for in 2010? Him.
The prayer powerfuly spells out a two-fold commitment - of all that we do, and all that we have. Intensely personal, some lines are especially radical: "put me to suffering", "let me be empty," "let me be nothing."
After explaining its content, we spent time quietly before he invited us to stand to say the prayer together. And this is the crunch point - we all said it. Perhaps one or two felt they couldn't, but it seemed everyone joined in But, honestly, I felt inner turmoil. It just seemed too soon and too easy to scale the heights of spiritual commitment by repeating these words. Talking with my wife Carol on the way home, she said she also felt it seemed too ambitious, and rather shallow to say the words aloud. Of course, I know you cannot say this without being alive in Christ, and if you are alive in Him it should be easier. It should!
I guess, the worthy response is to desire such a covenant, say these words with as much of myself as is possible, admit the words still come too easily and to keep them in front of me as 2010 pans out. And to remember my covenant with God when suffering, emptiness and nothing actually happen! I think these great words need my "yielding" over 12 months. It made me think about other prayers, and hymns, that I too readily spout! Are there times when we need to stew and reflect before speaking?