By Ward Shope
In the Presbyterian tradition, we are apt to refer to John Calvin and some of the other early Protestant Reformers as those who shape the way we think about our faith – and rightfully so. The emphasis on God’s gracious gift of Jesus by way of his covenant of grace reminds us that we have done nothing to earn our salvation. Even the ability to see and trust in Jesus is a gift God gives us. Salvation begins and ends with Him.
But other traditions have been influenced by the reformed tradition, even if they sometimes seem to be at odds with it. Many don’t realize that John Wesley, the founder of Methodism was significantly influenced by the Puritan tradition in England. Yes, he had his rather pronounced differences with reformed thought as he played a significant role in the Great Awakening in the 18th century. Still his understanding of the desperate need for God’s grace in light of his sinful nature, and his desire to submit to God’s sovereign will in all things comes out in his writings.
One of the traditions of Methodism was to observe a “watchnight service”, usually held on New Year’s Eve. Rather than attending a party to “ring in the New Year”, believers would gather together in worship and to pray as they entered the next year. One of the standard liturgical prayers Wesley adapted was a “Covenant Prayer” which they used during this time.
Personally, I remember this prayer every year. It’s not a prayer for the faint of heart. Some years (maybe most), I’m not sure I want to pray it. There’s no assurance of earthly comfort in it. The only comfort is being in Christ. But it puts things “right” in my heart. It reminds me clearly who I am, and clearly who the Lord is in our lives. I know that I cannot fulfill the desire of this prayer through my own effort – which is all the greater reason why I need God to “ratify it in heaven” and for his Spirit to be active in my life. And I know his answer to this prayer in 2020 may not look like I want it to today. Yet, it is what I want. I invite you to consider it as you enter the New Year.
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
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 thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.