New Music: Wesley Prayer (Come Like a Fire)

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 by 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. Amen.
— A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition - From the United Methodist Hymnal (1989) #607

Thank God it's Over

Well, this year sucked. I know that's not exactly an unpopular or unbelievable statement, but it's probably not what you expected to read on a church blog. I hope you manage to disagree with me - maybe you had the best year ever! And if so, that's awesome.

If not: whether you point to celebrity deaths, the election, or your own personal tragedies to agree with me, I pray that 2017 is a better year for you, filled with happiness and prosperity.

(Here's 2016 reimagined as a horror movie trailer. You're welcome.)

That being said.

"Let me have Nothing"

The prayer at the beginning of this blog has been weighing on my mind all week. It's part of a traditional Wesleyan covenant renewal service we'll be celebrating together on Sunday morning - based by John Wesley on a prayer long since lost to time.

To be very, very honest - I struggle with that prayer. Despite what pop theology suggests, I don't believe that God is a micromanager of humanity, nor do I think that the members of the human race are glorified lemmings. That's clearly not Wesley's original intent here, but the popular notion of God as a glorified programmer writing the code of our lives could skew the concept for someone unfamiliar with Wesleyan theology. It certainly colors my initial understanding

Rev. Jeremy Smith, the Minister of Discipleship at First United Methodist Church in Portland, puts it this way:

"It is clearly commendable to begin the year with renewed commitment and dedication regardless of what the future may have in store. But the Methodist liturgy goes much further. Taken at face value in traditional form it strongly implies that our misfortunes may arise at the divine behest (‘Put me to what thou wilt, put me to suffering’ etc.) Would we suggest that to a friend in distress or to someone entrusted to us for counselling? I hope not. Rather our conviction is that God is our comforter in time of trouble rather than the author of life’s woes."

He continues, with a revision of the above prayer:

I wonder if the ancient language could be revised and the theology tweaked to better bring Wesleyanism again to a generation and context that needs a robust counter to Purpose-Driven Best Life Now Lifeway theology.

To address these concerns for my congregation and for post-Christian or non-Christian newcomers, this is my revision of the short version of Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. It’s more in the spirit of the Message translation of the Bible: it’s a paraphrase in common language, not a word-for-word replacement. Here it is:

I am not my own self-made, self-reliant human being.
In truth, O God, I am Yours.
Make me into what You will.
Make me a neighbor with those whom You will.
Guide me on the easy path for You.
Guide me on the rocky road for You.
Whether I am to step up for You or step aside for You;
Whether I am to be lifted high for You or brought low for You;
Whether I become full or empty, with all things or with nothing;
I give all that I have and all that I am for You.
So be it.
And may I always remember that you, O God, and I belong to each other. Amen.

The paraphrase cleared some things up for me, and I hope it clears them up for you as well.

I was told there would be music.

Ok, ok. What does any of this have to do with music? I was told there would be music.

Like I said earlier, this Sunday morning we'll celebrate a covenant renewal service using a modernized version of Wesley's prayer (don't worry, you won't have to say "wilt"). We'll also be singing Mark Swayze's fantastic arrangement of that same prayer. Watch the lyric and acoustic videos below, enjoy your New Year's Eve celebrations, don't party too hard (I'll be going to sleep early to get the year over with), and come commit 2017 to serving God this Sunday morning. 

Happy New Year!

-Matt


Matt Dailey serves as Worship Director at Navarre UMC, and has been at the church since 2013. When he's not leading worship and designing graphics, he enjoys baseball, comic books and team trivia (his team is nationally ranked. #micdrop). Read more about Matt here.