John Wesley composed a prayer that is especially fitting for the New Year. If that name is unfamiliar to you, John and Charles Wesley were the co-founders of the Methodist movement. Their lives spanned the 18th century and they followed in their father’s footsteps and served as ordained priests in the Church of England. John was an organizational genius and gifted orator; Charles was a poet and Encourager-in-Chief. While both were theologically adept, John expressed the glory and grace of God through his preaching and Charles through his hymn writing. By some reckonings, John preached 40,000 sermons and Charles wrote over 6,000 hymn texts – including such classics as “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” and “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” The brothers often wrote on horseback, with clopping hooves serving as a metronome! Both were masters at adapting existing traditions and interpreting God’s will as they understood it for their time. John took scissors to the Anglican “Articles of Faith,” cutting and pasting what he favored, and, like Martin Luther before him, Charles borrowed singable melodies from taverns – ditties sung over sloshing pints of beer – and married them to soaring stanzas of God’s love:
Love divine, all loves excelling
Joy of Heaven to Earth come down
Fix in us Thy humble dwelling
All Thy faithful mercies crown
Jesus, Thou art all compassion
Pure, unbounded love Thou art
Visit us with Thy salvation
Enter every trembling heart
John adapted existing “Watch Night” services for the early Methodists to use for “Covenant Renewal.” Originally offered several times a year as opportunities for individuals to recommit to the Christian life, Wesley’s Covenant Renewal service became associated with the New Year and to this day many churches offer a Watch Night service on New Year’s Eve. Wesley’s Covenant Prayer, which begins, “I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt,” has been updated in contemporary language. I invite you to ponder these words. Moreover, Wesley’s simple affirmation, “The best of all is this, God is with us!” is especially fitting as we begin a new year.
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
place me with whom you will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be put to work for you or set aside for you,
Praised for you or criticized for you.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and fully surrender all things to your glory and service.
And now, O wonderful and holy God,
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it also be made in heaven. Amen.