Drawing Near to God
January 18, 2023
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW AGAIN
As the South Georgia Conference begins 2023, Bishop Graves is focusing our energies to be prayerful people, and the Ministry of Memory will honor this mighty request for the New Year by showcasing how prayer has supported the Methodist movement for hundreds of years.
Prayer…what’s old is new again!
To begin a year of prayer, we must begin at the beginning and move forward in a methodical way if Susanna Wesley is to support our work. Therefore, we will begin with John Wesley and his strong beliefs in prayer, many of which were taught to him by his parents Samuel and Susanna. Both parents came from strong Christian backgrounds and families of nonconformists and, yet, each rejected their families’ beliefs in Puritanism to rejoin the Church of England. However, these early Puritan teachings can be seen in Samuel’s and Susanna’s parenting and in the newly formed Methodist movement. In fact, the Wesley Covenant Prayer that we still honor today was first used by John Wesley in 1753 when he published A Christian Library. He received it from Richard Alleine, a Puritan, who published it in Vindiciae Pietatis: or, A Vindication of Godliness in the Greater Strictness and Spirituality of It in 1663.
Wesley described the first covenant service in his journal as occurring on Monday, August 11, 1755, at the French church at Spitalfields in London with 1,800 people in attendance. The words used at this first service are lost to time but The United Methodist Church holds true to Wesley’s teachings with the following prayer:
“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.”
In NT Notes, 1 Thes. 5:16, John Wesley states that prayer is “the breath of our spiritual life” and “thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it.” In his sermon, “The Wilderness State,” Wesley writes that “neglect of private prayer” is the most cited means by which members lose their faith. And, lastly, in a letter written to Miss March dated March 29, 1760, Wesley advises that prayer “is the grand means of drawing near to God.”
So as we begin this New Year, may we be grateful for our blessings and diligent in our private prayer understanding that it is “the breath of our spiritual life” and the “grand means of drawing near to God.”