Prayers that Changed the World: John Wesley and the Covenant Prayer

By: Lemuel Sandoval

“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.” Anyone would imagine that John Wesley wrote these iconic words while still young and just beginning his ministry. You will be surprised to know that he actually wrote them when he was 74 years old. And you will be even more astonished to learn that at that age Wesley still had the strength and courage to travel long distances to visit the sick and poor and continue to preach the gospel.

How did John Wesley maintain his spirit and willingness to continue doing the work of the gospel, even in spite of his advanced age? Without a doubt, the answer is found in the devotional practices that he carried out in his search for sanctification. One of them is a prayer that Wesley adapted from the Puritan tradition. This prayer was part of a special service that John Wesley held each new year. It was important to him that believers renew their commitments to God and remember their baptism. The words of the prayer invite us to dedicate our lives to following Christ and representing him to the world he loves:

“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.”

Surely, renewing his covenant and commitment to God led Wesley and his followers to strive to fulfill the mission of the gospel. John Wesley traveled on horseback throughout the territory of England several times taking the message of Christ especially to the poor. During his travels, he wrote hundreds of documents, including grammar books, letters, commentaries, and sermons and pedagogical books. His goal was to encourage reading among the population. Wesley advocated for the abolition of slavery and was influential in getting the slave trade banned. He also fought for workers to have decent wages and honest jobs. He was a major promoter of abstinence from alcohol and of modest living. He denounced the cruelties of the prison system. He pioneered the ordination of women to ministry. Above all, he preached with his words and life the entire sanctification. His legacy persists to this day through churches and organizations that follow his teachings and lifestyle.

Do you remember Wesley’s phrase? Those preachers’ “who desire nothing but God” are the ones who can sincerely pray, “I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt.”

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