Firstly, may I wish you all the very best for 2023 and hope that Advent and Christmas provided time for meaningful reflection and also joyful celebrations for you, your families and friends.
As we venture into a new and challenging year, I’ve been drawn back to John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer. It’s a gift from the Methodist tradition that many Anglicans also use in this season as an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to God. It goes like this:
“I am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing: I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal. And now, glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours. So be it. And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.”
This is a brave and difficult prayer. It reminds us that, as those who have responded to Jesus’ call to follow him, we don’t get to call the shots. Although at times, as the preface to Wesley’s prayer makes clear, what Christ calls us to is, “suitable to our natural inclinations and material interests.” At other times, however, it is “contrary to both.” It demands the kind of trust that Jesus himself had in the one he called his heavenly father.
Since Wesley penned those words in the 18th Century, countless Christians have experienced in the prayer what they might not have expected: joy.
There is a joy that blossoms out of such wholehearted commitment that we can miss if we follow Jesus on our own terms. That joy is a gift both to us, and for us to share in the challenging months ahead.