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Disposable Prayer, John Wesley, and Dictionaries

PRAYER—Jesus, my Savior, let your love rule my heart without a rival. Let it dispose all my thoughts, words, and works; for then only can I fulfill my duty and your command of loving you with all my heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. Amen. John Wesley*
*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1997-1999). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Another beautiful prayer. Life was calling, but I put it on hold and stumbled on some good stuff.  I found in this prayer an interesting possible connection to Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ”. Wesley’s use of the word “dispose” here doesn’t mean throw away. It means he’s asking that God’s love would arrange his thoughts in proper order. a Kempis mentions the Latin proverb: Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit. “Man proposes but God disposes” (determines the course of events). The imagery is hard to miss. And I think it demonstrates how Wesley’s devotional life included not only intense prayers and Scripture reading, but also the great devotional writings of Christian history. The thought of God’s holy love rearranging our best thoughts, words, and works so that they more adequately represent God’s will is among the most beautiful images I’ve ever come across in a prayer.
It wouldn’t be possible if Wesley wasn’t deeply engaged in truly trying to live his faith, but also reading widely enough to learn from his faith forefathers. In this case, something made me curious and I found everything I needed to know in the Dictionary attached to the Kindle app on my iPad, where I was reading today’s Ashes to Fire selections! The two meanings of the word dispose and the example of a Kempis’ quotation of the Latin proverb were all there. Just a touch revealed more than I imagined. I just had to press and hold on the word, then click FULL DEFINITION.
How quickly I sometimes move through life and prayer. With that practice there isn’t enough time to allow God to dispose my thoughts, words, and works. But God is gracious and can show us so much more with just a touch. Even dictionaries become luminous sources of inspiration when we listen to those inner promptings and seek more. May His love truly rule our hearts without a rival. And may it lovingly rearrange all that is required to empower us to live in new ways. And as that old Latin proverb implies, it’s the only way we’ll be living in sync with reality. Because God is God after all…

PRAYER—O God, Infinite …

PRAYER—O God, Infinite Goodness, confirm your past mercies to me by enabling me for what remains of my life to be more faithful than I have been up until now to your great command to love as I have been loved. Let me not rest in any external devotion, nor trust in words or sighs or tears. Let me know and feel what it is to love you with all my heart. Amen

John Wesley

Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1973-1975). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

PRAYER—O Lord, you have…

PRAYER—O Lord, you have set before us the great hope that your kingdom shall come on earth, and have taught us to pray for its coming; give us grace to discern the signs of its dawning, and to work for the perfect day when your will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven, in the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

John Wesley
Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 1799-1801). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Ashes to Fire prayer

An example the guides to prayer which are part of the Ashes to Fire devotional book. Let prayers like this ignite the fire of devotion in you…

PRAYER—O Lord, govern my life by your wisdom, so that my soul may always be serving you as you desire, not as I may choose. Do not grant what I ask if it offends your love, which must always be living in me. Let me die to myself, that I may serve you; let me live to you, for you are the true life. Amen. (John Wesley)*

*Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 467-469). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

God’s Grace Has Been Given to You…

1 Corinthians 1:4, 8-9 says “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus…He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
When I think of grace I think of olympic champions, nice ladies, and forgiveness. One thing all three have in common is a very great power held gently underneath. Grace is not just the unmerited favor of God. It is the power of a risen Savior pulsing through every fully-surrendered follower of Christ.  In this Lenten season it’s not all about weeping over our weakness in the flesh. This Lenten season is about overcoming the world, the flesh, and the devil by the grace of God! The power of the Holy Spirit becomes active in every believer from the moment we receive Jesus. That power keeps working in us until we surrender all and a deep transformation takes place. Then that power keeps molding us into the image of Jesus for the rest of our days. Nobody is perfect, before or after encountering this grace. But perfect love is poured out in our lives. And that love can do more than we often think it can. Believe your life can change. The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe the Good News! John Wesley said it so well:

As soon as the grace of God in the sense of his pardoning love is manifested to our souls, the grace of God as the power of his Spirit is at work within us. And now we can perform, through God, … all things in the light and power of that love. (John Wesley, Sermon 11)

Beacon Hill Press (2011-09-01). Year B: Ashes to Fire: Daily Reflections from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost (Kindle Locations 431-433). Nazarene Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

Wesley’s 22

Dr. David Wine shared these at a Discipleship seminar I recently attended. These questions would be excellent for anyone to use at the end of the day. Notice they cover vertical and horizontal stuff in our journey. I also see a trend toward authenticity over achievement. What do you think?

Wesley’s 22 Questions

Questions John Wesley used for accountability for members of his Holy Club at Oxford.

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  7. Did the Bible live in me today?
  8. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  9. Am I enjoying prayer?
  10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy, or distrustful?
  17. How do I spend my spare time?
  18. Am I proud?
  19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially, as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  20.  Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward, or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  22. Is Christ real to me?

John Wesley, Prayer, and Holiness—Part 3

I’ve been posting about the surprising guidelines John Wesley gave to his North American ordained elders in 1784. At the ripe old age of 81 Wesley was harvesting a lifetime of prayer, ministry, and theological reflection.
For Sunday worship he prescribed an only slightly adapted Book of Common Prayer service for Sunday morning and evening. When I discovered this, I was shocked and then assumed he would encourage people to pray the Daily Office at home during the week. But no! Again, surprisingly his guideline was: “…reading the litany only on Wednesdays and Fridays, and praying extempore on all other days.”
By “the litany” he must mean The Great Litany, a nearly comprehensive call and response prayer from the Book of Common Prayer. This is no “now I lay me down to sleep.” It is an all-encompassing prayer, covering a very complete list of needs personal, congregational, even national and international. It can take 15 minutes or more to pray through if you do it with feeling.
I was barely even aware of the litany, so he got me again! Evidently we can gather that the guided prayers twice on the Lord’s Day would provide a template for extempore prayer in the week. But to make sure they weren’t just praying for Aunt Susie’s stubbed toe and a sickly donkey, The Great Litany gave scope and perspective on what Kingdom Praying can be. Yet, church folk and preachers would not just rely on prescribed prayers (a valuable discipline in themselves), but would develop the discipline of forming prayers from the heart. Like a personal trainer of the Spirit, Wesley was providing a balanced discipline, leaving room for the Spirit’s leading, but grounding people in the prayer life of the Psalms. Hmmmmmm…
There’s a lot to reflect on here, especially in light of holiness. You guessed it, that will have to wait for my next post!

John Wesley, Prayer, and Holiness—Part 2

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I ended my last post with a question: what kind of worship model would you expect John Wesley to have prescribed for his itinerant preachers in North America?  I guess I assumed that a revivalist format would be his choice.  All prayers extemporaneous, offering, special music, sermon and altar call. But only offering and sermon made the list.  I was sort of given the image that Wesley couldn’t wait to get out from under the Church of England and it’s stifling formal worship.  It seems that he did feel constrained by the decision-making hierarchy of said church (and it could fairly be said that his passion was hard for them to enfold into church order).  But of the forms of worship Wesley says, “I love the old wine…” meaning that he valued the traditions.  That said, he did update the language at several points and trim the service down considerably.  But for the most part, what he insisted would guide worship was the Book of Common Prayer Morning and Evening Prayer services. That’s right. That Sunday night service your church used to have (and maybe still has…)? Did you know it was originally, Evening Prayer?  It takes about 30 min to pray through the list of litanies and collects, scripture lections, and thanksgivings.  Sunday morning was Morning Prayer with Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper every week!  Even though the Church of England only served the lay people communion a few times a year, Wesley advised a weekly Lord’s Supper! It even included the Great Thanksgiving with call and response. Kind of a mid-church Anglicanism on the wide frontier!
So now, what do you think his recommendation for daily devotion was?  Again, you might be surprised and that will have to wait for my next post!

Grace and Peace

John Wesley, Prayer, and Holiness—Part 1

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The other day a package arrived in the mail. I was excited! It wasn’t a gadget, although i can be a geek for those. It wasn’t a bike part, although managing an aging family fleet of iron steeds occasionally calls for parts. No, it was a rather plain looking book with a white cover: John Wesley’s Prayer Book, The Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America. I know, you’re drooling already, right? (Maybe groaning is closer…) But as a good Nazarene, I’m a geek for anything by John Wesley. Oh I own his sermons, notes on the Bible, some of his journals, and his theological articles. But this was one of his final publications, just seven years before his death. It was written at the ripe old age of eighty-one. Over 2,000 copies were printed back in c1784. Only 39 survive today. And it’s not easy to get a look at one of those. When I finally found it had been reprinted I was elated. But then it was hard to find it for sale… I wish I had known of it 19 years ago, but it was just off the radar as I was graduating seminary… Yet, sometimes these things happen for a reason. It’s good timing for me just now…
It has been very interesting reading through Wesley’s guide to Sunday services and prayer. It’s both easy to see how almost all holiness theology was fed by his tradition and hard to imagine why his bishop couldn’t see it. Clearly, Wesley saw the U.S. as the place where the message of holiness, separated from certain political forces/hierarchy, could be freely spread. How ironic. At first he came here, as a missionary, to convert Native Americans. He was terrible at it. Then he was very suspicious of the American motives for seeking independence. But after Church of England bishops refused to ordain his trained preachers, America became, for Wesley, the great land of opportunity once again. In the preface to this work he wrote of the Methodist ministers who would be ordained here, “They are now at full liberty, simply to follow the Scriptures and the primitive church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in that liberty, wherewith God has so strangely made them free.”
It brings to mind both Aldersgate, where Wesley’s heart had been “strangely” warmed, and the spiritual freedom afforded by the work of the Holy Spirit in a fully surrendered life. And now political realities, which had distressed and hindered, became a fresh breeze for this movement.
So how did this fiery, charismatic, oftentimes outdoor evangelist want his preachers and congregations to worship and pray? You might be surprised…but that will have to wait until my next post…

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