Several years ago, in the midst of the challenging time of loosing my job and income i was reading a book written by Kay Warren, wife of the pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the popular book “The Purpose Driven Life.” The title of the book i was reading was called “Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God“. The title might scare off the faint of heart… but it was attractive to me because I felt i was in a turning point in my life, wanting to find clarity, purpose, and strength for the journey and the call on my life. When you go through a seemingly traumatic place of loss, transition, challenge it is clear God is moving, and redirecting. But under the surface I was a fragile child wanting to have enough faith to believe and follow God but gripped by anxiety and fear of the unknown. I think i had forgotten who’s i was.
Between my bible and this book i was reminded who I am, and that there is a plan and purpose for my life. In summary, Kay wrote of how she was redirected from her vision of being a speaker and teacher (like her husband) to an advocate and voice for the world regarding AIDS and the desperate state of bondage, abuse and slavery throughout the world. Kay had a plan for her life, which was far different from the one God had for her. Through struggling, and yielding she tells of her journey to embrace his plan for her life. Encouraged by others she traveled to places that are desperate, broken, painful. And she met some of the living (now dead) examples of christ in flesh, such as Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Some poeple have said the subtitle of this book should be “a journey toward saying Yes to God”. As i read the pages of her book I was both drawn to the statements of surrender, of yielding to the will of God, and of obeying when it seems far from my comfort zone. And i must be honest that I was also a bit repulsed by the idea of being taken so far from the comfort zone we have come to know.
But then, there it was – a prayer that inspired her. A prayer I immediately printed and hung on my desk, and placed in my bible. If you know me, you know that i run from the written prayers of someone else. Perhaps it is my Russian Orthodox roots, or the new found freedom of being able to speak freely to my creator in my own words. But every now and then there is a prayer penned by someone that captures thoughts, and embraces the words that need to be said. Kay penned John Wesley’s Covenant 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 for 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.
(as used in the Book of Offices of the British Methodist Church, 1936).
Those words, penned in the 18th century, jumped from the page of that book and beckoned me to follow. Yes, this is dangerous surrender. But dangerous only in the sense that it will take us to places uncharted, adventures not yet written, and placed God, our father, has ordained for us to go if we would yield.
John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist movement which spread throughout Europe and America in the 18th Century. In my research I learned that the prayer above is not the exact words – but as close as we could come. Wesley would hold Covenant Services to draw people to focus on God, and the work of sanctifying, rededicating and renewing faith. Often these services would be held at the end of the year in preparation for a new year and a new start.
I remember studying the words because the language is an older version of English In plain English – we don;t talk like that now. Each line called for the laying down of my control on life, career, health and who i am.
I learned in those moments just how much of a control freak i am, how much i want to be in some sort of control of the details of my life. Yet there i was, lost my career job, income dropped from very comfortable to very uncomfortable, and it was clear that God was showing me He holds the control on our lives.
That night when i quietly prayed this prayer, and told God i am not my own, and acknowledged that his plan is the best choice there was a quiet assurance that this was a good place to be. My world has turned itself upside down a few times, and here i am… the words of that prayer are engraved in my very soul… And there have been some profound things that have sprung up through this prayer:
- Freedom from having to pursue hard at a career – Work has come, and income is there now; and i have freedom to do wonderful things that I sense the lord calling me to.
- Release of the deep ingrained fears of letting go. Have you ever held on to something so tightly that your hands cramp? This was my relationship with fear – in a tight grip walking daily with new fears. I love the verse “Perfect love casts our all fear.” This is now much more true of me – i take my fear to Jesus, and lay it down for him…. it is not mine to deal with. Simply i must trust him and his wisdom. Whatever he calls me to He will see me through with his strength and protection.
- I am free from striving – the work is not mine to do, but it is God’s, and he will take care of it.
So, what started as a new book to read, became a watershed of faith, of strength to move beyond what I was to a bit more of what God wants of me.
It is my prayer for you, the reader, that you will consider this prayer. Count the cost of praying it, knowing it may turn your world upside down. But be courageous, be bold, and if you sense that God is calling you to pray this prayer by all means do so.