Friday, July 26, 2013

Full and Empty
One of our former pastors (I call him that; he was our neighbor rather than our church pastor) has daily messages at, although the site seems to be down at the moment. You can receive his thoughts if you send him your name and address at They are wonderful, short daily devotions!

This morning he wrote, “So far this morning I have filled my tummy and emptied a waste basket.  Fill and empty, fill and empty – that’s life.

“Jesus gave this basic process new meaning.  He emptied himself in service to others and he filled himself in quiet times with his Father.” He goes on to say that our capitalist society focuses upon “filling,” but that’s often a destructive, accumulative urge.

Thinking about Dick’s message, I recalled the “Covenant Prayer” from John Wesley’s 1780 Covenant Service:

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.

I’ve known some Christians, including pastors, who love that prayer and yet cling haughtily to the very Puritan idea that if you’re not successful you’re doing something wrong---not in God’s will. That Puritan idea, of course, is found in many areas of society.

And yet our lives do have “seasons” of success and failure, happiness and discouragement, productivity and idleness, missed opportunities and surprising blessings. Wesley’s prayer helps us place ourselves in God’s presence so that---as I noted in yesterday’s thoughts---our prayers are not only specific requests but ways to help us discern what God is already doing.

Is that all of what Wesley means by “full” and “empty”, “exalted” and “brought low”, “employed” and “laid aside”? What other things might he be referring to in this classic prayer? What have been your experiences?

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