We have a beautiful liturgy for the new year, called the Covenant Renewal or Watch Night service, in our United Methodist Book of Worship. I’ve never been part of a Methodist church that observed it (frankly, it would be a tough sell against our culture’s traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations), but we often include a prayer from the service on or around New Year’s. It’s the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer. Wesley didn’t write it, but he adapted it for this service. He’s become closely associated with it:
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 you can see, there’s a strong emphasis on God’s sovereignty, which might make us uncomfortable. What would it mean, after all, for us to “have nothing” or to be “laid aside” or “brought low” for God? Do you really want to find out? If these things happened to us, we might be tempted to imagine that God were punishing us or that God didn’t care for us. Not so, this prayer says.
It also challenges us to resist the temptation to imagine God as some fretful grandfatherly figure, who may not like what’s going on in the world but isn’t powerful enough to do anything about it. It assumes that what God wants will not be frustrated by human sin or naturally occurring events.
We place our lives at God’s disposal, trust that we’ll be O.K. one way or another, and learn to say, “So be it.”
This is a hard prayer to pray, but it seems exactly right to me. May God teach us to pray it and live in this year ahead.