Discernment, Ministry, The Inner Landscape


I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do
and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me and when there is none;
when I am troubled and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfillment and when it is lacking;
when I have all things and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer all I have and am
to serve you, as and where you choose.

Glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
you are mine and I am yours.
May it be so for ever.
Let this covenant now made on earth
be fulfilled in heaven. Amen.

That’s the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer, which is being prayed and examined by some of my Methodist friends, as I understand is their habit at the first of the year. Although I come from a long line of Methodists on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family, and although I spent some time in Methodist churches, I can’t remember ever hearing it before this year.

Funny how things come into our lives when we need to hear them, isn’t it?

I believe I have a 21st-century American tendency to feel I’m only being properly used by and for God when I am valued and finding fulfillment and when I have all things and when there is work for me.

That last one is most powerfully pulling on me at the moment. As my time at Main Street Church winds down, and whether it is two months or four months or more before I leave them, my mind is naturally on where I will go next. Where may I give all these things to God?

And why am I so focused on employment?

For practical reasons, it’s easy to understand. There is a mortgage. An oil bill. Tuition. All the rest of it.

But on a spiritual level, this prayer gives me a different kind of work to do, the inner sort. Am I so identified with my work, with my job, with my pastoral role, that I cannot imagine being valuable to God, or faithful, for that matter, in any other way?

I suppose when a person feels called to something, there is always a risk this will be true. Employment would seem to be an affirmation of the calling. In fact, in my tradition, we do not ordain without a call to a particular job, and a pastor without that kind of call will eventually be asked to consider whether she is really "called," in the spiritual sense.

"when there is work for me and when there is none’–I find that part not just hard but terrifying. When I read it, when I roll the words over in my mind, I feel a gnawing in my guts.

I’m not a Methodist, despite my heritage, and I could blow past this prayer and look for one that suits me better today, this year, but it feels important. I can’t exactly say I’ve prayed it, yet, but I am mulling it this morning.

10 thoughts on “Covenant”

  1. A while back I picked up a book called “Seven Things You Won’t Learn in Seminary,” written by a pastor at the tail end of his career…I think he’s a professor now, actually. Well, doesn’t matter.
    For some reason, I felt drawn to this book the other day, which had really just been sitting on my shelf. The last chapter is all about always remembering that one is called to ministry, and that that call is bigger than any particular job one has. He wanted to make the point in part for people who don’t find the local church the best fit for them, but it has great bearing for those of us who do serve in these settings.
    Remember that no matter the particulars, Songbird, that you are called.:)

  2. Such a poignant prayer of covenant, and your struggle with it as well.
    Isn’t this a very “sitting with it” kind of covenant? Do you think John Wesley would mind being called “awfully Zen”? 🙂
    Blessings to you this day…

  3. Huh. I was a Methodist kid before I became a heathen. I’ve never heard this one before, either.
    Today’s assvice: You are a wonderful writer. You make this utter nonbeliever sit still and listen. It won’t pay the oil bill just yet, but it could.

  4. The prayer has been in use since the late 17th century in British Methodism- and was in the 1936 prayer book in its old form, and the new form in the modern worship book. It is not something to be taken lightly- always a challenge to pray it.
    My your mulling be fruitful. Peace and blessings
    Sally ( thank you for the link btw) 🙂

  5. The thing that always reduces me to complete awe struck silence in the traditional version is the line
    “let me be employed for thee, or laid aside for thee”
    Hugs and prayers as you continue to negotiate all this

  6. Wow – what a powerful prayer. Thanks for sharing.
    Someone in my remembrance talked recently about our fear to minister honestly because, frankly, we’re worried about protecting our salaries, etc. I’m sorry to say that it’s true in my case – that bit about “where there is work and where there is none” scares me quite a lot.
    Sheesh – as if ministry didn’t already require enough faith!

  7. i don’t understand why people don’t love eccumenism.
    this has rocked my world since i heard it on wednesday. i’ve tried praying it. i’m stumbling through it and — oh, i so hear you.
    when shall we soak again?

  8. Oh my.
    Even as someone who is not yet “hired” (only working my caboose off as an intern) I assure you that I also find this topic creeping in around the edges of my mind.
    Thanks for this post. A keeper and one for rereading for sure.

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