Squirming Through Prayer

By B.J. Funk –

I always read John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer with a questioning heart, particularly over one section. Though challenging, to say the least, most of the prayer I get. There’s just this one part that bothers me. The part that makes me want to completely ignore him are the words, “Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you. Let me be full. Let me be empty.”

Laid aside for Jesus? Be full or empty? Seriously? So, how then can I work for you, Lord? I squirm under what are to me such uncomfortable and unnecessary words.

But then I think of Jim Elliott, the young Christian who trained as a missionary. However, the spears of the natives he hoped to convert ended his life before he got started.  At the young age of 28, Jim Elliot and four missionary comrades were martyred by Auca Indians on the Curaray River in the jungles of Ecuador. These young missionaries had prepared for the mission field. They were, in John Wesley’s prayer, literally “laid aside for Jesus.” It makes no sense until we recognize that Jim Elliott prayed a similar prayer.

“God, I pray, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn up for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life but a full one like Yours, Lord Jesus.” In his diary entry for October 27, 1949, Jim wrote, “Was much encouraged to think of a life of godliness in the light of an early death.” Perhaps his most repeated quote is, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliott was laid aside for Jesus.

Then, there is that adorable Dutch servant, Corrie ten Boom, who survived a German concentration camp and when she was freed, traveled the world telling about the goodness and grace of God inside a concentration camp. In her later years, she suffered a stroke. Her helper and friend wrote The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, reminding us that God could indeed work through the silence of this unbelievable minister of God. Without a word, she witnessed daily of God’s love and power.

Corrie ten Boom was laid aside for Jesus.

Amy Carmichael was an Irish missionary who served in India for 53 years in the first half of the 20th century. So dedicated that she never took a furlough, Amy boldly began rescuing little girls and boys from Temple prostitution. That became her life’s mission. Having found Jesus as a teenager in a Methodist boarding school and determining that she would never marry, she was empowered and eager to give up everything to serve the Lord. Always in poor health, she was bedridden for a period of years. At the end of her life during her time in bed, Carmichael’s writing and devotional ministry flourished. When asked by a young woman considering the mission field, “What is it like to be a missionary?” Amy answered, “Being a missionary is a chance to die.”

Amy was laid aside for Jesus.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer is known for his faith and his resistance to Nazi dictatorship. Arrested in 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned for a year and a half, he was transferred to a concentration camp. Accused of being tied with a plot to assassinate Hitler, he was hanged in 1945 as the Nazi regime was collapsing. Twenty-one days later, Adolph Hitler committed suicide. A quote from his doctor gives a beautiful documentary on Bonhoeffer’s life.

“At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”

Bonhoeffer was laid aside for Jesus.

Slowly, understanding sinks into my heart. Only God knows what he wants to get from my life, and if I am fully his, he is free to get what he wants in any way he wants. That sort of surrender is the surest way to a life of peace and joy. I’m whispering it today, but pray that I can one day say it louder and with deeper conviction. Lord Jesus, let me be laid aside for you.

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