The Wesley Prayer Challenge - Day 12 January 20, 2022
“LET ME HAVE ALL THINGS,”
Today’s Scripture Reading
28 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
9 The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you on oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in obedience to him. 10 Then all the peoples on earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will fear you. 11 The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.
12 The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none. 13 The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. 14 Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.
Here, it appears that the prayer shifts from an internal focus (being “full” or “empty”) Toward an external focus (“all things” or “nothing”). There are at least two ways to interpret the phrase, “Let me have all things.” first, it could mean once and wishes. Wants and wishes are the unnecessary but far too often welcomed “things” that give the craving person the luxuries and conveniences of life, the “extras,” so to speak.
Extras are what many people associate with happiness and pleasure, only to find out that once the extras are attained, they don't feel that God-shaped void in our souls. This first interpretation, however, doesn't seem to fit Wesley’s theology and perspective on the Christian life. I can't imagine that when Wesley prayed this prayer and lead covenant prayer services he would have had in mind the idea that somehow God cared about his fortunes--well-being, perhaps, but not any possessions.
I have a very wealthy friend. When I say, “very wealthy,” I mean crazy rich. Not quite Gates, Musk, or Bezos money, but more money than I can ever imagine what to do with. About 10 years or so ago, this friend of mine engineered a piece of software that changed the landscape of how computer programmers and video game designers code or write software. A very large technology company purchased this for hundreds of millions of dollars. After many large purchases of glamorous homes, exotic cars and boats, and jewelry over the last ten years, he recently told me, “I thought I would be fulfilled by all these things I have bought. But, honestly, Chris, possessing all this stuff doesn't mean nothing to me anymore.
I specifically remember one day in which my friend drove his latest purchase, a very rare car that I think he has driven less than a dozen times, to my house to show it to me. As we stared at it, he said, “Yeah, I am blessed.” I said, “You think God cares about this car? You aren't blessed because you own a car that less than 100 people in this world have. You are blessed because you've been given life.” the point is simply this: “all things” mean nothing if they aren't kept in proper perspective.
The truth is, some people are afforded the extras. Our human condition leads us to compare at times. We look around and ask questions like, “Why is it that so-and-so gets this, or that, or the other, and we are left without?” Extras are just that--the unnecessary bonuses in life that might be fun to have and might bring moments of pleasure. In the end, however, the extras tend to disappoint us as they eventually become faded, dull, and monotonous.
Second, one could interpret the phrase, “Let me have all things,” to mean something akin to “let me have enough.” I would contend that this is more of what Wesley had in mind. Enough is essentially abundance reframed and held in proper perspective. For many, enough is all they need. Then, what really matters comes into focus and we begin to see more clearly that “stuff” doesn't matter. What matters is our faithful commitment to seek God's idea of the good life, which is a life patterned after the mission, ministry, and message of Jesus.
I realized that “all things” is the compliment to “nothing,” which we will explore in tomorrow's reading. I also realize that “all things” is one extreme end of the spectrum. Today, I want to suggest that one way to pray this prayer and find the middle of the spectrum is to pray that we might learn to live with enough. People who can learn to live with enough can learn to live honestly in the intent of the Wesley Covenant Prayer by choosing to live with a reframed perspective of “all things.”
I have struggled to learn to live with an “enough” mentality. Often, if I am honest, I work in a sliding scale of what is “enough” to my struggles. The scale typically slides to accommodate my human instincts to collect and to own, mainly for feelings of control and security. I have learned a few tips to help me practice Jesus teaching in Matthew 6:25-34. Before I share my tips, let's look at the Scripture passage first:
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
The simple conclusion that is each day has plenty of trouble on its own. Stop living with the scarcity mentality and trust God that you will have what you need. Here are three tips I have learned that have helped me to trust God more deeply everyday to provide for me and my family:
Learn to say no to items I don't truly need. Since I turned 18, I have worked full time. Most of the years that have gone by since turning 18 I have worked a full-time job and held a second part-time job two. I can't remember when I haven't had a full-time job and what I call a second street. My Main Street is my job at Church of the Resurrection; my Second Street is writing this book. Because of my second streets over the years, I have never really had to say no. If I have wanted it, and I thought I would use it, I'd buy it. Over the last few years, however, in order to give more, I have decided I would say no to the items that I (or my family) don't really need. This is allowed me to give more money away and to learn what enough really means.
Make people the priority, not pleasures or possessions. When people around you-- family, strangers, coworkers, neighbors, friends, clients-- become the priority and serving their needs becomes a consistent discipline in our lives, pleasures and possessions seem almost immediately inconsequential. Taking action on others urgent or even semi-urgent needs begets a spirit of generosity. A spirit of generosity begets hope, and hope, of course, is the prevailing confident expectation that in God's economy, there is enough for everyone.
Save to give over save to live. As I have learned how to say no and worked, with failure and flaws, of course, to make people the priority, I have seen that saving money for the purpose of giving to those individuals and organizations in need is fun. My family and I have a blast deciding who we can help and then helping them. Our commitment to simply living with enough gives my wife and three kids a way to rally and work on a project together. Last month, at the suggestion of my youngest son, who is 15, we fed 15 individual families for five days each. Instead of saving to live with more, we've been saving to give more, and honestly, it is so much fun!
Deeply committed disciples discipline themselves to avoid falling into the trap of chasing “stuff” and by being consumed by the wants and wishes of life. Instead, deeply committed disciples choose simplicity-- they choose to be content with enough. “Let me have all things” is not a prayer for resources and reserves. Within the context of the whole prayer, these short words guide deeply committed disciples towards surrender and humility, especially when the “all things” counterpart of “nothing” is a very real possibility.
Do I struggle with “things”?
With what do I associate happiness?
Help us to see with eyes of compassion and not eyes of comparison. Teachers, God, to learn to be content with enough and avoid the chasing of material possessions. Also, where we see those without enough, grant us the ability to help. Amen.
Pick an item of yours that has value or that you associate value to. Select a person to give it to you, and then give it to them.
The Wesley Prayer Challenge book is available from these book sellers: