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John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 26

*How are we to Wait?

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while He is near.

Isaiah 55:6 NIV

Suppose one knows this salvation to be the gift and the work of God, and suppose further that one is convinced also that one does not have this gift, how might one attain to it?

If you say, “Believe, and you will be saved!” they answer, “True, but how shall I believe?” You reply, “Wait upon God.’

“Well, but how am I to wait? Using the means of grace, or not? Am I to wait for the grace of God, which brings salvation by using the means of grace, or by laying them aside?”

It cannot be conceived that the Word of God should give no direction in so important a point; or that the Son of God, who came down from heaven for us and for our salvation, should have left us without direction with regard to a question in which our salvation is so nearly concerned. And, in fact, He has not left us undirected; He has shown us the way in which we should go. We have only to consult the Word of God. Inquire what is written there. If we simply abide by that, no possible doubt can remain.

According to holy scripture, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the means which He has ordained—in using, not laying aside, prayer, hearing, reading, and meditating on the scripture; and partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.

In this twenty-sixth lesson on prayer, Wesley lays out his case for embracing the means of grace as the proper stance for waiting for full assurance of faith of one’s salvation. As you might remember from previous lessons, means of grace, in Wesley’s thinking, were not graces themselves, but conduits for the dispensing of God’s grace. In “The Sermons of John Wesley; Sermon 16- The Means of Grace,” from where this lesson is taken, in speaking of the centrality of these means in the apostolic church, Wesley says, “…Christ had ordained certain outward means, for conveying his grace into the souls of men. Their constant practice set this beyond all dispute; for so long as ‘all that believed were together, and had all things common,’ (Acts 2:44,) ‘they continued steadfastly in the teaching of the Apostles, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers’” (Acts 2:42.).[i] In other words, we are not to put our faith in the constant practice of the means of grace but put our faith in the Christ who dispenses Himself to us through these means of grace. When we are thirsty, we may recognize the water spicket as a means of obtaining water, but we never confuse the means with the substance.

Continuing in Sermon 16, we read, “As to the manner of using them, whereon indeed it wholly depends whether they should convey any grace at all to the user; it behoves us, First, always to retain a lively sense, that God is above all means. Have a care, therefore, of limiting the Almighty. He doeth whatsoever and whensoever it pleaseth him. He can convey his grace, either in or out of any of the means which he hath appointed. 

“Secondly. Before you use any means, let it be deeply impressed on your soul; — there is no power in this. It is, in itself, a poor, dead, empty thing: Separate from God, it is a dry leaf, a shadow. Neither is there any merit in my using this; nothing intrinsically pleasing to God; nothing whereby I deserve any favour at his hands, no, not a drop of water to cool my tongue. But, because God bids, therefore I do; because he directs me to wait in this way, therefore here I wait for his free mercy, whereof cometh my salvation. 

“Thirdly. In using all means, seek God alone. In and through every outward thing, look singly to the power of his Spirit; and the merits of his Son. Beware you do not stick in the work itself; if you do, it is all lost labour. Nothing short of God can satisfy your soul. Therefore, eye him in all, through all, and above all.”[ii] 

[i] Copyright  1999 by the Wesley Center for Applied Theology. Text may be freely used for personal or scholarly purposes or mirrored on other web sites, provided this notice is left intact. Any use of this material for commercial purposes of any kind is strictly forbidden without the express permission of the Wesley Center at Northwest Nazarene University, Nampa, ID 83686. Contact the Webmaster for permission.

[ii] ibid


Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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