I read an article by Catherine Marshall last week about the Prayer of Relinquishment, and found it fascinating. First, she used the word “relinquishment,” not “surrender.” Second, she wrote about the benefits of relinquishing certain situations to God. Coming from a family of very independent women, I have always found it difficult to turn things over to someone else, even God.
My great-great-great-grandmother lost her husband when he disappeared driving cattle to market in 1850. She was left with two children to raise, one an infant born in a wagon in Coloma in 1849. Her granddaughter, my great-grandmother, was also widowed at a young age and ran a boarding house to keep her family afloat. Her daughter, my grandmother, ran a Western Union station on her own in Arizona when she was just 16 years old. When her husband left her, she also ran a business. When my father left my mother, my brother and I agreed we would help her keep our house by pitching in with the household and yard duties and watching our spending. Mom got a job.
I learned to do things by myself, figure things out on my own, make things rather than buy them, learn to repair them. It’s a skill I’ve always been proud of. And when I got sick, I figured I could stand on my own two feet, so to speak. I think many of us feel that way. We are strong people. We can take care of ourselves. We can go to the doctor, follow instructions, take our meds, use our assistive technology, and we’ll be just fine. We can pray for others, go to church, do what we can to help others. We can carry on “like always.”
But it really isn’t “like always.” I’ve been struggling with this. I’m not as strong as I was a year ago. It’s hard to admit that. It’s hard to even acknowledge it. And it’s useless to fight it. But it’s time to relinquish it. It’s time to ask for my own prayers, as well as praying for others. It’s time to acknowledge that God is in control, always has been, and always will be. It’s time to relinquish it to God. When I started my path to ministry, I prayed the “Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition” with my mentor:
“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. Amen.”
It, too, is a prayer of relinquishment. As I turned myself over in trust to God for ministry, so I must turn myself over in trust to God in sickness. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
Dear God, What opportunities you are giving us this winter to open hearts, minds and doors! We thank you for the conferences that are taking place, and the doors that are opening up to make all people welcome in your churches. Help us remember to place our trust in you, and to lean on you when things are difficult, just as we rejoice and give thanks to you when things go well. Thank you for always being with us, even when we think we can do it on our own. Amen.