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John Wesley at age 48

Spiritual Disciplines: Works of Piety

John Wesley believed that the "means of grace" included both "works of piety" (instituted means of grace) and "works of mercy" (prudential means of grace). Works of piety included:

... prayer, whether in secret or with the great congregation; searching the Scriptures; (which implies reading, hearing, and meditating thereon;) and receiving the Lord's Supper, eating bread and drinking wine in remembrance of Him: And these we believe to be ordained of God, as the ordinary channels of conveying his grace to the souls of men.

John Wesley

  • considered prayer an essential part of Christian living. He called it, in many of his writings, the most important means of grace.
  • read the Bible every day, usually early in the day or late in the evening. A scholar, his Explanatory Notes on the New Testament and his sermons are a part of the Doctrinal Standards of The United Methodist Church.
  • emphasized the importance of fasting and participating in Christian community. He fasted two days a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, in his younger days, and Fridays when he was older.

For Further Study and Discussion

1. How have you experienced prayer in your own life? Do you agree with Wesley that it is the most important means of grace?

2. John Wesley advised Methodists how to read the Bible Is his approach helpful to you? How do you "search" the scriptures?

3. John Wesley believed that God's grace is conveyed through the Lord's Supper and that it is a major way God nourishes us. Has your experience of Holy Communion been nourishing to your spiritual growth? Do Wesley's arguments help you to see the sacrament in a different perspective?

Next: Mission: The Works of Mercy

The top left drawing depicts the Reverend John Wesley (1703-1791) at age 48. All of the black and white drawings have been scanned from public domain nineteenth century or early twentieth century Methodist history books. Please acknowledge this web site, John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life if you reproduce these. A few graphics are available in high resolution format, suitable for print media.

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