A few years ago, a good friend of mine, Erik Raymond, gave me a book and made the bold assertion that this was one of the best books that he had read (at that time). I even think he said it would make me a nicer person! I, while interested, put it on the shelf, thinking to pick it up at another time. By God’s providence, I have recently brushed the dust off.
As a staff member at Emmaus Bible Church, we are given and encouraged to pray for all those who make Emmaus their home. Lately the list is growing and so is my responsibilities, giving me a bit of uneasiness when I sit and try to spend time praying for those assigned to me. Then that’s when God used an old teacher to sit with me, helping me to pray. There was that book, Letters by John Newton; hard back of course.
As I read through his pastoral responses (in letter form) to each person he wrote, I couldn’t help but be moved by the amount of time he spent in showing grace, kindness, compassion, and love for each recipient. I can’t imagine the hours he spent, remembering each detail and concern, as he wrote. He seemed so settled into his chair and sure of hand with his pen, as he shepherded each with the skill that only a sinner saved by grace and called to the ministry could do. Here’s a sample response he wrote to one who questioned their salvation and needed assurance:
“You say, “It never came (conversion) with power and life to my soul that he died for me.’ If you mean, you never had any extraordinary sudden manifestation, something like a vision or a voice from heaven, confirming it to you, I can say the same. But I know he died for sinners; I know I am a sinner. I know He invites them that are ready to perish; I am such a one; I know, upon His own invitation, I have committed myself to Him; and I know that the effects that He has been with me since, otherwise I should have been apostate long ago; and therefore I know that He died for me…I know that I am His child because He teaches me to say, Abba Father. I know that I am His, because He has enabled me to choose him for mine. For such a choice and desire could never taken place in my heart, if He had not placed it there himself. By nature I was too blind to know him, too proud to trust him, too obstinate to serve him, too base-minded to love him…The love I bear Him is but a fain and feeble spark, but it is an emanation from himself: He kindled it, and keeps it alive; and because it is his work, I trust many waters shall not quench it.”
Let Newton minister to you in your desire to be more effective at praying for others. He has been a great teacher these past few months for me.