John Wesley on Prayer Lesson 39

*Taking Care of the Body

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 NASB

These “houses of clay” which clothe our spirits require constant reparation, or they will sink into the earth even sooner than nature requires. Daily food is necessary to prevent this, to repair the decays of nature. It was common in the heathen world, when they were about to eat, to pour out a little drink to the honor of their god (although the heathen gods were but devils—see 1 Corinthians 10:19-21). There was once just a common custom in this land. Would it not be a more excellent way if every head of family were to ask a blessing from God on what was about to be eaten and to return thanks to the giver of all blessings?

As to the quantity of food, good sorts of people do not usually eat to excess; at least not so as to make themselves sick with food or to intoxicate themselves with drink. As to the manner of eating, it is usually innocent, mixed with a little mirth, which is said to aid digestion. Provided they take only that measure of plain, wholesome food which most promotes health both of body and mind, there will be no cause of blame. Hunger is said to be a “good sauce” for the appetite; but a still better sauce is cheerful thankfulness, and the food so seasoned is the most agreeable kind. You may thus receive every morsel as God’s pledge of life eternal.

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

In this thirty-ninth lesson on prayer, Wesley considers taking care of the body with regard to food and drink, with an added emphasis on thankfulness of the heart for all God’s good gifts. He draws from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  

The simplicity of his comments in this lesson should not mask the realization that Wesley both read widely and wrote widely on holistic health and healing. The giving of advice for varied ailments was common and expected of clergymen. It was part of the regular training for the Anglican priesthood. Wesley took it even further in publishing his Primitive Physick in 1747, with much of the advice in it coming from his research into both traditional medicine and herbal remedies. It was on the “best seller” list of his day.

Writing for the October 2007 issue of Methodist History, Randy L. Maddox presented an essay titled, “John Wesley on Holistic Health and Healing.” In it, he said, “Wesley’s emphasis on diet, exercise, and rest needs to be appreciated in its historical context. Through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, medical care in the North Atlantic context was largely equated with surgical interventions and medications. Against this backdrop the recent emphasis on diet and exercise for promoting wellness could appear to be a modern insight. It is better seen as a recovered balance. From early medieval times, Western approaches to health care reflected a distinction between 1) administering therapies to the sick, and 2) counseling people how to live in accordance with nature by proper diet and exercise, both to restore health and to retain it.”

What we get from this lesson is that to be healthy in body and mind it is important to keep a balance in our eating and drinking; even more so now in our culture of excess, where gluttony is glamorized in mukbang videos and drunkenness is a preferred way to deal with stress. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 reminds us, “16Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.”

Wesley ends with, “As to the quantity of food, good sorts of people do not usually eat to excess; at least not so as to make themselves sick with food or to intoxicate themselves with drink. As to the manner of eating, it is usually innocent, mixed with a little mirth, which is said to aid digestion. Provided they take only that measure of plain, wholesome food which most promotes health both of body and mind, there will be no cause of blame. Hunger is said to be a ‘good sauce’ for the appetite; but a still better sauce is cheerful thankfulness, and the food so seasoned is the most agreeable kind. You may thus receive every morsel as God’s pledge of life eternal.”

Published by doctorpaddy

An ordained minister, Christian communicator, and educator.

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