I suppose, in my little prayer nook in my study, where I have a little prayer bench that I built in 1975, as I’ve bent over that bench thousands of times, the most common prayer has been, “Lead me not into temptation. Deliver me from evil (see Matthew 6:13). Keep me. Keep me. I feel so utterly unable to do the next thing. My kids are at the breakfast table. I have nothing. I’m supposed to model joyful fatherhood, and I’m so depressed I can hardly remember their names. Help me.”
And you know what’s happening there? God is keeping me. It says, “Pray by the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). Not by yourself, by your own energies. If you’re crying out, “Abba, help,” the Holy Spirit is witnessing with your spirit, you’re the child of God (Romans 8:16), and you’re being kept by God giving you the means of being kept.
“From him and through him and to him” — I am so thankful — “are all things” (Romans 11:36). The psalm that maybe I’ve prayed this with most often is, “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge” (Psalm 16:1). Pray, believe. Pray, believe. Pray, believe. “Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.’ As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings [or libations] of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup” (Psalm 16:1–5), even if I can’t even move. I won’t let him go — “Oh, don’t let me go. Don’t let me let you go!” That’s the way it works.
Here I am, amazed. Amazed. I mean, how many days in this weird emotional cauldron called Me there have been when it felt, “I cannot do it. I can’t go on. I can’t go to the meeting, I can’t preach the sermon, I can’t meet my family. I have no idea when the preparation’s going to happen. I don’t know how it’s going to do.” And here I am. I mean, I look back and say, “How did that happen? How did that happen?” God. Kneeling to him. And my praying and trusting doesn’t rob him of any of his glory and majesty and power and authority, which are decisively effective in my keeping, because it says, “Pray by the Spirit.”
If we asked him, I’m sure he would agree with Paul. How about faith? Is that also by the Spirit? Jude would say with Paul, “Your faith is a gift, not your own doing. Not by works lest anyone should boast.”
My praying is a gift (Jude 20), my faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8), which means that these two things (along with waiting) that I do to keep myself in the love of God are because God is keeping me. I keep myself by being kept. God keeps me by enabling me to do self-keeping things, and I must do them. I must do these things.
And sometimes they take effort, but you say in that effort, “It’s of you. I couldn’t even be here, bent over in prayer, if it weren’t for you. I would have zero interest in crying out, ‘Preserve me, O God,’ if you weren’t alive in me.” There’s a way to do effort by faith.
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