Thank you Lord that “By the word of your lips… My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped” (Psalm 17:4-5).
I experienced the truth of David’s words on a rainy afternoon while cliff climbing with friends from collage. We were all students in a climbing class at Eastern Mennonite University. Earlier that week we had practiced belaying and repelling in class so some of us thought it would be a good idea to continue the learning process on some "real" cliffs. The rain had stopped and the sun was shining so it seemed like it was going to turn out to be a perfect day.
The Hand from Heaven Reached out to Me
I got absorbed in the delightful fresh, clear air and the beauty of blue skies, trees, and the view that was exposed to us 1,000 feet above a fresh stream.
“By the Spirit I rise on the wings of Christ’s dawn – the Father’s right hand holds me fast.”
I hadn't noticed that the rock I was standing on was still a bit wet and the green moss made it some what slippery. I remember saying a quick prayer that we all be kept safe. That the Father’s right hand would hold me fast so that I wouldn't’ slip and fall a 1,000 feet below.
The first belay went off with out a snag and my friend landed on the first station with ease. It was my hefty second pal that was a bit more challenging. After a second strong jerk on the rope I felt my body lunge forward and my feet was now on the wet moss. I started to panic as I felt my feet slipping on the wet rock under my feet. Than it happen I suppose that because the moss was patchy I reached another part of dry rock under my boots. Thank God I held my position– just barely! – and my hefty friend did also.
Relieved, I continued to start the next belay in a slightly different spot. Then it dawned on me that I had just prayed for the Father’s right hand to hold me fast! Wow! The Father’s hand had indeed held me fast just like I asked! I experienced what the Psalmist says again and again: when we put our confidence in the Lord as we do what whatever we’re doing then we see that his right hand is reaching down from the heavens to help us.
Watch and Pray with Jesus
Pray before you slip. That’s the lesson I was reminded of. It’s part of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught us: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). It’s what Jesus told Peter to do before Peter denied him:
“Your spirit is willing to do the right thing, but in your natural abilities you are weak and you’re not ready to do what you want. So watch and pray to become the kind of person who won’t fall into temptation” (Matthew 26:41, paraphrase).
As you know, Peter fell asleep on Jesus when he needed to watch and pray so he fell into denying his Lord. He fell into running away to hide. Then he fell into depression. But afterward Peter did learn to watch and pray with Jesus and so in the book of Acts and in Peter’s epistles we see Peter not falling, but standing strong in his faith through many persecutions and trials, even to the point of being crucified for Jesus upside down.
Where Might you Slip?
Where are you vulnerable to slip and fall in the days ahead? Pause to identify your struggle… Hurting someone with a sharp tongue? Worrying? Being judgmental? Complaining? Overworking? Eating too much? Having a couple of drinks? Looking at pornography?
Don’t just resolve to do better next time – that never works! “Trying harder just gets you more of the same” is a wise adage. Peter’s problem in denying Christ wasn’t lack of will power – he was very willful! Peter’s problem was that he directed his will to rely on himself. He hadn’t trained his will to rely on Christ with him.
Take Hold of Christ’s Hand Now
Learn what Peter learned: admit your weakness and watch and pray with Jesus. “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7). Rely on Christ to help you to become a different kind of person on the inside.
Imagine yourself in the slippery situation of what tempts you… See the hand of the Lord reach down to you from the heavens… Take hold of it… Keep holding Christ’s hand… Pray to become the kind of person who doesn’t find satisfaction in anger or alcohol or _______, but in holding the hand of Christ…
If you pray this way about your specific struggle – and you do this over time with the help of Scripture and a prayer friend – then you will not slip!
More Bytes Of Truth
“Pray before you slip” is a paraphrase of the part of the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). I share some uncommon thoughts on how to pray the Lord’s Prayer for spiritual transformation in “A Pocket Lighter to Ignite your Heart.”
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