Driving to Southampton yesterday, I was reminded of the old traveller’s prayer: Lord, keep all the other cars an inch away from me. In some ways, this prayer is similar to what Our Lord is telling us in today’s gospel. He tells us not to worry, that he will give us the words to speak when we are experiencing persecution for our faith. But then, right after telling us not to worry, he tells us that we will only be safe if we endure and persevere. So which is the right strategy: to rest and relax or to plan and persevere?
Well, the traveller’s prayer assumes that the driver is using his or her own common sense and good driving habits, even as he is depending on the Holy Spirit to guard against unseen and unexpected dangers. Likewise, we all need to have a good balance as we move through our daily lives. It can be very easy to get wrapped up with “doing our own thing” without looking to the Holy Spirit for wisdom, guidance, and strength. Of course, we need to work hard, but at the same time we need to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit. We can’t do one without the other.
As we grow in our Christian lives, we recognize more and more how this marvellous relationship works. It’s an integral relationship between our perseverance and divine intervention. And yet when we factor in the power of the Holy Spirit, the true greatness of the Christian life unfolds for us, even in times of difficulty.
Experience may teach us devastating lessons when we have one without the other. Saint Augustine encourages us to work as if everything depends on us and to pray as if everything depends on God. As we try our best to make decisions in union with the Holy Spirit, we will begin to see how closely these two dimensions of life work together. And then we will become instruments of God’s amazing grace at work in this world.