A few weekends ago, I took a trip up north with my best friend. About an hour’s drive from Pittsburgh, at a small airport in Grove City, there is a skydiving school (to learn more about Skydive PA, visit here). And I was ready to make the jump. I had never gone skydiving before; I just knew that I had always wanted to. The opportunity came, and I couldn’t pass it up. First time jumpers always have to be strapped to an instructor, though – this is called tandem skydiving. The newcomer has nothing more to remember than where to put their legs or arms when they are told to. Everything else is taken care of by the professionals.
What a perfect metaphor for Christians. For us, the instructor on our tandem jump is Christ, and the parachute is grace. Without either of them, we’re just going to free-fall until it kills us. This is something that is so important to remember when we come before the Lord. The first, and most important thing to consider in our prayer life, is our absolute and desperate need for grace.
I attended a Christian school growing up, and I remember one of the things somebody taught me was that while God hears all prayers, he will respond only to those who are saved. I never really liked the idea of that, and as I’ve grown I have realized that that was a simplified view, probably to make it easier for young children to understand. God absolutely responds to prayers of those who do not yet know Him, if they are truly seeking to talk to Him. I think He may not be as quick to respond to those perfunctory prayers that are tossed up into the air without much thought, however.
Recently all of these realizations came together because I had the kind of week when I felt like I wasn’t connecting well with God, then the following week I felt very close to Him. It struck me that the difference was, the first week I felt very independent and strong. The second week I felt frazzled and exhausted, and essentially my prayers could be boiled down to a plea for help, in getting through my crazy schedule and helping friends in need. I specifically remember admitting that I didn’t know how I would do it on my own.
That is the difference, folks. It’s not about great words in a prayer, or about whether you are already a Christian, or not yet in a relationship with God, or still only seeking the starting line at the beginning of your walk with God – the most crucial part of the process is when you stop and realize that without grace you are powerless. If you still think you can do it on your own, you may just find that God is being awfully quiet.
Were it not for grace
I can tell you where I’d be
Wandering down some pointless road to nowhere
With my salvation up to me
I know how that would go
The battles I would face
Forever running but losing this race
Were it not for grace
“Were It Not for Grace” lyrics, by Larnelle Harris