One Friday a month I travel about 30 minutes from our church to preach at a senior center. However, this last Friday I began to wonder, as I drove down the road hearing various “odd” noises coming from the car, if the group of seniors would be sans preacher. By the grace of God I made it there, and as I sat in the parking lot I went to prayer to prepare (and settle) my heart.
However, the thoughts of my vehicle situation kept invading.
The car I was driving is old (over 177,000 miles), but new to me. I was recently given it when our second car, a Saturn we have owned for years, died. As I sat there in the parking lot wondering what I should do about my car dilemma, I began to talk with the Lord about it.
I wasn’t very long into the conversation asking God for help, when my conscience jumped in and quickly pointed me to my failings as a car owner. Honestly, I’m not very good with cars. I personally wouldn’t want to be a car I own. You see, I don’t take very good care of them. I don’t have them serviced often enough (if ever), I don’t give them regular check-ups, or even keep them very clean. I use them and abuse them. Nothing I’m proud of, I’m just sharing the truth.
Well, all of this truth (the “You know, its your own fault you’re in this mess!”) stopped my prayer for help dead in its tracks. My conscience was right- it was my fault. My brain started reviewing all of the things I should have done better and why I really didn’t deserve God’s help. With each accusation, I had to agree.
But then something else cut into my depressing meditations- God’s grace. God’s Spirit brought to my mind that I haven’t deserved any of the blessings God has given me! Over and over again, I have “messed things up,” and yet He is still merciful and kind and hears my prayers. God stopped my conscience with the Gospel. It was as if He was saying, “Ryan, you made a mess of your life and you certainly didn’t deserve your salvation, yet I gave you that. So, what if I choose to answer your prayer for help with your car even though you don’t deserve it- isn’t that my way?”
Now, don’t misunderstand me- I didn’t hear a voice or anything. God just reminded me that His answering my prayer is always about His grace and never about my deserving. The sad truth is that I (and I don’t think I’m alone here) often forget this… at least I act like I do. I fall into the “blessings through works” trap and forget about how grace enters into the equation. But, in the parking lot last Friday God reminded me of His grace and His prerogative in blessing (the “prerogative” part also means He might not help me with the car the way I asked or in a way I might like!). In that moment my mind went from anxiety about my car situation and conviction over my failures to rejoicing in the God who so graciously saved me in spite of my many failures. I thanked Him for giving someone as undeserving as me blessings above and beyond what I could ever have dreamed.
Needless to say, the time of prayer was effective even though it followed a different course than I anticipated. I went from those moments of prayer in a broken car into that senior center, excited about preaching and eager to share the message about a God full of grace.