Recently, my wife Kim and I were on a plane returning from Minneapolis, MN when we began to hit our fair share of turbulence. You know that feeling when the plane unexpectedly drops and suddenly jerks itself back into place.
Nothing crazy, but enough to grab your attention! You know that gasp you hear from passengers in the cabin. You want to look cool, as if it is no big deal. And yet, that last bump told you, this is anything but…. cool. You nonchalantly check to make sure the seat belt is fastened securely and you give it a subtle tug. You start to think about your children and loved ones. It was at that point that the guy next to me that I had been chatting with asked me: “Are you praying”?
Now, our previous, casual conversation had included the normal airplane pleasantries.
Where are you headed?
Business or pleasure?
What do you do for a living?
It is here that the gentlemen learned that I am a pastor and he, a loan officer for a large bank. Pleasantries, small talk, and then….. bang! The plane dropped suddenly. I pretended to be cool with it and quietly prayed, “God, get us home.”
A few more jerks and shakes and that is when he asked me, “Are you praying for us?” “Yep, sure am!”, I replied. The turbulence resided, we chatted some more, and that brief exchange has stuck with me.
What His Question Reveals
- Since I am a pastor, I must be good.
I am making some assumptions here but, I think my passenger friend’s question reveals a few things. But, before I get to that, prior to the whole turbulence thing he seemed to initially equate me to being a pastor as, not a good thing. It is not the first time that someone found out that I was a pastor and the reaction is less than inviting. And, I get it…. pastors, sadly, have poor reputations in our day. Many people have been disillusioned by the well-meaning pastor that they invested trust in who then lied, cheated on his wife, divorced, embezzled, etc…. But then, BOOM! Turbulence! and his demeanor towards me immediately shifted to: “Are you praying?”
Funny, isn’t it? He wanted to know that if this stranger he is sitting next to might be praying because maybe…. We are in serious trouble and maybe I have an in-road with God. The assumption being made here is that, I am a pastor and forget those embezzlers, he was hopeful that I am “good”. And if I am a “good” pastor, then God will hear my prayers, and none of us are going to be in the 6:00 news!
Now, I absolutely believe God does hear my prayers, but not because I am good….
- Next, his comment reveals that he is bad
I don’t know if it actually crossed my new friends mind what all his question revealed. But, I am guessing that he thought I have favor with God (because I am a “good” pastor) and he does not have such favor because, he is not a good person!
He had no idea what my life is like and I had no idea what his life is like. What is his standard of “goodness”? Is he a moral person, does he have convictions, or did he spend last night pursuing whatever kinds of sins his heart desired? I have no idea, but his question about prayer revealed he did not think himself good enough to call out to God.
He was right and he was wrong about that.
He was right to ask me to pray, he was wrong to think that I am good. He was right in that he is not good enough to pray, and he was wrong in thinking that I was good enough to do so. He was also wrong to think that only good people can call out to God. If that were so…. none of us could do so! He was wrong on his view of God.
We can call on God not because we are good, but because HE is good! He was wrong in thinking that I am good and thus have special favor with God. He is right, I do have special favor with God because of His Son Jesus Christ, not because I am good – but because He is!
I would like to tell you that this whole story ends in a salvation story. No such ending….It did end in that we landed safely, a few further questions, and we wished each other well.
Ask yourself: Why does God hear your prayers?
Is it based on your goodness or His?