There is a famous story of Roland, an officer in the army of Charlemagne. He was in charge of the rear guard of the army, and he was suddenly caught by the Saracens at Roncesvalles. The battle was hot and heavy with Roland and his men facing terrible odds. Now Roland had a horn called Olivant which he had taken from the giant Jatmund. The horn’s blast could be heard thirty miles away. It was said that its blast was so loud and strong that birds fell from the sky when its sound tore through the air. Oliver, Roland’s friend, pleaded with him to sound the alarm so that Charlemagne would hear the horn and come to their rescue. But he was too proud to ask for help. One by one Roland’s men fell in battle until he alone was left. Then at last, with his dying breath, he blew the horn, but when Charlemagne arrived, it was too late. Roland, too, was dead.
Roland was too proud to ask for help. It is easy to be like that, to think that we can handle life’s pressures and problems all by ourselves. We believe in ourselves too much and we tend to give ourselves too much credit. We think we are more righteous, wiser, stronger, and better than we are. And the problem with that tendency is that it causes us to lean on our own understanding, rather than acknowledge our need of the Lord (Prov. 3:5-6). We look to ourselves rather than to the grace of God (Psalm 20:7; 121:1). You see, only people who acknowledge their need and inability will seek and savor grace. Grace is for the needy, and therefore only the needy find it. The man or woman who trusts in themselves, who justifies themselves, is a stranger to grace (Luke 18:9-14). We must remember that human need is a magnet for God’s grace. God resists and grace retreats from the proud (James 4:6-7). As water runs downhill so does the grace of God, it runs to those bowed low by life, by their own sin, and by the Devil himself.
Friends, our greatest need is to know our neediness, and our greatest discovery is to discover that our helplessness is the door to help from God (Isa. 55:1; Matt. 5:3). In Hebrews 4:14-16 we are told that Jesus knows our every weakness and offers mercy and grace to help us when we need it most. He is strong and we are weak, and so when we embrace and confess our weakness, we will find Him strong (Psa. 73:26; 1 Cor. 1:26-29; 2 Cor. 12:10). There is only one requirement for enjoying grace, and that is knowing your need of it. Those gathered around the throne of grace are the broken and bowed down.
O. S. Hallesby was one of Norway’s leading Christian teachers and devotional writers. He played a prominent role in the church’s opposition to the Nazis and was confined to a concentration camp for two years. His writings come from a heart and mind attuned to God and continue to speak to Christians to this day. In his classic book on prayer, simply titled “Prayer”, Hallesby says this: “Helplessness is your best prayer. It calls from your heart to the heart of God with greater effect than all your uttered pleas.”
If you need help, admit your need, and find the help found alone in Christ. For grace to come down you have to give up on yourself; helplessness is your best prayer!