This statement was something of a mystery to me before I began my scripture study three weeks ago. Having no experience with wine skins in general, I was not only forced to take Jesus' word for this phenomenon, but wasn't really sure why he made it. However, during Scripture study this week I had a sudden and complete epiphany about the meaning of this verse.
In order for Christ to be able to do some new work in us (the new wine), He must first change our hearts (the wine skin). To give you an example of what I am talking about, I will use myself. I have a habit of spending beyond my means and not using what I've been given wisely. I've prayed a lot over this, and asked for deliverance from it, but until my heart was ready to let go of this particular sin, Christ could not do any new work. My heart wasn't ready and anytime He tried, the new wine was wasted on me. He had to fix my heart first before He could give do new work in me.
Plenty of people tried to help me, and plenty were the opportunities I received, but I simply wasn't able to capitalize on this because there was still a wound that needed healing, still an attachment to the old way of doing things. That people did try to help me was important to my healing, because it was a visible sign of God's love for me and an encouragement to keep trying, but the actual process of healing was slow. I'm not sure, even now, that I am completely healed - but I have a firm resolve of purpose to change my life that I didn't have. I acknowledge that my past ways of handling money were not only harmful to me and to my family, but to those around me who were being asked to carry unnecessary burdens caused by my irresponsibility.
Now that my heart has changed, my prayers have changed, too. I understand that money isn't what I really need. In fact, I am learning that more often than not I don't even know what I need. When I think I need money, what I really need is healing. What I really need is for God to show me something that was broken that needs fixing. Once the healing has taken place, then I'll be ready for the gifts God has in store for me, and my prayers will be more effective.
This is true of every sin human beings commit. The alcoholic cannot be cured of his alcoholism until he is ready to let go of it, ready to find the wound that drives him to it, admitting it and allowing himself to be healed by the only One who can heal every wound. The drug addict cannot be cured of his addiction until he is ready to let go of it. Attempting to help the alcoholic and the drug addict is still important, as it is a visible sign of God's love and an encouragement to keep trying to change, but until they are truly ready the efforts will not work.