The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
… the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ (vv. 11-13).
Luke introduces Jesus’ story by writing, “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else …”
Growing up, I would often stop what I was doing and bow my head and pray! When I was asked, “What are you doing?” I would answer, “I’m praying to myself.” The reprimand always followed, “Bob, don’t pray to yourself, pray to God!” They knew what I meant, and I knew what I meant, but the Pharisee in Jesus’ story did not. He was praying about himself and to himself. That prayer gets nowhere near the throne of God.
The tax collector was another story. He dared not approach the altar. He would not even look to the heavens. With his head bowed to the ground, he beat his breast and cried out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
The simplest prayer, it contains just a few words. We do not have to be “wordy” when we pray. God wants us, instead, to be true, to speak from a heart that is open to him! The Pharisee does what we often do, he compares himself to other people, and comes out looking good in his own eyes. The Tax Collector sees himself through the eyes of Holy God! He knows he is a sinner, needing to be forgiven and made right!
Today, pray this prayer! Now, hear this: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).Tags: Bob, Church Blog, Pastor Bob, Pastors Blog