Our scripture this week is Luke 18:9-14.
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But 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.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus teaches us about prayer using two men at the temple as the example. The fact that they go to the temple to pray tells us they are believers, but they have very different ways of offering thanks to God. This difference is the lesson that Jesus wants us to understand.
One is the very model of showy prayer that Jesus has warned us against in Matthew 6:6 “Pray to your Father in secret”. The Pharisee loudly proclaims the things he does and how much he gives. The other prays quietly, asking for God’s mercy. Jesus says that the humble man is justified by God through his prayer because he was honest.
Jesus teaches us that the right way to approach God is by humbling ourselves before Him, recognizing that without Him we are nothing. Acknowledging our failings and asking forgiveness is the heart of prayer. God knows our weakness and our needs before we speak them, so go to Him without pride and without fear – He will meet us in love.
Gracious God, we are frail and often fall into wrongdoing without thinking about the consequences. Help us to admit our mistakes, and then go in Your strength to make disciples of all the world. Amen.