THE GOSPELS 98
PRAYER AND HUMILITY GO HAND IN HAND
It is not our intent in these essays to try to cover all of the miracles and parables which Jesus did and taught. Rather, it is our purpose to glean from these accounts things which will enhance our understanding of God’s purposes and increase our faith and spiritual growth. For this reason, we are going to select a few events which transpired just prior to the final week of Jesus’ ministry before the Cross.
First, I want to note a short parable recorded by Luke. In this parable, Jesus speaks of two men who went into the Temple to pray. The first thanked God that he was so pious and good. The other bowed his head and prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner”.
In studying the life of Jesus, we must be impressed with the importance of prayer in the life of the Christian. However, too often we ignore the things which Jesus stresses with regard to how we use this very personal and vital exercise of our faith. In this parable, Jesus stresses the attitude of heart one should have when approaching God’s throne.
Prayer is a very private and personal communication with the Father. The only time Jesus prayed publicly was when He was praying for those present and wanted them to be aware of it, or when He was, in the prayer, emphasizing the wonder and glory of what God had done, as in some miracle. For His private prayers, He always went away alone to pray. So should we.
I am sure, in noting the personality of each man, that the Pharisee stood in full view in the Temple so all could see his piety and perhaps even hear his prayer. On the other hand, I can see the Publican in some dark corner, head bowed and quietly offering his petition so only God could hear.
In this prayer, the Pharisee was informing God of his goodness. In the first place, Paul warns us not to boast of our good works. Second, the things this man boasted of were mechanical acts, and, rather than reflecting a loving and humble heart, they stressed the selfishness and self-righteousness of the one who was praying. If we have any commendable traits, they are God-given and, rather than bragging about them, we should be praising Him for the privilege.
The other man recognized the one essential thing that anyone approaching the throne of God must confess. I am a sinner and in need of His mercy and forgiveness. Only the contrite of heart have an audience with the King. His forgiveness is based upon our confession and penitent request for mercy.
The Pharisee felt his own goodness justified him and made him better than other men because he was religiously correct. I am afraid this reflects too many today who trust their church attendance and ritual observance of all the religious rules to make them justified. No matter how religious you are, or how perfectly you keep all the rules, you are still like the publican…a sinner in dire need of God’s grace, and you need a heart humble enough to receive it.