Luke 18:10-14 (NLT)
10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Two guys. Two prayers. One accepted. One rejected. I get this one. The Pharisee is a jerk. The tax collector is cool.
I thank God I am not like the guy who thanks God he is not like the other guy. (You are supposed to smile at that one.)
The tax collector was humble. O.K. I will be that way.
Jesus was brilliant. He gets us all on the same page emotionally. We don’t want to be like the Pharisee.
But if you think about it, how much like the Pharisee are we? Do we pray that way too?
Forget what you might know about Pharisees. Some of you know nothing and others of you think you have the Pharisee figured out.
Give this guy some credit for a moment. Look at the good he does. He is honest, good, no adultery, has integrity, doesn’t sin a bunch – according to him, good guy, fair, good husband, probably helped his wife around the house, spent time with kids, taught them the Bible, fasted twice a week – not just once a year, tithed.
The tax collector – rich, stole money, lived well off of everyone else. Not a good guy.
If I stood these two people before you, the good guy and the bad guy – whose prayer do you think God will listen to more?
What was God’s issue with the Pharisee? It was his heart, his attitude. He thought his prayer was going to be accepted because of his performance.
You say you know God doesn’t accept you based on your merit. But do you think God listens to your prayer more on the days when you act well, go to church, volunteer, recycle, whatever?
But you think he doesn’t listen to you because you failed or sinned? Because I am not __________ (fill in the blank), God will not listen to me.
You go to God in prayer and you think he will listen to you because you are not ____________ or because you did __________. Sorry, God is not impressed by you.
The tax collector gets it. He comes to God and says, “Lord, have mercy on me, for I am a sinner.”
What is so impressive about this prayer that Jesus says he prayed well. The tax collector knew what we miss. There is forgiveness. But we don’t believe this.
What if the tax collector goes and does the same sin next week and returns again and asks for forgiveness again?
Then he goes and tries harder the following week but still sins and asks for forgiveness again. Are you getting the point. We don’t come before God on our own merit.
We pray in Jesus’ name? That is how we are able to go to God the Father and pray. Not based on our performance but based on the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Grace – thank God for grace.