“10Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14, NASB 1995).
In this example of people coming to pray to God, two very different personalities are on display. The first is the self-righteous Pharisee, who reminded God that he was not like other unworthy people, and about his righteous behavior and deeds. Surely, if anyone was deserving to have his prayers heard and answered by God, it would be him.
The other person is a tax collector. Tax collectors were an unscrupulous lot, who collected taxes from citizens for the Roman Empire and helped themselves to a very generous commission for their work. The people saw them as morally corrupt and should not be befriended. The tax collector knew this, and that is why he stood off by himself, not because he was better than everyone else, but because he knew that he was not worthy. He pleaded for God’s mercy, knowing he was a “sinner.”
Would God hear and answer his prayers?
God commended the tax collector for his humbleness and noted that people like him would be exalted in the eyes of the Lord.
When we pray do we try to exalt ourselves before God, trying to convince Him that we deserve His favor, or do we humbly confess and honestly admit who we are – sinners in need of God’s mercy and help?
Humbleness is a secret and necessary ingredient that should be a part of all our prayers.