Bible Reading: Luke 18:9-14
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14b)
What we pray reveals what is in our hearts. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector reveals two types of hearts in prayer.
Confident in his righteousness, the Pharisee strode proudly to the centre of the temple, where all could see him. He thanked God with a loud voice all could hear because he was not a horrible sinner like the adulterers or the tax collectors. He boasted of his outward holiness. He had fasted twice a week. He gave tithes of all his possessions. This Pharisee was proud of his achievements before God. He thought God would accept him based on his good works.
A tax collector approached the temple with trembling and fear next to this Pharisee, standing a little far off to the side in shame and a burden of unworthiness. He could not lift his head to the heavens. Hunched down, he beat his breast in remorse. He knew of his vile sins, of his trickery and corruption when he collected taxes. Yet, with none other than a plea for mercy, he approached the throne of God, aware of his broken state, to cry out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”.
Who is the man that pleases God? The tax collector whose heart was truly broken and humble before God. Although the Pharisee was righteous on the outside, his heart boasted in his own confidence. He did not acknowledge his sin. Instead, his pride took over his heart, leaving no room for Christ to reign. But, on the other hand, the tax collector confessed his sin and gave up his pride or any standing before God. He confessed he needed a saviour, a new master in his life.
It is those who are broken and in constant need of a saviour that is pleasing to God. The one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted. So what do our prayers to God reveal of the contents of our hearts? Do we pray daily like the Pharisee or the tax collector? Do we think our actions are holding us up in a good relationship with God, or do we know that we are broken and in need of mercy every day?
May God have mercy on us and give us humble hearts.
Lord, please have mercy on us and reveal to us our true hearts. Forgive us for our pride which exalts ourselves and our own actions. We are nothing before You, God. Have mercy on us, for we are sinners! Give us lowly and humble hearts before You each day. We ask for Your mercy. In Jesus’ name, amen.