Humility in Prayer
“Only he who is helpless can truly pray.”
Jesus told a story of two men and two prayers to show us the importance of humility in prayer.
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. Luke 18:10
Jesus’ audience would know that these two men were representative of the two extremes in their religious hierarchy. The Pharisees were highly religious and therefore, were highly esteemed. They were so intent on achieving external holiness that they added 1000 rules to the over 600 rules found in the Old Testament.
The tax collectors were scorned. They not only worked for the Romans, but they did so by collecting unjust taxes from their own people, the Jews. In the mind of a first century Jew, God must certainly love the Pharisees and hate the tax collectors.
If you had to go to one of these men to teach you to pray, who would you select? The religious Pharisee? Or the wicked tax collector?
First, Jesus describe the prayer of the Pharisee.
The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ Luke 18:11-12
This Pharisee was morally exemplary. He was faithful to his wife, honest in his dealings, and upright with his finances. If that is not impressive enough, he had outstanding religious habits as he fasted two days a week and gave ten percent of his income in offerings. What a guy! And he knew it.
Next, Jesus described the prayer of the tax collector.
And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ Luke 18:13
Tax collectors were not known for being morally righteous or for having outstanding religious habits. Unlike the Pharisee, when he prayed, he slumped back in the shadows. Unlike the Pharisee, he did not even try to compare himself with others. All he could do was cry out to God for mercy.
What did Jesus think of his prayer? He said,
I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14
The humble, utterly dependent upon God tax collector was the one who impressed Him.
One of the keys to effective prayer is praying out of a humble, broken heart.
He does not forget the cry of the humble. Psalm 9:12b NKJV
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray …I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Today as you pray, remember to come to the Father with humble, grateful, dependent prayers.