10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (Luke 11:10-14 NIV)
Jesus tells a parable about prayer. There is a comparison between the Pharisee and the tax collector.
The Pharisee projects himself before God. He sees life from his perspective. He also compares himself with the tax collector and says that he is not sinful like the tax collector. He fasts twice a week. He gives a tenth of all he gets to the temple. In the eyes of the religious community, the Pharisee is a holy man because of the leadership status he has. He is a Pharisee. He hides behind that status and is more concerned about himself rather than God.
The tax collector is desperate before God. He cannot bring himself to even look up to heaven because of the shame in his life. He entrusts himself into the merciful hands of God. He begs for forgiveness and grace before God.
Jesus tells us that the tax collector goes home justified before God. This means that God has mercy and forgives him. He is accepted by God despite his sinful life. He connects with God. Or should I say, God, connects with him and grants him his request for mercy.
The tax collector teaches us a lot about prayer. He entrusts himself into the merciful hands of God. He realises that he messes his life up. He comes to God in desperation to ask for God’s mercy and grace. He presumes nothing about himself. He humbly acknowledges that he needs God.
May we learn more about prayer during our Sunday worship gatherings at St. Andrew’s in January 2018. The title of our sermon series is “Praying with God-God is there…” Click here to view the Sunday series for January 2018. Perhaps you can start by praying for this series.