Luke 18:9-14 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus told lots of parables, many of which were hard to understand. This one… not so much. In fact, this is probably one of Jesus’ more in your face stories. His audience is arrogant people and he pulls no punches. The story is about a self-righteous religious guy and a humble sinner. The religious guy liked to pray about himself: “Lord, I thank you that I am so awesome. You have given me so many gifts. I understand your Word and I have the gift of teaching. And thank you Lord for making me freakishly good-looking and talented beyond compare. Make me greater Lord… for Your glory of course. You are so good, God.” Uh, I think God just threw up a little.
Some people pray like that. They use the platform of prayer to flex their religious muscles. They use prayer to preach and to impress. They focus on themselves and escalate their spiritual importance. But Jesus said God wasn’t too fond of that. God was fond of those who are poor in spirit. He is fond of the type of prayer that comes out of a heart of humility. He is interested in those who will cry out to Him in their need. It is those prayers that He desires to answer.
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Think about that statement today. What camp are you in? Do you lean toward humility or pride when it comes to prayer? Public prayer is not a showcase for your knowledge of Christian language. It is not an arena for you to talk about yourself. Here’s the thing: trees don’t have to talk about their fruit, they just produce it. People will take notice. Your gifts will be seen, your talents will be used. And if your heart is humble, God might even get the glory.