Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
In this parable Jesus describes two very different prayer attitudes.
At the temple, where he went to pray, the Pharisee felt right at home. This was where he belonged, of course, and anyone listening to his prayer would be duly impressed, right?
But the Pharisee did not come to pray to God; he came to talk about himself. He did not come to thank God for his grace, mercy, and forgiveness; he came to declare how glad he was that he was not like other people. He followed all the prescribed religious duties and always gave a tenth of what he made. Compared to others, the Pharisee seemed nearly perfect. God had to be pleased with him, right? Certainly he was much better than that tax collector standing “at a distance.”
But Jesus quickly set the record straight. The Pharisee went home just as he had come, unrepentant and full of himself. But the tax collector went home forgiven and justified.
What matters to the Lord is not how good we think we are, how much we give, or how often we go to church. What matters is our prayer attitude—that we realize our need for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Only then will we be justified.
Before you approach God in worship today, or before you spend time with the Lord at home, ask yourself, “What is my attitude before the Lord?”
Holy Spirit, help us to see ourselves as you see us, and help us to see our need for your grace. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
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