The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank You, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!
~Luke 18:11, CSB
“We don’t need to be embarrassed that we are needy; every feeble, stumbling prayer uttered by a believer is heard by God.”
~William Franklin Graham
The Pharisees were full of assurance when he came to their righteousness. William Barclay tells of a Rabbi, Simon ben Jocai who said, “If there is only one righteous man on the earth, surely it is I.” Well, have the same degree of assurance but it is that I am a sinner. I would have to say, “If there is one sinner on the earth, surely it is I.” The Pharisees prayed three times a day which was more than the law required. They fasted twice a week which was also more than the law required. They tithed everything including the garden herbs which again, went beyond the law. Pharisees were faithful to show up at the Temple during the hours of prayer but this Pharisee does not address God directly until he thanks Him that he is not like others. Otherwise, he has a conversation with himself. There is no praise or adoration for God in his prayer and certainly no confession or repentance. There is THANKSGIVING but he is giving thanks that he is not like others, especially this Publican. His prayer reeks with pride and contempt for others. It would be impossible for any human to approach God’s throne of grace with this kind of pride in their heart. God cannot stand pride. We cannot pray when we are filled with pride and when we are looking down on others. No one is really praying when their focus is on themselves rather than on God. The Pharisee may have been trying to impress others but he was not impressing God.
Jesus had just finished teaching His disciples on the importance of persistent prayer and the value of humility and child-like faith. We tend to be impressed by the same things that impress the world: power, influence, wealth, achievement and status but none of these things impress God. James said the passionate heartfelt prayer of a righteous man has a lot of power. I agree with Dr. Graham, I believe God hears every prayer and that includes the prayers of children who have a tendency to pray from the heart. Charles Shedd tells a story about a church that had Sunday evening vespers. I know you are not familiar with vespers [evening prayers] but the Methodist still did them when I was in college. These evening prayer times were for the young people. Adults could attend but they were not allowed to say anything. They could pray but they had to pray silently. The prayer participants were children through college age. One of the children from the group had taken ill while on vacation with his parents. He was deathly sick and the doctors didn’t know what was wrong or how to treat him. When the kids and youth gathered on Sunday evening for vespers, the children prayed fervently for Ronnie [the sick child]. Meanwhile at the hospital miles away where Ronnie lay sick, there was a strange turn of events. Ronnie got better suddenly. The doctor had no explanation but Ronnie’s parents did: they told the doctor about vespers. The doctor said, “You tell them to keep it up, there prayers got through.” Every heartfelt prayer counts, no matter how weak or feeble.
- I am spent after a big day. I went from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. none stop and when I sat down to post the blog, I was worn to a frazzle. On the way home from Grace Point, I remembered that I promised Noah I would drive them to the Airport this morning: 5:30 a.m. I have to get this posted and get in bed.
- PTL: we had a profession of faith at Grace Point last night–Cale Smith, 9 years old, prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. He was glowing like a 500 watt bulb when we left last night. Cale’s dad works for Joshua at Diamond Pro.
- We had a TOWN MEETING last night. We told stories and then our listening team assessed our core values. We had some moving stories and David’s mom Cindy was one of our story tellers. We had 81 in attendance I think.
- Thanks for reading the blog. Have a great day.