“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “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.’ “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.”
Prayer is simply talking to the Father. We can cut the formula and spiritual-sounding jargon. We are not praying to impress others but to express our heart to God. We can share with Him our joys and struggles, fears and anxieties, desires and disappointments.
Years ago there was a man at our church who could really pray. He had a way with words and would pray for long periods of time. It seemed like every syllable was shooting from his lips to the throne of God. Honestly, he intimidated me. Listening to him made me feel that my offerings to God lacked substance. And I was not the only one who felt that way. Many others refused to pray in public after hearing this man scrape the heavens with his poetry of prayer.
In today’s passage, it was not the Pharisee but the tax collector who truly prayed. The Pharisee prayed so that men would hear. The tax collector was concerned only with the audience of One. He humbled himself to the point that he would not look to heaven but admitted, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” Don’t be intimidated with the prayers of others. Humbly converse with your Father.
Father, help me keep my communication with You frequent and fresh. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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