Jesus told the parable (in Luke 18:9-14) of two men who went up to the Temple to pray. One was a Tax Collector (called a ‘publican’), considered by many to be a sinner, and the other a Pharisee, a man of strict religious tradition who was considered to be holy. According to Jesus one man left justified while the other man’s sins were not forgiven.
What made the difference between these two men’s prayers? Could it have been their posture; did they kneel correctly? Or, maybe it was their knowledge the scriptures. No, it was neither. We will pick-up the story starting in Luke chapter 18 and verse 10,
(10)”Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.”(KJV)
(11)”The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”(KJV)
(12)”I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”(KJV)
(13)”And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”(KJV)
(14)”I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”(KJV)
Jesus clearly stated that the man who became real before God by admitting his faults was the one who left justified and forgiven. While the religious man that boasted of his personal holiness before God, was neither justified nor forgiven. In other words, when you pray God wants to hear the real you revealed and exposed before Him and not the religious or pious person that you are before others.
Jesus Was Teaching Us the Correct Attitude Of Prayer.
Yes, your attitude in prayer will determine the latitude of your prayer. Will your prayers be answered and accepted by God or not? Jesus shows us in these verses that it will depend on your level of honesty or truthfulness about yourself as you are praying.
Simply put, when you pray God does not want you to pretend that you are in any way: good, upright, holy, or righteous before Him when you are not. He desires that you should be brutally honest with yourselves before Him. He wants the real you to be present before Him. God wants you to bring the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Consider the prayers of the two men in the parable that Jesus gave. One man was pious and thought that God, in some way, owed him something for his religious deeds. This man did not realize that he was not being honest about himself, because regardless of how much he tried to keep the Law of Moses he failed in some area and was, therefore, considered a law breaker or a sinner. Had he decided to tell the truth and admit to God his sins, he would have been forgiven and justified or made right by what the Messiah would later do on the cross (remember his parable was given before Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all believers who had lived and would live).
On the other hand, the publican or Tax Collector prayed humbly before God. He prayed with an attitude that showed that he realized his own wretchedness and sinfulness in all areas. He was being honest with God in his prayers. He could not even look up toward heaven as he prayed. Then, we find Jesus explaining that after this man finished praying, his sins were forgiven and he was made right by God because he had the correct attitude about himself before Almighty God.
This Is the Correct Model Of Prayer
Regardless of whether or not you are generally considered by most people to be a good person, you still fail or sin in one way or the other. If you don’t believe this, compare your every thought and deed to the standard of holiness found in the Law of Moses. When you do you will discover that (even putting the religious rituals aside) you fail in some area of simple righteous behavior. This is the real you that must expose yourself to God in prayer in order to be forgiven.
Furthermore, as you begin to see yourself for who you really are, you start to see the need for the cross of Christ. As you become honest with yourself you become aware of your desperate need for the atonement of the blood of Jesus to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. And this is also, when you put your faith in the correct place; that is the work that Jesus did for you on the cross. Therefore, when you pray I will ask: will the real you stand up? A-men