Do you pray like the Pharisee or the tax collector?
“The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t sin, I don’t commit adultery, I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’
But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.'”
The lesson of two prayers
These two prayers stand in sharp contrast to one another.
The Pharisee barely acknowledges God at all. He used his time in the Temple as an opportunity to justify himself. In the guise of thanking God, he cut down others and congratulated himself. There was no humility in him.
The tax collector, on the other hand, was rightfully aware of his sin before the most holy God. He made no claims for himself. He didn’t try to justify his action. He only admitted he was a sinner.
Jesus declared that it was the humble tax collector, not the proud Pharisee, whom God was willing to justify.
May God give us the courage to admit our true condition before him. Take time to meditate on God’s holiness, and give up justifying yourself. In humility, cast yourself on the Lord’s mercy.
A prayer for today
O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner…
From The One Year® Book of Bible Prayers edited by Bruce Barton (Tyndale) entry for March 8
Content is derived from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation and other publications of Tyndale Publishing House