He (Jesus) spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’
“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
I do love this story told by Jesus. One must always be careful in feeling self righteous and superior to others.
Our only standard is Jesus and none of us even began to measure up to Him.
Yet so often the ‘religious’ in our churches and world today compare themselves to others. The temptation is to point out the sins and horror of other people and by implication seeks to show themselves far more holy than the poor sinners .
Just be warned, Jesus does not like this type of self centered holiness. Now just look at what these two men thanked God for.
‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.
Just change the words to some of our modern day ‘big name sins’ and you get the picture. Finger pointing out sins and boasting that you do not do such, how moral…how good! Wait a moment. It was the sinner man who was humble and stood far away that found mercy and whose prayer was answered. Please note his prayer:
‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’
Also consider who was justified in the eyes of Jesus. Seeking to exalt ourselves above sinners and big name sins only pushes us away from finding mercy from God.
The more pride one has in being holy the more sinful they are.
Again remember the point is Jesus. How do you measure up to Jesus! Is your heart as pure as His? No all of us are sinners.
With a heart full of repentance and humility and with our hands beating on our chest and our heads bowed let us pray “God, be merciful to me a sinner’.
The arms of Jesus are open to humble sinners. Jesus will give mercy.
It is very interesting to note that of all the popular books written today about prayers from the Bible I have not noted a book about the ‘sinners prayer’. It’s just not popular to ask for mercy from God upon a humble sinner who will not even look up to heaven.
Just go back and read the story above again and look at your heart. I have done this time and again through the years.
There was a movement years ago of people who prayed this prayer many times a day. One of my favorite books is called “The Jesus Prayer’. Another is about “The Pilgrim’ a man in Russia who went about getting people to pray the Jesus Prayer. I pray the prayer many days hundreds of times. I love to pray it as I carry the cross.
Almost every day as I start the day I pray this prayer and so often Denise my wife and I pray it three times together.
Here is the prayer:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God
Have mercy on me a sinner!’
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt