Wednesday, July 24, 2019
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” [Luke 18:10]
Have you ever spent time reflecting on your prayers? Are they mostly petitions for others or pleas for help? Are they sincere confessions or litanies of gratitude? What pronouns do you use when you pray? Are they singular or plural? Jesus sets the stage of this parable by describing two diametrically opposed people. A respected church man, a Pharisee, and a despised collaborator of the Roman oppressors, a tax collector. Then Jesus, in the context of the parable, shares the content of their intimate prayers to God. One is grateful. One seeks mercy. Both prayers on the surface are completely appropriate. Yet, the actual words point to the potential pitfalls of prayer. Is our gratitude to God self-serving, “I thank you that I am not like other people?” Is our plea for mercy a quick fix for a repetitive sin, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner?” It is not our words as much as it is the condition of our heart that reveals our motives. May we always pray first, “Create in me a pure heart, O God,” one that humbly comes before God.
Holy God, examine my heart and purify it with your holy refining fire. Burn away any arrogance. Remove the dross of insincerity. Humbly bring me before your throne of grace, as you renew your steadfast spirit within me. You alone are to be glorified. Amen.