Summary: Why do we pray?
Luke 18:1-8 – Our Attitude in Prayer
Story: Leonardo da Vinci took seven years to paint his famous picture the "Last Supper".
He used living people to depict the figures representing the Twelve Apostles and Christ.
He started the fresco with Christ. It is reputed that he viewed hundreds and hundreds of men looking for one who most perfectly exhibited the innocence and beauty he was looking for. A face and personality unaffected by sin.
Eventually he found a young man 19 years old and for the next six months he worked on the face and demeanour of Christ using this young man as his model.
Over the next six years, he found appropriate people to represent each of the Apostles, with a space being left for the figure representing Judas Iscariot – which he left as the final task of the masterpiece.
For weeks, Da Vinci searched in vain for a man with a hard, callused face and a countenance marked by scars of avarice and deceit. A man who could depict the man, who would betray his best friend.
After much discouragement, word came to Da Vinci that a man whose appearance fully met the requirements had been found.
He was in a dungeon in Rome, sentenced to die for a life of crime and murder.When Da Vinci arrived he found the epitome of what he was looking for. A man who was wretched, unkempt and vicious - the perfect Judas.
By special order of the king, the man was taken to Milan, where the fresco was being painted. When the picture was finally finished and the warders came from Rome to retrieve their prisoner.
As he was leaving, the man turned to Da Vinci and said. "Don’t you recognise me" he said.
Leonardo replied: "I’ve never seen you before in my life"
The man broke down sobbing. "Have I sunk so low" he said " Seven years ago, you used me as your model for Jesus!"
You can’t judge a book by its cover. Man looks on the outside but God sees the heart.
He is not interested what we look like but where our heart is, what our attitudes are.
In this morning’s gospel reading Luke 18:9-14 Jesus focuses on prayer - using the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to encourage us to come with a right attitude to God.
We can fool our friends, we can even fool ourselves but we can’t fool God.
Prayer is very precious to God.
We read in Revelation 8: 3 and 4 the prayers of the saints are equated with incense offered to God at the altar
“Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand.”
This morning’s parable - of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector - in Luke 18:9-14 is all about motivation for prayer.
I would like to look at two aspects from this parable today.
1. The impact that the parable would have had on Jesus’ audience
2. Our motivation to pray?
1. Let us look at the first aspect:
The Impact of the Parable
For many of us who have heard the story in church many times, the impact of the parable has been lost.
Jesus was scathing about the Pharisees – and this has rubbed off on us today. Nowadays a Pharisee is a figure that we look down upon. None of us would want to be seen as a Pharisee. We equate Pharisees as being hypocrites.
But in Jesus day, it was different.
In Jewish society of Jesus’ day a Pharisee was someone who was looked up to. He was seen as a godly man - keen to please God by keeping the Law – the Torah. In fact so keen that the Pharisees added further rules to make sure that the Law couldn’t be broken by mistake.
Pharisees were held in the highest esteem for their moral stance and commitment to God. They were regarded as the “crème de la crème” of society
On the other hand, in Jesus’ day a tax collector was seen as the lowest form of life.
Israel was a country under Roman occupation. And the Romans demanded draconian taxes from their subjugated people. So they arranged their provinces into fiscal districts, and appointed certain Jews as tax collectors.
These districts were fiscally assessed. How the tax collector got the money did not bother the Government.
The tax collector had the power to raise the necessary taxes. He could - and often did - use the Roman army to enforce payment. And there was no appeal from his assessment. Once the Roman return was achieved, whatever the tax collector earned on top of that was his profit.