Summary: Proposition: Jesus shares with that God's Favorite Prayers are: 1. Prayers that come from a Spirit of Humility 2. Prayers that are Confessional in Nature 3. Prayers that lead to Redemption
Theme: Humility Living
Title: God's Favorite Prayers
Proposition: Jesus shares with that God's Favorite Prayers are: 1. Prayers that come from a Spirit of Humility 2. Prayers that are Confessional in Nature 3. Prayers that lead to Redemption
Grace and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ who came to take away the sin of the world!
When Jesus called us to follow him we were not given a list of personal qualities or characteristics that we were to work on and acquire. Instead, as we read the Gospels we notice that when Jesus wanted his disciples to know how to live better as a disciple or when he wanted them to work on a certain personal quality he would share with them a story. Today, our passage is one of those stories.
It's the story of two men who go to the Temple to pray and worship. Both men are sincere and devout in their own way. One man was egotistical, smug and narcissistic. He was under the disillusionment that he was far superior to many others who were there praying. He makes himself the major focal point of his prayers. He prides himself on his dedication to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and stewardship. He knows that he has advanced in his spiritual walk and he wants the LORD to recognize his advancements.
In contrast the other man stands off to the side. It's as if he feels that he is unworthy to even be in the Temple. He keeps his head bowed and beats on his breasts in confession. This man centers his prayer on God. He calls out for God's mercy, grace and love. He readily confesses his unworthiness, his creatureness and his sinfulness.
It's clear from our passage which of the two models that Jesus approves. It is clear that Jesus wants us to adopt the model of the second man over that of the first man.
It is also clear that this passage is centered towards a particular audience. It is for those "who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else." It is for those who live and act like this Pharisee in Jesus' story.
At first, we might think that we don't need this story. After all, most of us would agree this morning that we don't think that we act that way.
+We don't think that we look around at times and judge ourselves by the actions of others thinking that we are either superior to them or inferior to them. Or do we?
+ We don't think that we look around and think that the person sitting over there just rubs us the wrong way. Or have we?
+ We don't think that at times we believe that some people possess a "holier than thou attitude" or an "I can do anything and it not be wrong " attitude. Or do we?
+After all, we would never think that we are glad that we are not Christian snobs like some people. And you would never catch us saying, "Real Christians don't do this or that"
You know what? Perhaps, Jesus' words this morning can help all of us.
We have to resist making the Pharisee the villain and the tax collector the hero or saint. After all, most of our church boards would love for someone who possesses the personal integrity and spiritual walk that this Pharisee in Jesus' story prides himself. Which person would we really want our daughter or granddaughter to date? We would want a person that could boast that they were living better than the Law or a person who had to confess that they were a sinner?
Would we not want to help this tax collector take the next step in his spiritual journey? Would we not want him to begin to display some of the very personal qualities that we see in the Pharisee - dependability, prayer, stewardship and faithfulness? What would we say if in a couple of weeks we found ourselves in the Temple hearing the same prayer from this tax collector? How would we view him?
It is here that we have to come back to our parable and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us it's true meaning. It is here we have to allow the Holy Spirit to open our minds and hearts to receive this story's true teaching and wisdom.
Jesus once again uses the reversal motif to teach us a lesson on humility. He once again tells us that the exalted will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. Jesus also wants us to understand what type of prayers His Heavenly Father loves and that is what I would like for us to look at this morning. Exactly what kind of prayers does the Lord love to hear? What types of prayers does the Lord long for us to say? I believe our friend the tax collector can help us to see that the LORD loves prayers that are: