Summary: Series on men and women’s prayers in the Bible made a difference and how prayer truly is a difference maker in our lives. I borrowed the outlines from SermonCentral Pro Contributor Tim Byrd.
Pharisee: The Presumptuous Prayer.
A Preacher dies and is standing in line, waiting outside the Pearly Gates. He is standing there patiently, wearing his best suit and tie, dressed like he is ready to preach his Sunday morning sermon. In line just ahead of him is a guy wearing sunglasses, a loud shirt, leather jacket, and blue jeans. The preacher thinks to himself, “Thank God that isn’t me. I mean, I may be dead but at least I know how to dress for that ultimate meeting with my maker.”
When the two men finally make it to the front of the line St. Peter addresses the man in the loud shirt, “Who are you so that I may know whether or not to admit you into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The man then replies, “Well St. Peter, I am Joe Cohen. I am a cab driver from New York City.” St. Peter then consults his list. When he looks up he smiles at the taxi driver and then says, “Take this silken robe and golden staff and enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The taxi driver puts on his robe and takes his staff and enters into heaven. The preacher then gets really excited. If a lowly cab driver from such a God forsaken place like New York City gets a silken robe and golden staff, what could be in store for him? It was finally the preacher’s turn. He stood up straight and tall and walked toward St. Peter. Then in his best preacher’s voice, he booms out “I am the Right Reverend Joseph Snow, pastor at St. Mary’s Church for the last 43 years.”
St. Peter then consults his list again. When he looks up this time he simply hands the preacher a cotton robe and wooden staff and says, “You may enter the kingdom of heaven.” The preacher is furious. He has been such a faithful disciple all these years and now that he stands for his eternal reward he gets what is seemingly a slap in the face. “Just a minute,” the preacher says to St. Peter. “That man was a taxi driver. I was a faithful minister of the Gospel. He gets a silken robe and golden staff and I get this? Where is the justice in this situation?” St. Peter then replies, “Sir, here we work on results. During your 43 years at St. Mary’s Church, when you preached, people slept. When he drove his cab, people prayed.”
It would seem that the preacher had more than a few lessons to learn about humility. It would seem that such was the case as well for the Pharisee in our lesson tonight. I would like to continue in our Sunday night theme Prayers that made a difference. Up to this point we have been looking at men and women in the Bible who prayed prayers that made a difference. Tonight rather than looking at a person we are going to look at a parable about prayer that Jesus shared with people like you and me. So tonight in this parable we are going to look at two men, two prayers and two outcomes. Read Luke 18:9-14.
The setting is as follows. Jesus had just finished telling His disciples a parable “to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). In it the Lord taught the value of persevering in prayer because “God [will] bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry to him day and night” (Luke 18:7). The parable that follows is the parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector, which we want to look at tonight, it is linked to Jesus’ parable about persevering in prayer. However this parable, the parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector, specifically deals with the attitude with which we offer up our prayers.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable” (Luke 18:9). Jesus is going to direct His parable specifically at the Pharisees. They were the ones who were self-assured, convinced, of their own moral purity and ethical standing. They were so very proud of their perceived moral standing before God and consequently looked down their noses at most everyone else.
Throughout His public Ministry, Jesus exposed the self-righteousness and unbelief of the Pharisees over and over again (see Luke 11:39-54). He pictured them as debtors who were too bankrupt to pay what they owed God (Luke 7:40-50), guests fighting for the best seats (Luke 14:7-14), and sons proud of their obedience but unconcerned about the needs of others (Luke 15:25-32). The sad thing is that the Pharisees were completely deluded and thought they were right and Jesus was wrong. This is illustrated in this parable.