Summary: It is in our weakness God's strength shines through. Only in humility we see our prayers answered.

The Prayer of the Sinner or the Prayer of the (self)-Righteous

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A logician saves the life of a space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she has knowledge of the whole universe, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."


When paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident on April 24, (2013) the 50-year-old man was determined not to be taken to hospital. After checking him over, police did not notice any serious wounds and so allowed the man to return home untreated, recording the incident as a traffic accident resulting in minor property damage.

As an act of courtesy, the driver . . . escorted the man home and urged him to go to the hospital for a medical examination just in case.

However, while the man claimed to be fine at the time, on June 5 at around 1 p.m., police received reports of an unpleasant smell coming from the 50-year-old’s apartment. Upon entering the premises, police discovered his decaying body. Autopsy results suggest that the man died of a functional disorder of the brain which was caused by a serious blow to the head, and was directly linked to the accident. It was also concluded that due to the severity of his injuries, the probability that the man had died within 24 hours of the accident was extremely high.

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12

When you think you are alright, you can be in a very dangerous place.

18 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 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!’ 14 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.”

The Prayer that justifies

The Audience

The people who think they are righteous-people like us-people who go to church, who look good, who fast, and pray, and give faithfully and avoid sin.

The Characters

The Pharisee is the hero of the audience-the man who is most-likely-to-go-to-heaven in the eyes of most of the common observers. He had vast portions of the Bible memorized. He lived a life of comparative discipline and ascetic fervor-a priest of priests. He’s the super-saint, the spiritual super-hero.

The Tax Collector is the low-life-the corrupt government official, corrupt policeman, and corrupt lawyer all rolled into one. He is the man who uses his position of power to gain while those from whom he extorts his income are powerless.

The Prayers

The Super-saint prays “with himself”. He thanks God for all the bad things he doesn’t do and all the good things he does. It seems clear he does not know God as Father or Lord, and he does not know himself, except as the hero of his own story.

The low-life corrupt antagonist is ashamed, stands at a distance, beats his chest and says “God-Merciful Me-Sinner” Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. He recognizes who he is-a sinner. He also recognizes who God is-the Merciful One.

The Results

The bad man who humbled himself went away justified, while the good man who prayed proudly did not.

The Lesson

If you want results in prayer you have to humble yourself.

The Bible has plenty to say about pride. Just from one chapter in Proverbs we draw these gems:

5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

18 Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed than to share plunder with the proud. Proverbs 16

Even the great Apostle Paul had issues with pride, but he describes his experience as follows:

6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 10:6-10

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