“Morning by morning, O Lord, you hear my voice”

Psalm 5:3

An Ego Trip and a Prayer

(Please read Luke 18:9-14)

January 14

You may feel almost as if you’ve known the first guy — the Pharisee who was so full of himself that he took time out to remind God of what a good man he (the Pharisee) was. The man actually had some good points: he was not a swindler, not unjust, not an adulterer. But his great problem is glaringly evident in the words he used, especially as he took time to observe and comment disparagingly on the tax collector praying nearby. He was outwardly religious, busily doing all he was commanded to do under the Law of Moses, and his example could have encouraged common people in their observance of that Law.

But he was awfully proud of himself, so arrogant and so unsympathetic toward others. He must have felt that his very busyness had put God in his debt, a failing to which we’re all susceptible. His “prayer” recognized no weakness or need in himself and asked for no help, so what was the point of praying?

Now consider the tax collector and his prayer. He was despised by most citizens because he collected taxes from them for the hated Romans. He knew his shortcomings and his need for God’s mercy, and that’s what he prayed about, directly and briefly.

Besides the need for humility and the danger of self-righteousness, this incident seems to teach the value of getting to the point in prayer, without the flowery language and repetition we’re often tempted to use. Perhaps on this very morning we can begin modeling our prayers after that of the poor tax collector.

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