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

Psalm 5:3

The Penitent Publican

(Please read Luke 18:9-14)

October 19

We’ve all met that Pharisee, in various guises. He’s the kid in school who thought he was smarter than everybody else in class and never missed a chance to demonstrate his dazzling brainpower. He’s the guy at work who speaks up first at meetings to impress the boss – he might say to a speaker, “Would you explain that point again for the benefit of these other fellows? I just barely understood it myself.” And in Jesus’ parable he’s trying to impress both God and man with how good he is.

But he doesn’t amount to much, and the publican is the more interesting of the two men. If you’ve met him, you’ve been blessed. He came sincerely, just as he was, not waving his good points before God and any people who might be listening. Wanting his prayer to be between just him and God, he stood a good distance from others, apparently with head bowed in humility, not so much as looking heavenward. He felt unworthy before the Father, as we all should, and approached him in utter humility.

He was penitent. He had sinned, and he confessed, striking his breast as if to emphasize that he alone was the one to be blamed. He felt a need for the Lord and expressed that need in a direct way, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (NIV).

So a few words from the heart, about his own unworthiness, reached to the heart of God, who indeed had mercy on him. May God help us to have such a spirit as well when we approach him in prayer.

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