The Humble Prayer
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“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”
Luke 18:10-13 (NIV)
Have you ever prayed a prayer that went like the Pharisee’s? Something like, “Woohoo! Look at me being my awesome self, God!” Me neither. And so at first when I looked at this passage I thought, “well, I’m not anything like that Pharisee, and thank goodness.”
I think I might have missed the point.
While I may not exalt myself as a paragon of righteousness, I know I’m not exactly a prime example of humility either.
The dictionary defines humble as: “Marked by meekness or modesty in behaviour, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful; showing deferential or submissive respect; low in rank, quality, or station; unpretentious or lowly.” Looking at this definition, I know I don’t fit all the criteria, even if I don’t consider myself to be particularly righteous or prideful.
There is a big difference between being totally humble and not being especially prideful. At lease where God is concerned.
The tax collector humbled himself in his prayers before God, recognizing his sin made him unworthy. Jesus says that it is preferable to be humble before God like the tax collector rather than loudly (self-) righteous like the Pharisee. Pride lets us proclaim the goodness of our deeds, while blinding us to the quality of our hearts.
I may never have prayed, “Thanks for making me so much BETTER than everyone else, God!” But I can’t remember the last time I went to God in mourning, begging for his mercy either. Pride may not always look like the Pharisee, but humility before God always looks like the tax collector.
Who are you most like?
Carlie is a freelance writer, blogger and mama of one delightful baby girl. She loves
God and her husband, and being a mother daily teaches her how much she needs to lean on both–and how important laughter is to everyday survival. A high school language teacher before becoming a mom, Carlie now writes from her home in the beautiful Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia where she is also teaching her daughter to love libraries and the books in them. Carlie blogs at Memos From The Management, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter.