Illustration by Phil Younk

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Based on the Gospel of Luke 18:9-14
Prayer – part two! Last week Jesus told us to be persistent and faithful in our prayer – don’t give up and pray always. This week Jesus tells us about the need for humility in our prayer – to accept the truth about ourselves and not to think we are better than others.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus told a story about two men at prayer. Jesus said, “Two men went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who strictly obeyed the religious laws. The other was a publican who collected money, or taxes, for the Roman rulers of the country.

“The Pharisee stood up and prayed, ‘Thank you, God, that I am a good person and not like the tax collector over there. I am honest, faithful, keep all your rules and am most generous with my money.’

“The tax collector stood at the back of the temple. He bowed his head in shame as he prayed quietly, ‘O God, I have done so many things wrong; be merciful to me a sinner.’”

Then Jesus said, “It was the second man, and not the first, who pleased God with his prayer.”

Why did the tax collector’s prayer please God more? Because he prayed to God from his heart – confessing his sins, asking for God’s forgiveness and mercy and not boasting about the good things he had done.

The Pharisee’s prayer was more like self-advertising his good deeds; it really wasn’t a prayer. His attention was on himself and not on God. He completely forgot his need for God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy.

God is loving, forgiving and merciful. He wants us to be honest and sincere – not to be showoffs or boasting that we are better than others.

Just keeping the rules, just keeping away from sin, is not what being a Christian is all about. Being a Christian means working toward a closer, loving relationship with God. Unless we keep striving to know more about Jesus as a person, becoming more like him in mind and heart and committed to carrying out his mission on earth, we are not actually living the Christian life.

Remember in the Gospel column for Sunday, Oct. 3, we said, “Once we have kept all the rules and done everything we are supposed to do – our duty – we are only on the brink of what it means to be disciples of Jesus. If we are to be witnesses of our faith to others, we must go beyond what is our duty.” We need to say “yes” to God and grow stronger in love and in the likeness of Jesus in order to serve God and others.   

It’s a matter of living our faith – as Jesus taught us.