“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 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. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 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!’ 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.” Luke 18:9-14 NKJV
This parable is very enlightening. Jesus teaches us a self-righteous man cannot get his prayers to God, answered. Hey God, he says, look at me, I am great! Yes sir, I do everything correctly. God, you won’t find sin in me like the scum around me! Did God hear him and bless this self-righteous prig? Jesus said, this man did not go down to his house justified. The phony temple praying goer, gets nothing from God. Why, didn’t God justify this Pharisee? The reason is, he was self-justified, not needing anything from God. He wasn’t praying for anything, he was declaring, “How great I am!”
There is a bright side to this parable. A creepy tax collector knew he needed God’s help and forgiveness. He wasn’t self-righteous. Listen to his prayer.
“God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
Jesus declares, the prayer of this man was answered by God. He left the temple forgiven and receiving of God’s mercy. Perhaps, we could call this a foxhole prayer. The Pharisee, in his self-righteousness, didn’t feel the fires of hell warring against his soul. The tax collector was feeling the heat. Therefore, he cried out for mercy. How wonderful it truly is to be humble and enter a vital prayer life with God.
I do not think I would be incorrect to say; the tax collector prayer is the entering prayer to a relationship with God. This prayer is the prayer of salvation when one accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Peter put it this way to three-thousand, tax-collector-prayer type prayers.
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:36-39 NKJV
After hearing the Gospel message, the people of Israel prayed the prayer, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Did you hear it when they spoke to the Apostles?
“Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
The repentant in heart receives the mercy of God, and forgiveness of sins. They believed in Jesus. This prayer is the prayer of seekers outside of God. It is a very important way of praying. Perhaps, this prayer,
“God, be merciful to me a sinner,”
is the most important of all prayers. This prayer brings you from the outside of God to the inside of God. It makes you a child of God. This gives you the privilege to pray very differently. You now pray, as a child to his father. We do not always need to pray for God’s mercy. This was given to us once for all time, when we sought the mercy of forgiveness in Christ.
“By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Hebrews 10:10 NKJV
Yes, mercy has been given to you through the sinner’s prayer. Now, we pray as forgiven children of God seeking His grace in our life.
“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:3-7 NKJV
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1 NKJV
If you have passed through the mercy of God, God is your Father, and you are his son or daughter. Since this is Scripturally true, it is, now, the way we are to approach Him in relation and prayer. Jesus taught us this very intimate relationship to God in the model prayer. He said to approach God not as a sinner needing mercy, but as a child needing his father’s help.
“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9
Christ, who came to fulfill the law on the cross, (“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” Matthew 5:17) teaches the principle of God as Father for those who walk-in His fulfillment.
Whether, you accept this or reject it; a father is a very important person in the family. The father is necessary to give life to the egg. Through this, a child is born, and the father gets a family. He is now responsible for the well-being of the child. He must exert his will to raise the child morally and correctly. The dad becomes responsible to provide the financial resources for shelter, food and clothing. A good father is essential to help a child learn how to forgive people who hurt him, by forgiving the child who did wrong to him. Maybe, the most important function of the father is to keep his child out of evil and protect them from evil. This type of father is a real man.
Perhaps, hopefully, you had a father as described above. Maybe, unfortunately, you had a mean or derelict father. This bad dad didn’t do the fatherly functions he was responsible for and has left you with a deep wound. Once you walk through the mercy of God to receive adoption into His family, He will become the father you can count on. Jesus taught this in the body of the model prayer. This is the prayer, which beautifully describes the responsibilities of God our Father.
“Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Matthew 6:10-13 NKJV
The Model Prayer is a petition to God to perform His parental duties. Successful prayer revolves around this fact, God is our Father who knows the things we have need of. Jesus teaches this fact very strongly.
“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33 NKJV
“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” John 16:23-24 NKJV
“In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” John 16:26-27 NKJV
How frustrating is your prayer life? You pray, you, name it and claim it. You throw God’s promises into His face, demanding and expecting Him to perform your every desire! What do you receive, the sound of crickets chirping? This is the only answer you get. You have been praying for answers and crying out for God to have mercy on you and give you your requests, and nothing comes. (Hey, guilty of these actions, here.) The problem, in this type of prayer, is, we the children think we know better than our parent. First, the respect of the Father and His will, must supersede any request we make, trusting He knows best. Does not the agony of Jesus the Son, exemplify this in His prayers.
“Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. When He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:39-44 NKJV
If we want to go home justified in prayer by God, with answers of yes child, then behave respectfully and worship Him. Jesus said, prayer to the Father starts with respect and awe. “Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.”
A proper family relationship is essential for a successful prayer life. Examine yourself and see if you really walk as a child of God. The Father wants to say yes to our prayers. The Father desires us to pass through His mercy in Christ, to the children of God in Christ. God desires His children to walk as His children, behave as His children and make a request to Him as His children. We need to respond to Him and pray to Him, as Our Father! This is the way Jesus wants us to be. May the Father answer all our prayers.
“As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13 NKJV
“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
© Guy Calandra Author The Inside Word – Available online
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.