But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ Luke 18:13
Every king in all the earth will thank you, Lord, for all of them will hear your words. Yes, they will sing about the Lord’s ways, for the glory of the Lord is very great. Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud. Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand, and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me. Psalm 138:4-8
You may recall that the two men in our story went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee stands alone because of his prideful superiority, but it is likely that his position was center stage in location. On the other hand the tax collector stands alone because of a deep sense of sorrow and shame, but we are told his position was a distance from the center of things. The Pharisee expects that his own personal righteousness and spiritual achievement will draw a response from God to his prayer. The tax collector's hope for a response from God to his prayer is based on what God is like (merciful) and on what he is like (sinner).
"Though the Lord is great, he cares for the humble, but he keeps his distance from the proud." These words from the Psalm above wonderfully capture the essence of what is going on in our story. We need to emulate the tax collector in how he approaches God in prayer. Prayer # 2 from this week's message is: "God, I am struggling." We need to come before God with humility, honesty, and openness. God cares for those who come to him in this kind of way and his help comes to them in all the ways described in the Psalm above.
Lord, we renounce our pride and freely receive your mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Teach us the full meaning of humility and dependence. Help us to bring our struggles before you so that we can receive the help we need for becoming more of what you want us to be than ever before.
Posted on Wed, January 28, 2015
by Ken Hart