“Two men went…to pray. … The Pharisee stood and was praying this… ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust adulterers or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week…’ but the tax collector standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, the sinner!’” Luke 18:11, 12 NIV
Prayer. What is prayer? For the people of faith, prayer is the game changer, the life-blood, the MO, the power. The way we get God’s attention to gain audience with him. God tells us to pray and that our prayers are of value to him. We would not get far without prayer, nor would we want to. Do you believe in miracles? Prayer is asking for miracles in the everyday and the wished-for. It is activated through faith that views prayer as a gateway to heaven, God, by means of supplication.
There are prayers and then there is praying. Scripted prayers are formal in nature. Simple ordinary prayers are spoken in random phrases. Not all prayers are alike. What does God look at when we pray? How are our prayers received? We get a glimpse into the heart of the matter in the passage of the pharisee and publican (tax collector). The pharisee prayed a prayer filled with pious words and self-congratulation on his whiteness and purity of behavior. The penitent tax collector, on the other hand, spoke from a humbled attitude, aware of his unworthy state. Both spoke from their hearts. Their words fully exposed the truth found within their souls.
The pharisee spoke with an attitude of pride or arrogance. Self-righteous glorying is a falsity, a show of religion and, in reality, empty words and vain glory. The tax collector’s heart reveals a different sort of attitude. He is truthful, honest about his failures. Admitting his shame, taking ownership of the true state of affairs within himself, speaking out of his brokenness. He is in need of mercy from God. One person’s was for show, prideful, and the other person’s was sincere, repentant. Each one’s motivation is obvious
.In Christendom, we find traces of both types of prayers and many in between. Some prayers are requests. Others are desires. Most have an expectant action. When God pulls off a miracle, another type of prayer comes as a result. Praises in worship are prayers that honor God from a heart of thankfulness. There is another kind of prayer that originates from deep inside, voiced more as a plea for help than as a worshipful interlude. During suffering and sorrow, desperate and despairing people pray with great passion. Pretense is left behind. God becomes especially real during the difficulty. All the external conditions of life mean little as we pour our heart and soul out to God. Seeking him to meet us during the crisis of faith.
I have experienced God’s tender graces during heart-wrenching times. It is when I pray my most unaffected prayers as I seek God for hope, help, and answers. “God be merciful to me, the sinner,” is asking God to extend grace even though it is undeserved. That is honest talk. Prayer, when it is that way, is stripped away of all fluff and pontificating. It is raw, open, contrite, pleasing to the heart of God. The Scripture passage says that the tax collector went away justified. God listened to his prayer and acted in response to this plea. It was a miracle of grace. Prayers of a humble person seek audience with God, and, in so doing, touch the heart of God.