Two Kinds of Prayer / Worship

Luke 18:9-14: And he spoke this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon 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 every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.

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The scene here is the temple and the activity is prayer.  However, this deals with all of our life; our prayer, worship and how we live our lives and treat others.  These two people represent everyone who has the spirit of the Pharisee or that of the publican.

The Pharisee: He uses the personal pronoun “I” five times.  He speaks of and trusts in his works.  He is proud and puffed up with his works of righteousness.  But God says, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness is as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away”.  The Pharisee has made himself the standard by which all others should be measured.  He does not acknowledge God’s word as it applies to him.  There is no confession of sin or plea for forgiveness and cleansing.  He exalts himself.  It says he, “Prayed thus with himself“.

The publican: He stands afar off, not feeling worthy to go any further into the temple.  He feels sorrowful, and is crushed by the awareness of his sin.  He is ashamed, humble, bowing before God and not able to lift up his eyes toward heaven.  He confesses his sin and asks God to be merciful to him.

The Declaration: The publican went away justified and the Pharisee did not.  God honored the prayer of the publican. Those that exalt themselves shall be abased (brought down).  Those that humble themselves shall be exalted (raised up).

We can see the spirit of these two men in the world around us today.  The spirit of the Pharisee can creep into us from time to time if we are not careful.  Every time I read these verses I have to reexamine myself and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner”.