“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” ‒ Luke 18:13-14 (NIV)
This is one of my favorite parables that Jesus told about prayer. It illustrates the contrast between a man who thinks he’s all that and a box of rocks, and another man, a despised tax collector, who is self aware and who understands clearly that he’s a sinner in need of God’s mercy. I’d like to say I’m always like the tax collector (not despised, I hope), a man aware of what he is and isn’t. Sadly, I have my moments when I begin to think I don’t need as much mercy and grace as I used to, that I’m better than someone else. The comparison game is a trap where no one wins and everyone loses. Jesus told this story to illustrate the importance of self-awareness, the value of transparent prayer, and the power of true humility. Prayer—real prayer—begins with understanding who God is and who I am.
- William Attaway