Luke 18:10-13 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11 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. 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 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.
Prayer is communication with God. It's aim is God-ward and its first purpose is to bring honor and glory to God and then thanksgiving. The prayer that Jesus instructed the disciples to use as their model was first to be a recognition of God and His majesty and power.
Matthew 6:9-10 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
We should notice the first thing that Jesus told them to do was to acknowledge God; "Our Father which art in heaven". He is thus recognized for His position as being over us in heaven. It also recognizes his authority over His children. Father's are to exercise authority over their children and children are to obey their parents (Col. 3:20, Eph. 6:1).
The Second was to honor God; "Hallowed be thy name." The word "hallow" is from the Old English and means 1. To make or set apart as holy. 2. To respect or honor greatly; revere. That God is holy is beyond dispute and we are to recognize Him as such.
The third thing Jesus told them to do was to recognize God's rightful position on earth. "Thy kingdom come." Psalm 24:1 says: "The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." The call to pray for God's Kingdom to come recognizes God's authority has been usurped on earth and it is our desire to see it returned to Him. It will be, as seen in Rev. 19. As of now we wait and pray for the return of our Lord to take what is rightfully His and reign over the earth and it's people.
The fourth thing is of submission. "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." This is the prayer of Jesus in the garden where He prayed: "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) This in essence says "Lord no matter what I ask for I bow to your will over mine and submit myself to your will".
If we look at the prayers of the two men above we can readily see a vast difference in how the two men approached God in prayer. The Pharisee told God how good he was. He may have given God credit by mouth but the rest of the prayer shows who he really gave credit to. This man has "I" trouble. I am better than other men. I fast twice a day. I tithe 10% of everything I possess etc.
The Pharisee thought he was in the presence of God and the publican knew he was not fit to approach unto such a holy God. The publican bowed his head and smote his breast while the pharisee held his head high. The Pharisee placed scorn on the publican while the publican humbly said. "Lord; I can't come to you on my merits. All I can do is submit myself to you and ask you to forgive me for what I am and what I have been. Lord all I ask is for you mercy on an unworthy sinner." The scripture tells us the publican went back home justified.
If we want to touch the heart of God in prayer we are going to have to realize we have to be as the publican and realize we approach God by permission and not by right of merit. We, as Christians, are only sinners saved by the grace of God. We merit nothing by our own works. At best we can enter into the labor with God and by submission and obedient servants carry out the requests He makes of us.
When we can approach God in this fashion we will have more of our prayers answered in the way we desire of Him to answer.
One of the key phrases to understanding the attitude with which the Pharisee prayed is "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself". His prayer was all about himself and a prayer patting himself on the back because he could rise above the lowly sinner.
The publican walked away clean and the Pharisee walked away smug. How do we walk away from our communion with God?
This Bible study is presented By Dwight Rhodes , of Pages of My Heart Ministry.