The Prayers of the Pharisee and of the Tax-collector
There are thousands of prayers offered up to God every day; there have been thousands offered up this day. Have they all been accepted? No! there are prayers which are not accepted. Are we anxious to know whether the prayer we offered up alone this morning was accepted or not?or did we offer none?
What was that made the Pharisee's prayer so hateful to God? It was the pride of his heart. His prayer was in truth no prayer at all. He boasted, instead of praying; but he deceived his own heart by putting his boast in the form of a thanksgiving. He did not feel thankful when he said, "God, I thank you I am not as other men." Had he felt thankful, he would not have despised the poor tax-collector. How different were the feelings of Paul, when he said, "By the grace of God I am what I am!" When we are thankful, we are filled with compassion (not with contempt) for those who are less blessed than ourselves.
How many offer prayers like the Pharisee's, while they use the words of the tax-collector! It is possible with all the pride of a Pharisee to smite upon the heart and to say, "Lord, be merciful to me a sinner!" But the tax-collector felt what he said. He thought himself unworthy to lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven. He stood afar off from the Holy of holies, as unfit to enter the presence of God. He knew not what we know of a Savior's love; but he must have trusted in the promises of pardon to penitent sinners through an atonement, or he could not have offered up this humble prayer. With what joy penitent sinners like this tax-collector receive the tidings of a Savior! There were such publicans in the Savior's days, and they came to Jesus, and heard his word with thankfulness.
In what different states the Pharisee and the tax-collector returned from the temple to their own houses! The tax-collector went down a pardoned sinner, accepted for the sake of Christ. The Pharisee returned with the guilt of his sins upon his head, and that of the proud prayer he had offered, added to his former guilt. Pride is the most flagrant sin in God's sight. It has ruined multitudes of our fallen race, and it has even sunk angels into the bottomless abyss. In what state did we come down from our chambers this morning? Did we come down justified, or not? Have we ever made such humble, fervent supplications to God as the tax-collector did? Are we ashamed of ourselves and of our sins? Have we earnestly implored the infinite mercy of God in Christ? It is a dreadful thing to be unjustified or unpardoned. To rise up unjustified, to lie down unjustifiedto go outto come inunjustified! To be exposed to death every moment, and yetto be unjustified! But this is the state of everyone who has not repented of his sins, and obtained pardon through the merits of his Savior.
Favell Lee Mortimer