Tuesday in the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary

Luke 18:9-14

The Prayer of the Penitent

Jesus continues his teaching on prayer.  Yesterday, we discussed persistence in prayer, especially when that concerns matters of injustice: God will vindicate both His great name and His chosen ones.  Today’s lesson on prayer focuses more on our attitude when we pray.  We must understand that there are right ways to pray and wrong ways to pray.  Many do not understand this.  They think that they can waltz into God’s throne room and say just any ole thing.  It’s a sign of the disrespect and lack of decorum that are features of our day.  Yes, Scripture does speak of drawing near to the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16, some translations say, “boldly”), because of the access the Father has given us on account of His dear Son; but we must still approach with fear and trembling as our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

In our Lord’s parable, he contrasts two men who go up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee reminds God how good he is and thanks Him that he is not sinful like others.  There is something to be said for thanking God that we do not suffer the same temptations as others, but it must be done in the spirit of humility understanding that but for the grace of God, there go I.  Unlike the Pharisee stands the tax collector who can’t even bring himself to lift his eyes to heaven but only repeats, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Jesus chooses the tax collector because they were so despised in that society, and in many cases for good reason as so many were crooked.  But in Jesus’ parable, the tax collector is sincere; we assume he is either repentant or simply an honest tax collector, which I’m sure there were and are.

Jesus summarizes the parable saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Of all the virtues, humility is chief.  And it is with humility that we approach the throne of grace, confessing our sins, and acknowledging that, without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).  It is the Lord who works in us “both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).  We take no credit; we own nothing before Him but our sins, whether tax collector or Pharisee.  And we understand that were it not for our Lord’s work as Mediator on the cross, and his intercession at the Father’s side, we would not be able to approach the throne at all.  And so we do approach the throne of grace with confidence, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, who has welcomed us on His own behalf and for the sake of His glory and our salvation.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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