Pride is the ugliest and most repulsive of sins that has plagued humanity since the beginning of time. It was the very sin that motivated man’s initial rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden and that has continued ever since. Through the centuries, mankind has paraded his pride before God through self-will, self-exaltation, and the deification of self. Mankind has always boasted in his own accomplishments, his own character, and in his own ways apart from God. Yet the more mankind puffs himself up in pride, the more he is resisted by His Maker. As James 4:6 warns us, “…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” The stench of pride is only increased when it is robed in the garments of “religion”.
In Luke 18, we are introduced to two men who approached God in prayer in the temple- one in pride and one in humility. Verses 11-12 introduce us to the first man- “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.” This Pharisee went up to the temple to pray and although he uttered words before God, no true prayer took place. Rather he “…prayed thus with himself…”. His prayer was not focused on God, but rather, was focused on the promotion of self before God. Instead of coming to God in humility and praising Him, this Pharisee came to God and praised himself. His attitude was one of self-adulation. His focus was on his own accomplishments. While in the temple praying, another man came in. Verse 13 shows us the prayer of this man- “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” What a contrast between these two men! One came in pride, while the other came in humility. One came puffed up with the sense of his own accomplishments, while the other was broken over his lack of righteousness. One boasted and elevated self, while the other lamented and lowered self. Yet God’s response to the prayers of these two men is telling. Verse 14 says, “I tell you, this man [the publican] went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The prayer of the publican was marked by humility. The publican freely acknowledged his guilt and pleaded for the mercy of God.
A humble prayer is a prayer that God delights to answer. A prayer that is from a heart full of pride is one that God will reject. How you approach God is the difference between prayers answered and prayers unanswered. May our prayers be marked by an elevation of God and a humbling of self!
~Pastor Aaron Francis