Two Forgotten Postures of Prayer and Why Jesus Says You're Not Awesome
What would you tell your loved one’s if death was knocking on the door? If you had only a few weeks left to live what might be said in those moments?
If you’re Jesus, you teach your followers how to pray. The last weeks of Jesus’ life offers the disciples a slew of teaching on life in the Kingdom. One aspect, and one of the most part of life with Jesus, is developing a prayer life.
People of faith are known for many things (good and bad). But one trait that must mark their lives (equivalent to breathing) is prayer. The Bible is ripe with commands, teachings, exhortations, and principles for prayer.
Jesus gives some of the most important teaching on the subject of prayer in Luke 18. In these parables Jesus explains the posture of prayer for the disciple. A posture often forgotten in daily life.
The first parable is about a widow who comes to a judge in the middle of the night. She pleads her case for something unjust done to her. We don’t know from the parable the crime committed on the widow. The judge is annoyed, and doesn’t care about her, or people in general.
He relents because of her persistence and not because of much else.
The second parable is about two men praying in the Temple. One is a Pharisee who comes to God with a list of credentials. He is generous person and a moral person. He is not an extortioner or adultery or a tax collector for crying out loud. Now hear my prayers God…
A second man is praying to God who is a tax collector. The scum moments earlier the Pharisee prized himself of not being. The raunchy tax collector bows his head and says:
God be merciful to me a sinner.
Jesus is highlighting the two most important postures of prayer:
The first parable with the widow is highlighting the need for persistence in prayer. A strange twist in the parable is when Jesus explains the meaning. The unjust judge is not righteous, and hates people, and not all that concerned with the plight of the widow.
If the unjust judge is willing to give in to the widow how much more will God? The loving, kind, and merciful Father is not weary of the prayers of his people.
The problem with our praying is two fold. First, we give up too soon. Second, we misunderstand the character of God. The first feeds into the second.
We see God like an unjust judge tired of our praying and asking for daily bread. He’s tired, warn out, and ready to put up his feet, like a father or mother at the end of the day.
I don’t stop praying because of lack of time. I stop because of how I view God. I believe God is done with me because the track record is not good. Most days I wander, Lord I feel it. The grace-well of God has run dry; I’m sure of it.
No way God can handle one more prayer of mine.
But Jesus is never quite who we think he is. We suspect God to be one thing and Jesus blows all that up. Not surprising if you hang out long enough.
When we think Jesus is sick of our prayers. He says: I don’t want less; I want more. Don’t give up. Be persistent. I am not an old curmudgeon who is tired of you. I’m a loving Father who never wearies of his people.
The second parable with the Pharisee and tax collector highlight one more problem with my praying. I’m an arrogant fool who believes they are better than others. Too harsh?
My moral and spiritual track record will save me. I find a need to come to God with my credentials and give him reason to accept my prayers. I’m a good person. Not perfect, but pretty good, God.
Mr. Tax Collector knows nothing of the sort. He bows his head, beats his chest, and confesses God’s mercy and, his own sin. Very different from the Pharisee who sees little need for forgiveness and grace.
Jesus says honest and humble prayer is the praying he likes. He’s got little time for your filthy rags of self righteousness and good deeds. It can’t save. No one is good enough to pray… I make you good and acceptable. You’re not awesome… but I am.
The tax collector knows his plight and knows he’s not a good guy. That’s the person close to the Kingdom. The self righteous see no need for God and use their perceived goodness as a spiritual resume making their prayers acceptable to God.
Jesus says this is arrogance and self-exaltation. I will lift up the humble and ignore the self righteous and self-involved.
Two postures of prayer needing reclaiming in my life is one of persistence and one of honesty and humility. I give up too soon because I believe God is tired of me. He can’t listen to the babbling any longer.
I often pray thinking my prayers accepted because of my righteousness. My self importance makes me a shiny flower in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus helps us!