Posted by: Rex Boyles | August 10, 2008

“The Sinner’s Prayer”

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” 
(Luke 18:9-14; NIV)

I do not think that I would mention the “other” man – the Pharisee – if Jesus had not. I am trying to learn to ignore those who are “confident in their righteousness” and who “looked down on everybody else”. That has not always been the case. There were times that I craved for them to consider me an equal – worthy of their confidence and compliments. I am ashamed of myself for that. I sought their company and tried to conduct myself – appropriately – which at times meant that I felt that I, too, should act … as if I was “above reproach”, even superior.

But then I sinned … 

Of course, I had sinned before … but when my sin of adultery (how I hate what I did) “became public”, I was among those sinners … that were “looked down on”.

I became familiar … somewhat … with how the prodigal might have felt, apologizing to the Father … with how the sinful woman felt, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears … with how the woman “caught in the act” felt, waiting for judgment to come … with how the condemned thief felt, begging to be remembered … how the broken-hearted disciple felt, walking with the Master on the beach.

I cannot say that I was ever so “self-righteous” that I actually prayed as the Pharisee. (God forgive me, if I have.) But I know that from early on … to even now … I should (and shall) stand and pray with the tax collector … “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

I acknowledge my sin. I commit sin … not just lapses of judgment or spiritual mistakes. I sin … and there is no excuse. I sin … I miss the mark … I fall short … I fail.

I acknowledge my need for His mercy. I cannot undo what I have done … can’t fix what I have broken. I can do better, but I cannot redeem myself – cannot justify myself – cannot cleanse myself. 

I acknowledge my right – by His mercy – to approach Him. I do not deserve this access to the throne of grace. It is available to me, only because of the death Jesus died … the price that Jesus paid … the life that Jesus lives.

p.s. Ignore the Pharisee, looking down on you. Lift up your head and heart to the One who is looking out for you.

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