“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.’” (Luke 18:13)
Scripture teaches us that God resists the proud but exalts those who humble themselves before Him (James 4:6). There is one danger in prayer that should give us pause every time we come before the throne: pride. Although the definition of pride has changed over the years and society now accepts pride as a good thing, the Bible has much to say about pride. One warning we should all heed before prayer is found in Proverbs 16:18: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.
One definition of pride is an inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable feeling of superiority as to one’s talents, beauty, wealth, rank, and so forth; disdainful behavior or treatment; insolence or arrogance of demeanor; haughty bearing. It’s easy to see why pride is such a problem, especially as we begin to see ourselves in light of God’s glory and grace. The “best” among us fall so far short of His glory that without God’s grace each of us would spend eternity separated from Him. Scripture reminds us in Romans 3:23: all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
As pride begins to creep in to our lives and our prayers, slowly we begin to forget Who has blessed us, sustained us, gifted us, saved us, forgiven us, and given us what we could never obtain on our own. In today’s focal Scripture we see one of two men Jesus tells us about and the prayers they prayed. Firstly, the Pharisee. As a religious elite this man would have been someone who had the first five books of the Torah (the Old Testament) memorized, strictly followed hundreds of laws, tithed zealously, and often were very proud men of stature. This proud Pharisee comes before God and begins to pray a prayer filled with pride and self-focus.
Secondly, we see a tax collector. The most hated men in Jewish society, the very thought of comparing him to a Pharisee would have been almost laughable. This man was a sinner, the worst society had to offer, worse yet… he knew it. Not only did he know it, but it turns out he also understand who God was (he wouldn’t even look up to heaven). The tax collector prayers a simple, honest, desperate prayer from the heart. Can you see the difference between these two men? Guess which prayer God heard? Spoiler alert: the humble tax collectors prayer.
I don’t think as followers of Jesus we ever wake up thinking: “I’m going to be overly proud and haughty today”. It creeps in slowly, like a water leak it eventually floods our soul and turns our heart towards a selfish focus instead of being focused on God. We become resistant to the correction of God and eventually even though we have a powerful head knowledge of who He is, our hearts are far from Him. It is written in Scripture that: these people draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. (Isaiah 29:13).
Have you ever struggled with pride in your own life? I can think of examples in my own life since I surrendered my life to Jesus where pride has crept in unaware. Slowly like a gas leak it built up and suddenly a small spark caused it to explode and everything came tumbling down. As you prepare to pray today, if you are currently or have ever struggled with pride, it’s time to lay it down. It’s time to remember that the only reason we can come before God is because of God. It is through faith in Jesus alone that we can come before the throne of God to find grace and mercy in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
It has been said that before the cross, the ground is level. Simply put, there are only two types of people in the world: sinners and sinners saved by grace.
Father, we come to You today in Jesus name and confess that is by the blood of Jesus alone that we can come to You. Forgive us if there has been or is any pride in our lives. Holy Spirit we ask that you would reveal it to us, that our hearts would continue to be tender before You. Mold us and shape us in Your will. Father help us not to look on others with pride and never let us forget that You are the author of our salvation. It is by Your hand that we grow as You mold us and shape us in the image of your Son Jesus. Lord we confess that if You didn’t finish the work You started it would never get done. Help us not to be spiritually blind as we seek you with our whole heart. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.