He spoke also this parable to certain people who were convinced of their own righteousness, and who despised all others.
"Two men went up into the temple to pray;
one was a Pharisee, and the other was a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood and prayed to himself like this:
‘God, I thank you, that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.'But the tax collector, standing far away, wouldn't even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying,
‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted." (web)
This scene really involves two individuals at the doorway of prayer and taking two diverse apprpaches to opening the door to prayer.
The Pharisee had the wrong approach to prayer and needed to make a 180 degree turn.
He was taking the wrong approach with pronounced self justification and in giving a litany of his own good works and deeds to support his case.
While he was in the right venue, he was at the temple praying as opposed to maybe being at the Roman Coliseum watching the Gladiatorial contests and maybe being there first hand for the brutality that would be expected with that, he still wasn't opening the door as his pretense was stifling the dialogue.
This parable might not be fully lambasting him but showing that he needed correction and adjustments and that he could have done this and subsequently opened the doorways of prayer..
But he was mistaken if he thought that doing and accumulating these supposed good deeds would bring him into a better prayer position right at the entranceway of prayer..
One thing that can be taken from this parable is that trying to get to a better prayer position by citing prominence and, a good record of service, might as well be skipped over as this is not the requirement for opening the doors of prayer..
It would be better to know that you have been trying to serve the Lord, but citing what you think of your own personal platform to launch a prayer or dialogue with the Lord, is not the key to opening the door to prayer.
At the outset is not a requirement or a prerequisite to cite or list qualifications as the Lord already knows the standing position you have and whether that is good enough is strictly as seen on his side of the equation coming from the other side of the doorway. Your own view of whether you can make it in the door, is not the final say on the situation.
While the prayer is in part speaking and maybe even more so listening, there is no need to bring forth your own qualifications and if the Lord has a problem with them, a sincere approach will receive a response as to what is wrong and what needs to be done to right the relationship so that you might enter the door, if there are shortfalls from the Lord's point of view.
While there might be a need to separate from the pack and try to please rather than offend the Lord from day one, to point fingers at those who didn't quite live up to the good standards, is not effective within the place of prayer and is not what you are to be paying attention to as you try to open the doors of prayer.
In a sense, he was saying in his prayer, I deserve to be in the inner circle unlike the tax collector, when he might not have even known for sure what the facts were or might have been in the tax collectors case and whether the tax collector was going to pass through the door or not was between tax collector and the Lord..
The moral is to concern yourself with you and your own prayer relationship and not to look down on others or even if you kind of know you are above the fray in some areas that others might have fallen prey to, having done that, you own comparative good behavior is not something to bring up before the Lord as to why he should respond to your prayer requests or up the ante in any way or in allowing you to proceed into the halls of prayer and fellowship with the Lord in prayer.
.It is possible that the Pharisee had also indulged in improper behavior and was operating on pretense and compartmentalized away the truth of his own ill advised activities.
He might have airbrushed away what he was truly involved with.
But as the parable reads, he was likely to be correct in his own self assessment that he hadn't been greedy or a robber as others were, and he did in fact pay attention to the precepts of fasting and so on.
Or maybe he did think that he needed a chronology of achievements to feel like he was getting a hearing at the temple of prayer. but the keeper of the door wasn't impressed .
By contrast the tax collector approached his prayer like he was at the bottom of the totem pole, and undeserving of entering the door, but still wanted in despite his faults and failings.
Neither probably was certain of their standing before the Lord, but while the Pharisee wasn't necessarily wrong in seeking a good standing with the Lord by his good works and behavior, this was to be done with an attitude of humility and deference to the grace of the Lord being present in the first place.
An attitude of repentance and confession was seen in the tax collector and that was taken as appropriate for his own standing at the doorways of prayer and from there potentially he could have proceeded boldly to pray for both himself and others.
The writings of Paul showed that he had read boldness but did caution humility within his great and special call as he said he could have been cast aside even after starting the run well.
From this parable it is possible to make a general conclusion that that after a certain point there shouldn't be a check on whether you are worthy to pray, and it is right at the door that the check is made.
Then again you may need to enter the door again and again and check yourself at the door is appropriate. If you are entering someone's house or a special place for the first time or even another time, for example, you might check your how you are presenting yourself each time you attempt to go through the door and once through the door the concentration and focus is on the prayer itself.
The checkpoint would be sins that could impede the prayer life, as was the case for the tax collector who probably over taxed the populace and kept the difference as tax collectors were known to do in those days, and he did need to remedy that before the Lord in confessing sincere repentance..
At the same time the good works of tithing and fasting for example, aren't necessary to cite in the Lord's presence as to the why of the situation as to the Lord opening the doors of prayer for you, and there is no need to bring a resume of scintillating good works to impress upon the Lord as to why he should give answers and credence to your individual prayers, which will be given you pass through the door.
In the sense, this parable is helpful in that it says the trouble of trying to pretend that we are better than we are to get a hearing or dialogue of prayer with the Lord isn't the crux of the matter as to what will open the door for you.
While it is helpful to be try to be better, as far as prayer goes, the righteousness attributed to the person praying is not up to them ultimately and is decided upon by how the Lord sees it right at the entranceway of prayer.
And how he sees it, isn't helped or aided by drumming up or bring up your own good works.
When people try to enter these famous clubs, they might do just about anything to get in the door. Stories about on just how much people want to get in that famous night club for example.
While it wasn't necessarily wrong for the Pharisee to give himself some credit, where he was wrong was that he felt it merited him special treatment that maybe someone else did not deserve.
If the Lord wanted to give him special treatment it would be up to the Lord and the repentant heart of the tax collector was a pleasing and proper prayer.
A good clean across the board look might reveal something showing up like the sins of the tax collector and self righteous self approval before the Lord is not the way to start out a prayer effort.
The checkpoint of possible sins is properly in the picture as the tax collector was praying the right way.
But it might have been a mistake to just stay there as well, if that had also been the endpoint of all his prayers.
Once okay and given the pass through, the tax collector should have and could have gone only to pray boldly for himself and others as the invitation to prayer goes in that direction.
Indeed, even if the Pharisee wasn't whitewashing his situation, he was definitely errant in pointing the finger of judgment and or comparison, and citing his spiritual successes as qualifying him for a hearing and dialogue with the Lord or basically as a certified pass for him to enter the door..
He was moving with and into pride and arrogance and aan evolving sense of entitlement and self justification at the seeming expense of others.
It was probably good for him to keep in mind that he was not with the majority as to ripping people off as the better way.
He certainly needed not to go out and do what he said he wasn't doing so he could thereby be repentant and boost his qualifications that way.
He was right to be cautious to be on the side of not doing that.
However it was not something to bring up to the Lord as the Lord already knew this and to bring up this as suddenly qualifying him as opposed to him otherwise not be qualified was a mistake in that the mercy of the doorkeeper is his alone to take or give and no demands can be made upon it
If that measure of being on the right side of everything is used, there might always be something that leads to disqualification.
This parable points to the Lord being all seeing to the prayer person and within the call to prayer, there is no additional call to cite good qualifications to do that. That doesn't of course mean that you should forego or usurp having those good qualifications and not to try your best to meet them, but that isn't the ticket in
At the same time, be careful not to disqualify yourself, Paul mentions be careful of being disqualified from the race himself despite all his spiritual accolades.
There is still a need to caution against doing what the Pharisee said he wasn't doing.
There was still a need for the tax collector not to imbibe further in his sins and not to do worse things.
But the initial confession should be there as just about everybody is falling short of the good, and after that there should be no citing of a great record as the reason why the Lord should be giving you a pass to go and listening to the prayers.
Both the tax collector and the Pharisee were correct in ducking into church or the temple and attempting some prayers
But the physical entrance is only part of the entrance to the place of prayer and indeed someone can prayer from other locations as the true entrance is a spiritual entranceway
Ducking into the spiritual entrance to prayer, is better served by an initial confession of shortcomings, faults and sins by the Lord and is the right way to duck into the spiritual church
There is no need to come across with any attitude of superiority, whether it is real or imagined in ducking into either the physical and or blending spiritual entranceway of prayer and in fact this only serves to keep oneself outside of the entrance until this attitude is amended.
The Pharisee was self righteous is citing his service record to the Lord and contrasting it against the many that didn't have a good record of service as the means to open the door to prayer
That was one error and error number 2 was his attitude of superiority
In terms of spiritual practices, he probably could have been up until that point superior to the tax collector, but there is no way to know for sure the Lord's view on the specifics involved.
But number one he couldn't have known whether this was the case or not and was wrong to put himself in the place of judgment as he was seeking the honor of getting in the door was erroneous as he simply did not know or have the information and it wasn't he place to do the judging even if he did
Second, in entering the doorway to prayer, it would be important to pray for others as the prayer times progressed, and to do that an attitude of superiority is contrary to that call within the overall call to prayer which normally includes prayer for others
The attitude adjustments were needed right at the doorway of prayer before the Lord would sit down with him and dialogue with him.
False humility could have been involved as well, and there is a need to be careful not to exhibit that stance either.
One possible illustration is maybe using the analogy of initially going into someone's house.
You don't attempt to walk in like you own the place or you are better than anyone else coming in the door or already there.
At the same time, you don't browbeat yourself and tell the person greeting you at the door that you are lucky they are even talking to someone like you who is of such a low stature.
That also might be annoying to the hosts or smack as insincere as well.
But it is clear that the initial confession of transgressions of the tax collector was appropriate and really necessary as the tax collector wasn't being self serving but self aware.
However, if he stayed there forever, it would be like just standing at the doorway of prayer, being forgiving for the prior trangressions and not proceeding onward and into bold prayer for both himself and many others.
Revelation 3.2O says, using the NIV version of the Bible.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
Once the door is opened there is the call to go further into symbolically a sit down with the Lord or develop a personal relationship that is specific to you and him.
The greetings at the door and the opening of the door involve some humility and the letting go of attitudes of superiority or comparison based judgments and may involve a needed turn around from evil doings.
2 Chronicles chapter 7 verse 14 says,
f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land
Humbling at the least would not be maintaining a superior attitude while approaching the Lord, and there is a need to turn away from the wicked ways in acknowledging them, repenting of them and in trying to leave them in the dust of the past.
The tax collector was probably getting away with what he was doing, so he could have made the appearance of being upright but at the least he knew and he knew the Lord knew that he was overcharging on the taxes and pocketing the differences.
At the same time in his admissions he was humble enough not to point the fingers at others who might have also been doing similar things.
There is no need to point elsewhere as the door is opening for you personally and it is an individual doorway that is presented to you.
This parable is more so at the doorways of prayer or the initial approach and in the long run, both the Pharisee and the tax collector were invited to go much further, deeper and into a more personal prayer relationship with the Lord.
In a sense, the need to open the doorway to prayer is not a one time fits all but is an ongoing effort that needs to be maintained and watched upon carefully.
Mistakes can be leaving non confessed sin at the door and engaging in self righteousness and justification right at the get go, bringing in a false sense of entitlement right at the doorway of prayer.
Be careful to proceed properly right at the door and as the verse from Revelation 3.20 implies a fully engaged relationship can be made available right on the other side of the door with the Master of the Universe.
One of the positives of this parable is that the waiting period on this relationship, doesn't require a buildup of good works, although there is nothing inherently wrong with a buildup of good works, it is not be viewed as necessary or the calling card for the entrance at the doorway of prayer.
Ultimately it is the Lord initiating and allowing that doorway to exist and have the ability to turn into the entrancing to the temporal and eternal hope of the prayer relationship.
And this echoes into the words of psalm 95 where it says "if today you hear my voice, harden not your hearts"
The voice is the calling to prayer now, to open the door now and to get to the other side now and whether the buildup of good deeds has been there or not, the all is right there now and right within the day and the to do is to duck into the doorway and proceed into the call to relationship and hearing and following the voice of the Lord and engaging in dialogue, and prayer in heeding that voice that calls to the individual soul.