The How to Be HUMBLE in My Prayer Life
Here we see in this parable how to be humble in my prayer life. Humility is a two-way street. I learn to trust in God and not myself. I also learn not to look down on others. Prayer is one way we can practice humility. The purpose of humility is described in the first verse:
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:” (Luke 18:9, CSB)
Here are some elements that teach me how to be humble in my prayer life.
Honor God, not myself.
The first way how to be humble in my prayer life is to honor God, not myself.
THREE WAYS I EXPOSE MY PRIDE TO OTHERS
“The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people—greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’” (Luke 18:11–12, CSB)
The Pharisee advertised his pride probably without realizing it. We see this with the phrase “about himself.”
1. I compare myself to others in my prayers.
“The Pharisee was standing and praying like this about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people…or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11, CSB)
The worst possible way to advertise about my pride to compare myself to others. The Pharisees even thanks God that he’s not better than others. People compare themselves to make them feel better about themselves. He’s even naming the sins of others. He calls them other people various sins and then points out the tax collector. The implication is not only that the Pharisee is better than the tax collector. The Pharisee is saying that the tax collector is even worse than other sinners – “even this tax collector” gives emphasis to this. Tax collectors then and now are not looked highly upon. This Pharisee was making the comparison between other sinners and the tax collectors. The Pharisee was saying that the tax collector was worse than others. This is the worst kind of comparison. The Pharisee was doing this openly in a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
You know some people like to express their opinions of others in their public prayers. They stand in a group of people and they “out” other people in their prayers. That’s what’s going on here. It’s a very humiliating experience.
That is what the Pharisee is doing here. He’s essentially outing the tax collector as the worst sinner. Can you imagine how the tax collector felt for being confronted in public like this?
Jesus is pointing out the danger of this. He exposes the pride that permeates through our prayer life.
2. I inflate my prayer life.
“I fast twice a week…’” (Luke 18:12, CSB)
The Pharisee doesn’t just compare himself. He also inflates himself. He’s not just praying in from of others. He states that (unlike others) he fasts twice a week. Most practicing Jews fasted once a week. But he does it twice a week. He’s twice as good as anyone else.
3. I promote my value to others.
“I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’” (Luke 18:12, CSB)
The Pharisee didn’t stop with fasting. He also had to say how valuable his spirituality was by promoting how much he gives.
The Pharisee boasted about his religious deeds and looked down on others, especially the tax collector. He thought he was better than everyone else and deserved God’s favor. This religious official did not honor God, but himself.
The tax collector, on the other hand, stood at a distance and did not even look up to heaven. He beat his breast and confessed his sinfulness. The collector honored God, not himself. Jesus said that the tax collector went home justified before God, but the Pharisee did not. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
“But he gives greater grace. Therefore he says: God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, CSB)
Understand my sinfulness.
The second way how to be humble in my prayer life is to understand my sinfulness.
““But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying…” (Luke 18:13, CSB)
The Pharisee did not understand his sinfulness. He claimed to be righteous and blameless. In fact, he thanked God that he was not like other sinners, such as robbers, evildoers, adulterers, or the tax collector. This religious official did not see his own faults and failures.
The tax collector understood his sinfulness. He admitted that he was a sinner and needed God’s mercy. The collector did not compare himself to others, but to God’s holy standard. He saw his own unworthiness and guilt. Jesus said that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 14:11, CSB)
Mercy is what I need.
The third way how to be humble in my prayer life is to see that mercy is what I need.
… ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13, CSB)
The Pharisee did not ask for God’s mercy. He did not think he needed it. He relied on his own works and achievements. As a result, the Pharisee thought he had earned God’s approval and blessing. He did not receive God’s mercy, but his judgment.
The tax collector asked for God’s mercy. He knew he needed it. He depended on God’s grace and forgiveness. The collector knew he had nothing to offer God but his broken and contrite heart. He received God’s mercy, and his forgiveness. Jesus said that God is merciful and compassionate to those who call on him.
“For you, Lord, are kind and ready to forgive, abounding in faithful love to all who call on you.” (Psalm 86:5, CSB)
Believe in God’s forgiveness.
The fourth way how to be humble in my prayer life is to believe in God’s forgiveness.
“I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other…” (Luke 18:14, CSB)
The Pharisee did not believe in God’s forgiveness. He did not think he needed it. He did not confess his sins or repent of them. This religious official did not seek God’s pardon or cleansing. He did not experience God’s forgiveness, but his wrath.
The tax collector believed in God’s forgiveness. He knew he needed it. The tax collector confessed his sins and repented of them. He sought God’s pardon and cleansing. He experienced God’s forgiveness, and his peace. Jesus said that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, CSB)
Leave my pride behind.
The fifth way how to be humble in my prayer life is to leave my pride behind.
“…because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…”” (Luke 18:14, CSB)
The Pharisee did not leave his pride behind. He carried it with him to the temple and back to his home. The Pharisee was arrogant and self-satisfied. He did not humble himself before God or others. He did not change his attitude or behavior.
The tax collector left his pride behind. He dropped it at the temple and went home a different person. The tax collector was humble and grateful. He humbled himself before God and others. The tax collector changed his attitude and behavior. Jesus said that whoever wants to be his disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow him.
“Calling the crowd along with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mark 8:34, CSB)
Exalt God, not myself.
The sixth and final way how to be humble in my prayer life is to exalt God, not myself.
“…but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”” (Luke 18:14, CSB)
The Pharisee exalted himself, not God. He praised his own virtues and achievements. The Pharisee glorified his own name and reputation. He did not give God the glory or the thanks. This religious person did not worship God, but himself.
The tax collector exalted God, not himself. He acknowledged his own sins and shortcomings. The tax collector magnified God’s name and grace. He gave God the glory and the thanks. This man worshiped God, not himself. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30, CSB)