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The Humble Prayer

Luke 18

9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed[a] thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Recently after conducting two worship services I had a talk with a friend and member of the congregation about tired prayers. You know the kind. They're whispered as you lay your head on your pillow after a busy day. They're thought silently in between appointments during a hectic day. Offered during a workout routine that you aren't sure you can finish. Mumbled to yourself and God as the night drags on, you're still working, and aren't sure if there will be enough hours in the day. Given up to God during the first cup of coffee in the pre-dawn hours following that night. These are the prayers of the busy, the over-worked, the tired.

He had joked with me that he wasn't sure if he'd make it through the closing prayer during the worship service and stay awake, closing his eyes was dangerous. I laughed, sympathized, and empathized. I remembered when I first was learning spiritual disciplines and had a professor in seminary who insisted on the virtues of early morning prayer. I am not, have not ever been, nor probably will ever be, a morning person. However, I am open-minded and teachable. So there I sat, 22 years old, in a chapel at 5 A.M., trying to muster a sincere prayer, and not nod my chin into my chest and snore. I did not feel holy.

Perhaps though if we examine this scripture, Luke 18:9-14, we'll end with a different view of the tired prayer. Jesus speaks of two men, one is pious, the other a sinner. The pious man offers a beautiful prayer, speaking of his service to God and man, looks at the sinner, and thanks God that he isn't him. The holy man knows that his prayer will be heard. The sinner stands in the back, hoping not to be noticed. He knows that he's unworthy of God's favor. He's sure he doesn't belong in the temple. He says a short prayer, with his head down, hoping. Jesus stuns us by saying the sinner will be heard, forgiven, justified. God hears the desperate hearts. His compassion extends to the one who realizes he isn't good enough. None of us are. In our honest moments, we know this.

Rest assured, your heart-felt prayer offered with heavy eyelids is heard. Know your inarticulate reachings to God are treasured by Him. Just as you value a text message, or email from a friend or loved one that might only be a few lines, tagged with a sincere "I love you, and thought of you." In their busy, you were on their mind. In the same way, God hears and loves your humble, tired prayer. You are seen, heard, and loved by God.

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