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The Pharisee stood over by himself and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not greedy, dishonest, and unfaithful in marriage like other people. And I am really glad that I am not like that tax collector over there. Luke 18:11 (CEV)

Tradition states that in Biblical times, a prayer every Jewish man was encouraged to pray every day went something like this: “Blessed be thou, that thou hast not made me a Gentile”; blessed art thou, that thou hast not made me an unlearned man; blessed art thou, that hast not made me a woman.”

It’s little wonder then, that when the Pharisee entered the Temple to pray that day, his prayer centered on who he was. God certainly should be proud of the way he’d turned out. On the other hand, that guy in the corner? The tax collector. How can he even show his face in the Temple. Simply disgusting.

When Jesus taught us to pray he warned us against being so caught up in our own righteousness that our prayers be more like talking about ourselves than talking to God. Usually, when our thoughts focus on ourselves they do so at the expense of other people. In this story, the one to bear the brunt of the Pharisees critical spirit was the tax collector in the corner.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that we can come before the throne of grace (prayer) with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), not arrogance. The difference? The confidence we have before God comes through the grace offered through Jesus Christ. It has nothing to do with our own works; it isn’t compared to anyone else. Arrogance, on the other hand, compares our status in relation to other people.

I may be able to jump higher than you, but if we both decide to see who can jump to the moon, we both lose. Whichever one of us gets an inch closer means nothing. We both missed the mark. On the outside, the Pharisee was a ‘good, church going Christian’. On the inside he was no better off than the very people he degraded with his words. The Pharisees words were in the right place (I thank you God) but his heart wasn’t (that I’m not like him).

In all honesty, your Heavenly Father loves you beyond measure. Regardless of your stature now, or your past, he gave everything he had to bring you to the place you are today. Frankly, He’s not as interested in your own achievements as he is knowing how you feel about Him. Without him nothing, absolutely nothing you have accomplished would have been possible.

The prayer of a thankful heart has very few “I’s” and “me’s” and many “You’s” and “Lord’s”. The prayer of a thankful heart is marked by love and compassion for all people. The prayer of a thankful heart measures our progress in life by God’s standards, not the actions of others.

PRAYER: Father God. I come before you in awareness that often my words betray my true feelings. While I thank you for where I am, it’s easy to measure my progress by the progress of others in living for you. I praise you and you alone for who I am and what I have. There is no one like you. Amen.

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