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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.

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Luke 17:16

We all seek to be healed. In his book ‘Wild at Heart’ John Eldrege talks of ‘the Wound’ that each of us bears. The wound of our heart that comes from a variety of places and hurts in different ways. The question isn’t if we are wounded, because we all are. The question is how can we be healed?

The lepers in our story needed healing, that was obvious to anyone that dare venture near them. As the disease progressed fingers, toes and facial features were eaten away. The smell of rotting flesh was evident in the presence of leprosy.

The fact that one leper returned to thank Jesus isn’t particularly surprising. It’s the other nine neglecting to return that stands out.  There could be a plethora of reasons why the others didn’t return. Excitement of returning home; seeing the priests as the source of their healing and not Jesus; simple ingratitude; not being fully aware of the horrific condition they were in. We aren’t told the reason and you may have your own ideas.

The point remains, the lepers needed healing and only one realized the source of their healing and returned to give thanks.

There is another aspect to the story we must remember. Leprosy was not only a disease of the physical body, it was a symbol of sin in a persons life. That’s why the leper and his family were often under suspicion by the church. The leper had the distinct disadvantage of not being able to hide his sin. We, on the other hand can go to great lengths to hide the leprosy of our souls. We use relationships, addictive behavior, anger, religion and a variety of other activities to hide the disease within us. Some of those activities are noble social causes. Some are more personal in scope. None heal the pain that chews away at our hearts.

That’s why I’m thankful this season for Jesus. Like the returning leper, I’ve come to realize that he, and he alone is worth of my praise. I’m not healed yet. There are still vestiges of the disease lurking in the corners of my being. But because of him, the spiritual leprosy will not succeed.

Before the Samaritan leper took one more step towards the priests, home and a life of normalcy, he went back to Jesus to thank him for being healed. The rest of his life he would carry the scars of his leprosy, but along with it, the reminder that through Jesus ‘I AM CLEAN’!

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your death, burial and resurrection. Because of what you have done for me I have been cleansed from the leprosy that wanted to destroy me. In you I am clean and for that I’m eternally grateful. Amen.

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