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Luke 18.9-14

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Luke 18:9-14


Years ago Sam Walter Foss wrote a poem expressing the unimportance of the posture of prayer. He called it, The Prayer of Cyrus Brown:

"The proper way for a man to pray,"
Said Deacon Lemuel Keyes
"And the only proper attitude
Is down upon his knees."

"No, I should say the way to pray,"
Said Reverend Doctor Wise,
"Is standing straight with outstretched arms
And rapt and upturned eyes."

"Oh, no, no, no,"
said Elder Slow,
Such posture is too proud.
"A man should pray with eyes fast-closed
And head contritely bowed."

"It seems to me his hands should be
Austerely clasped in front
With both thumbs pointing toward the ground."
Said Reverend Doctor Blunt.

"Last year I fell in Hidgekin's well
Headfirst," said Cyrus Brown,
"With both my heels a-stickin' up
And my head a-pointin' down.

And I made a prayer right then and there,
The best prayer I ever said,
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standin' on my head."

1.  Prayer is not Self-Righteousness

A. The Audience

Audience =     “some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else”

·         Righteousness the state of being in the right, or being vindicated

o       Righteous – Following the Law

o       “Upright Conduct”

B.  The Pharisee

Prayed about (or “to”) himself

o       Fast 2x / week (OT doesn’t even require a weekly fast)

o       Tithes of everything – again above and beyond the Law

He is thanking God for his own virtue

Calvin: For this thanksgiving, which is presented exclusively in his own name, does not at all imply that he boasted of his own virtue, as if he had obtained righteousness from himself, or merited any thing by his own industry. On the contrary, he ascribes it to the grace of God that he is righteous. Now though his thanksgiving to God implies an acknowledgment, that all the good works which he possessed were purely the gift of God, yet as he places reliance on works, and prefers himself to others, himself and his prayer are alike rejected. Hence we infer that men are not truly and properly humbled, though they are convinced that they can do nothing, unless they likewise distrust the merits of works, and learn to place their salvation in the undeserved goodness of God, so as to rest upon it all their confidence.

C.  Self-Righteousness in Us

How do I pray like the Pharisee?

·         Praying for God to bless my efforts

o       “I’ll do my best, and let God do the rest”

ILL – Fund Raiser in Chicago

–         drove in Bill Hybles

–         Biggest fund raiser ever in this church’s history (3x annual budget)

–         Did you prep them with the vision?

·         No, we were kinda hoping you would do that

–         Do you have a lead gift strategy and timeline set

·         No, we were hoping to get it all tonight

(Imagining a microwave)

–         Have you been praying for this?

No, we were kinda hoping you would do that to.

(Imagining putting that pastor in the microwave)

·         Praying about my shortcomings and failures

o       As if by my excessive humility and honesty I can earn God’s favor

ILL – Sign Isaiah 41:14    “Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel”

·         Use Prayer to broker relationships

o       To appear as a person of prayer

o       Constantly grabbing on the shoulder to pray for you

o       But then turning away as soon as the relationship doesn’t fit your agenda

·         When we play comparisons

o       Help so and so, they really need you.

·         When we are Proud of Anything that’s happened in my life

D.  Self Righteousness is Death

Most of us hate Self Righteousness … but do you know why?

It’s not just mean-spirited & proud

Self-Righteousness is DEATH

1) It kills your soul

"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.”" (Galatians 3:10-12, NIV)


2) It kills the Church’s Witness

            People outside the church expect us to be self righteous.

            Ted Haggard –            living a homosexual lifestyle while lobbying in Washington DC against gay marriage.

We loose our ability to speak on issues if our agenda is based on how good we are and how bad they are.

BUT if we can approach the world like equally broken sinners, then people might suspect we have something worth listening to.

ILL – Gary Preston talking about Gay Marriage at Sprint

A.W. Tozer – We are just beggars telling other beggars where we found bread.

2.  The Goal of Payer = Justification

[TS] If our prayers are rooted in self-righteousness, we develop a massive prayer problem.

Goal=to be justified

V.14 “this man, rather than the other, went home justified.”

Interesting, “justified” and “righteous” have the same Greek root word.

·         The Pharisee was confident that he was justified / righteous

·         The Tax Collector simply humbled himself.


JI Packer =      Justification is a judicial act of God pardoning sinners, accepting them as just, and so putting permanently right their previously estranged relationship with himself. This justifying sentence is God’s gift of righteousness , his bestowal of a status of acceptance for Jesus’ sake.

3.  The Way to Righteousness = The Cross

How are we Justified?

The Tax Collector’s Prayer

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

That’s a powerful little prayer.

Greek word translated “mercy” here is found in only one other place in the NT.

Hebrews 2:17

"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17, NIV)

You’d think the word “mercy” is the same as “merciful”

Actually, its “make atonement”

LXX – Context

Exod 32:14 And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.

Lam 3:42           We have transgressed and rebelled, and you have not forgiven.

Ps 24:11           For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great

Ps 64:4             When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions

Deut 21:8          Accept atonement, O Lord, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for

So the tax collector is praying:

·         God, make atonement for me, a sinner

·         God, be propitiated to me, a sinner.


God is Holy

God hates sin

God has WRATH against sin

Psalm 5:5-6     "The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors."

This wrath can’t just be snuffed out.

It must be satisfied.

Day of Atonement

Leviticus 16

Result of Christ’s Cross

I Jn 2:2            He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 Jn 4:10          In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation (atoning sacrifice) for our sins

Rom 3:21-25  "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.”

Precise, Theological Prayer

I cannot save myself.

I cannot make myself righteous

God – make atonement for me.

God – satisfy your own anger

Our Response

Paul vs the Pharisee mindset

Phil 3:4-6 = Paul had reason to boast

"though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless."

Phil 3:7-11 = Paul’s hope is in Christ

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."


How Do I Pray?

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