It’s strange how two people who appear to be doing the same thing can actually be doing very different things.
Here is an example from long ago.
Into a temple one day, two men came to pray.
Both felt they had something to pray about. Both believed God was listening.
One felt quite religious and good and looked round for spectators.
The other was rather timid and shy, and hardly looked up.
But both found words to say as they opened up to God.
The first man began to thank God – actually, no bad thing to do.
In fact, too often we forget to thank God for all He does for us and gives to us.
It used to be very common here in Scotland, for example, for people to “say grace” before meals, thanking God for the food on the table.
Anyway, this man stood up straight and thanked God. But he thanked God for the wrong things.
He thanked God that he was so much better than some other people (he said)whom he thought were very sinful.
He even told God (as if God did not know already) about his charitable giving and his self-denial.
All this time he was looking down his nose on the other man, whom he had spied coming into the temple too.
He added some thanks that he was not like him!
This other man had not dared to come up close. He just bowed his head where he was.
He felt he had nothing to boast about.
He could hardly find words to say but, deep in his heart, he knew he needed God.
So he said: “God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner!”
And suddenly, he felt a burden had been rolled away.
Honest confession of his sin and need, and trust in God’s willingness to forgive, changed him.
He went home a different man, justified before God.
He had received what he had asked for – mercy from God!
The first man also got what he asked for. He asked for nothing and he got nothing!
He went home no better off than when he came.
It would appear he thought he had all he needed. How mistaken he was!
The story of these two men was first told by the Lord Jesus Christ and you can read it in the Bible in Luke 18.10-14.
It’s a short story with a long-lasting message for us to reflect on how you pray, or even if you pray.
An ABC of prayer is:
Admit who you are, what you are and what you need.
Believe God is who He is as Jesus Christ showed Him to be.
Come to Him and trust Him for yourself.