Do you have a favorite place to pray? Some people find it easiest to pray in a church building (where it’s quiet and they feel close to God). Other people like to pray while taking a walk through the forest (for the same reason), or driving in the car (where the need for God’s help is sometimes more evident).
Moving on in Luke 18 to another parable about prayer, we again receive an explanation about the purpose of a parable.
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
Luke 18:9-10 NIV
When it comes to these explanations in the gospel of Luke (i.e., these little bits of foreshadowing about the purpose of a parable from Jesus that Luke is about to record), I’m not sure where Luke got this information: whether it was his own insight, or something shared by whomever he talked with as he researched and collected the information within his gospel. (Regardless, I believe that it was inspired by God, per 2 Timothy 3:16-17). However, these previews can be helpful to us as we read and study the parables that follow them.
Now, as long as we all pray… (and I sincerely hope that you do; I was saddened to hear a friend of mine who had attended church for a long time admit that he really didn’t pray, leaving that mostly to his wife). As long as we all pray, though, we all have places that we pray. Maybe you have a prayer closet, or you pray around the table, or you pray in the car, or you pray somewhere else. I like the song about “going down to the river to pray”, but I currently don’t live near a river.
As long as you’re talking with God, I don’t think that the location matters. Having said that, this might be a new kind of freedom that we can experience in the era of the church, since Jesus’ ministry on earth. Remember when Jesus was talking with a Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42), and she was talking about the right place to worship (which typically wasn’t the same for Jewish people and Samaritan people at that time)? Jesus talks about a time when the location doesn’t matter, and I believe that we are living in that time, now.
Regardless of where we might pray by ourselves, I think that most people of faith around the world would agree that a house of worship is a great place to pray. This is where we find two people: one who was from a group that was generally considered part of the religious elite (the Pharisee), and one from a group that was generally hated for their work with the Roman Empire (the tax collector).
Side note: The Bible records that Jesus ate with both of these groups. He didn’t ostracize or reject fellowship with one to spite the other, even if there may have been pressure to take sides.
Let’s start with the Pharisee:
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
Luke 18:11-12 NIV
If I could give you a quick hint, this is not a good prayer. If you were asked to open up a service in prayer, and this is your text, you’re probably not going to be asked to return the next week! Beyond that, it’s not even a good thing to pray on your own, in the privacy of your home.
Having said that, my understanding is that this was a pretty normal prayer for a Pharisee. In fact, it may have been expected of him!
However, knowing how not to pray doesn’t tell us how we should pray. Let’s continue studying this parable in the next article, but feel free to read all of Luke 18:9-14 right away, if you’d like. After all, the Bible (i.e., the Word of God) is ultimately what we should learn from, rather than mere articles like this one.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for May 29, 2022
- The Lookout, May 29, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.
- The College Press Commentary, Luke, by Mark C. Black. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.
- Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete). Matthew Henry. 1706, via BibleGateway.com.