Prideful Prayers Go Unanswered

Luke 18:9-14 says, “9And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. 11The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. 12I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
This parable that Jesus speaks of is to illustrate the importance of someone not trusting in themselves, abiding in their own self-righteousness and despising others. The first parable was focused on God’s people praying without ceasing and refusing to lose heart, but this parable is about killing your pride so that you maintain humility. *Pride never prays because you think you can do it in yourself. It becomes a religious routine, and God doesn’t have your heart. Pride never moves the heart of God, but humility, for God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5; James 4:6). If you want to function in the grace of God, you must first be humble and then pray! Both the Pharisee and the publican went to the temple to pray. That was their purpose. It was one of the hours of prayer, and it was time to go and pray. The Pharisee, who represents the religious people who seek to follow tradition than to obey the commandments of God, inflicting laws on people to form a cult rather than a holy bride, bringing no conviction but only producing condemnation, began to pray with himself. He did not pray with or for other people, and so there was no agreement in his prayers. He was not praying to God, even though he was convinced he was, because God was nowhere around him. Matthew 23:23 states that Pharisees “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” His prayers were not going above the ceiling of the temple, and the reason was because he was boasting on his accomplishments to God and how he was better than everyone else. God is not interesting in hearing what you think you do in yourself or how that your church is better or worse than another church. Fact of the matter is this spirit of competition has arrived as a result of a spirit of religion. We must break the bands of religion and competition through humility, prayer and unity, keeping Jesus as the chief focus and center of it all.
The Pharisee’s prayer was that he thanked God he was not like other people, such as an extortioner, unjust, adulterer, or this publican who was standing next to him and praying as well. He thought of himself as something great, as many Pharisees did in that day and age. This what preachers do when they bash down other ministers because of their own pride and jealousy. The Pharisees were a religious group who came out of the “Dark Ages” of Israel, between the period of the end of the Book of Malachi and the Book of Matthew. It was during the intertestamental period, in which God’s voice was not heard, God’s presence was not seen, and God’s power was not felt. This Pharisees was fighting to defend himself without Jesus Christ, and he was on his own. He claimed to not be an extortioner, which is someone who takes advantage of someone else to add to their bank account, yet Jesus said that they made long prayers and devoured widows’ homes (Luke 20:47). He also said that they were cleaned up on the outside, but inside are full of extortion and excess (Matthew 23:25). He claimed to not be unjust, but Jesus said, “Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). This Pharisee claimed to not be an adulterer, but Jesus said, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). This Pharisee claimed not be a publican, which was a tax collector, someone who burdened people with taxes, but Jesus said, “For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4). He boasted of how he fasted twice a week (which the early church fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays), and gave tithes of his possessions, but Jesus said, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). They gave tithes and fasted like they were suppose to, but they did not operate in judgment, mercy and faith, which is the process of the Word exposing our sins that bringing conviction, our understanding of His love, grace and mercy that brings us to repentance, and our elevation in faith as a result of God’s forgiveness and displaying His power to us. In other words, your pride will blind you to the sins you are really committing in yourself. Because you are not known as an adulterer does not mean that you are not one in your heart when you look at pornography in the privacy of your bedroom. Because you are not a tax collector does not mean that you burden people with a perversion of prosperity or a spirit of religion that inflicts people with religious ideas and opinions that do not align with the Word of God. Because you are not known as extortioner does not mean that you are not because you still take advantage of others for your own selfish benefits. Because you are not known as unjust does not mean that you are not because you still have secret sins you do not let anyone else know about. Because you give tithes and fast does not mean that you truly have a personal relationship with God. *Sin is more than just what you do. It is about what is in your heart. Our prayer needs to be as David, who said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). It needs to be, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Our prayer needs to be not an apology, but that of repentance, turning away from everything that opposes the will of God and turning to everything that aligns with His perfect will. This needs to be our prayer, not of religious competition or pride that says I am not something when I really am, but of humility and repentance that exposes our true heart and character!
This Pharisee was downplaying the one next to him praying because of his known sins or lack of eloquence in prayer, and some people do that to this very day. They are timid to pray aloud because they care about what someone else thinks, but God wants to hear you pray. I do not care if it is a child, I want someone praying for me who can get a hold of God! A pure heart and consistent prayer life will move the heart of God! This publican, or tax collector, stood to himself because he wanted to get alone with God and be real with Him. He would not even lift up his eyes to heaven and he beat upon his chest because of the remorse of his sins. He said, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” And the most amazing thing happen: he prayed through! He went down justified, or shown righteous, instead of the Pharisee. It was not because the publican boasted of his own righteousness, but God showed His righteousness through him. When you truly pray, you will not have to tell everyone that you pray. When you are righteous, you will not have to tell everyone that you are righteous. It will be shown through your actions because you always know a tree by the fruit it bears (Matthew 7:20). It did not take a long, eloquent prayer. All it was just a moment to be real before God and pour out his heart to God for God to bring a total breakthrough! All it takes is a moment to be saved. You just have be willing to do whatever it takes to pray through!