Jesus Feeding the 5,000

A daily devotion for May 12th

True Prayer

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner! ' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 18:13-14

Unlike the Pharisee who stood by himself, looking up to God in proper manner, this man came into the temple and stood with his eyes cast down. He did not assume the posture of prayer. He was not even in the right place. All he could do was beat his breast and say, God, be merciful to me, the sinner. Someone has called that a holy telegram. I like that: pithy, brief, right to the point — but it is true prayer.

What do we learn about prayer from this man? Is it not obvious that real prayer, authentic prayer, is an awareness of our helpless need? This man saw himself on the lowest possible level, a sinner. He says, God, be merciful to me the sinner. He believed that without God he could do absolutely nothing to help his position. I'm a sinner, Lord, that's all I can say. I have nothing else to add to it.

Remarkably, he does not try to add anything of merit. He does not say, God be merciful to me a penitent sinner. He was penitent, but he does not urge that as any basis for God's blessing. He does not say, God be merciful to me a reformed sinner. I'm going to be different from now on. He does not mention that. He does not say, God be merciful to me an honest sinner. Here I am, Lord, willing to tell you the whole thing. Surely you can't pass by honesty like that. He does not even say, God be merciful to me a praying sinner. He casts it all away. He says, Lord, I haven't a thing to lean on but you.

Authentic prayer is always an acknowledgment of divine adequacy. This man said, God be merciful to me — this is true prayer. Our help must be in God. This man looked for help nowhere else. He did not say, Lord, perhaps this Pharisee standing here can help me. No, he said, God be merciful to me. Hidden in the words, be merciful, is the wonderful story of the coming of Jesus Christ, the bloody cross, and the resurrection. This man's words mean, be propitiated to me, that is, having had your justice satisfied, Lord, now show me your love. He believed God's mercy was available, which Jesus confirmed — he went to his house justified. He was changed, different, made whole. He laid hold of what God said, and believed him. And that too is what prayer is. Prayer is more than asking, prayer is taking. Prayer is more than pleading, prayer is believing. Prayer is more than words uttered, it is an attitude maintained.

How often each day do you have a need? That is how often you ought to be praying! Whenever there is awareness of need, that is an opportunity to lift your heart immediately to God and say, God, be merciful, meet this need. My hope, my help, my everything is in you this moment. It does not matter whether it is merely tying your shoes, washing the dishes, writing a letter, or making a phone call; whatever the need, that is the season for prayer.

Holy Father, I ask now that I may begin to live a life of prayer. I have no other help, but you are fully adequate. On this I rest. Amen.

Life Application

What is my area of need right now? How can I turn that into prayer?

This Daily Devotion was Inspired by one of Ray's Messages

What to Do While Waiting

Listen to Ray