How do you come before God in worship and prayer?
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The 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. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And 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. I 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.” Luke 18:9-14
How should we come to God in worship and prayer? At times we feel that God should hear and answer our prayers because of all our efforts to obey Him and faithfully serve Him. We look around us and see so many who call themselves “Christians” disobey God and disregard His Word. They are unfaithful! They have sinned and compromised their faith!
In contrast, we feel that God should certainly hear our prayers and accept our worship since we have been faithful to God’s Word and have given up much to follow Christ. We are not unfaithful as others are!
The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican was told by Jesus to those who “trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” When we feel that God will hear and answer our prayers or accept our worship because we have been faithful Christians and are not unfaithful as are so many others, we are praying in a similar fashion as the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable. Rather, we should come to God as did the humble tax-collector, who knew of his own sinfulness and unworthiness before God; for it was “this man [that] went down to his house justified [or forgiven] rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
When we come to God in worship and prayer, we should come humbly acknowledging our sin and unworthiness before God. With the publican, we join in praying: “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Since Christ has died for our sins and is risen again, we can also come before God with the assurance that He forgives our sins and hears and answers all our proper prayers. One might even say that we come to the LORD God in humble boldness – humble, because we are unworthy sinners, and in boldness, because Christ has died for us and redeemed us.
Before Thee, God, who knowest all, with grief and shame I prostrate fall. I see my sins against Thee, Lord, the sins of thought, of deed, and word. They press me sore; I cry to Thee: O God, be merciful to me! O Jesus, let Thy precious blood be to my soul a cleansing flood. Turn not, O Lord, Thy guest away, but grant that justified I may go to my house at peace with Thee. O God, be merciful to me! Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn # 318, Verses 1,3)