Two Guys Walk into a Temple6
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.”
Jesus's opening line sounds a bit like a "two guys walked into a bar" joke. Only instead it's a temple, and they're there to pray. Jesus talks a lot about prayer. I think there’s a couple reasons for that.
For one, prayer is important. It’s a gift given to us to help us connect more personally with a God who is for us, with us, and who loves us. Jesus wants us to use this prayer tool in ways that will help us to flourish in a relationship with the God Jesus knows.
Secondly, in his parables Jesus often puts his characters in the setting of prayer because in those stories Jesus can demonstrate at a more personal level how our understanding of God shapes how we relate to God.
If our understanding of God is warped, our prayers will be correspondingly warped.
A number of years ago I was working with a college student who tried an experiment. She only prayed to God as Father for a couple of weeks. She wanted to see how praying in this way might shape her relationship with God and what might be exposed about her misconceptions about God as Father in the process.
What she realized after about two weeks was that she was importing her own earthly father’s faults onto God as Father. Her earthly dad was nice but weak. Accordingly, she noticed that in her prayers she had stopped asking God to actually do anything on her behalf. This was helpful for her to realize!
She spent a few weeks studying Scriptures that demonstrated or talked about the power and majesty of God in order to let God’s character re-define what Fatherhood really was. This helped to correct her mis-conceptions and helped to re-shape her prayer life.
And so Jesus tells this parable about two very different prayers to illustrate two very different ways of understanding who God is and how we might relate to Him.
For today we want to encourage you to step back and consider what your prayer life tells you about your understanding of God.
Think back over the past week or two. However much or little you might pray, what kinds of things are you praying about? What kinds of things are you NOT praying about? What might your prayer life tell you about your own understanding and conception of who God is? What steps might you take to round out anything that needs rounding out?