Two Guys Walk into a Temple


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.” 
                                                                                    -Luke 18:9-10
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?      


Thanks, Katie! Appreciate you sharing some helpful resources to sort through the confusion.
Speaking of prayer, I often find myself praying to Lord Jesus because I feel so close to Him, and at other times to Father God because I see Him as all powerful. If it's something about me that needs to change, I pray to the Holy Spirit within me.....A very subjective and confusing prayer formula! I found this John Piper podcast/article, and it really cleared things up for me from a Biblical perspective,

Hi y'all! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments here.

Jan, so glad that you're seeing fresh answers to prayer! Amen and yes to more of that!

Lisa, I appreciate your engagement here. I totally appreciate how you're connecting some dots here. Seeing the pattern hopefully can help you to break it or at least be aware of how it's shaping your prayer life.

Lana, always glad to be an answer to prayer! :)
Because of years of important prayers going unanswered, it is hard to have complete faith in my prayers influencing God. Yet I continue to pray. That is changing as I see many prayers being answered lately (car, help with clutter, mom arriving). I have a wonderful picture of Jesus and I pray to him there to focus on his presence. Tuesday I had many errands that had to be done early. I couldn't find my car keys. I sat before Jesus and said my keys are not important in the grand scheme but to help my mom in the hospital and to make my doctor appointments they're critical. THEN I thanked Jesus no matter what happened. Immediately came the thought of checking the mail when I came home the previous day. I went outside and my keys were laying on the driveway. Jesus is faithful!!!
This is very interesting to me. My earthly father was a very preoccupied person. As a child I felt he didn’t really listen much to me. I sometimes think that when I’m praying that God isn’t really listening to me either. I know that He is, but my feelings can differ.
Many years ago when I first experienced hearing God speak to me, I became very upset when He seemed to stop speaking to me. Finally I realized I was bringing my quiet father into this--that I thought no talk indicated no presence, no relationship.

But in all this time it never occurred to me that the fact I never asked my father for anything was impacting the way I asked--or didn't ask--my Father for things.

Interestingly, lately I have been asking Him what's going on with this prayer-glitch. Then, here is today's post! I would have to say He's heard me and is answering that prayer right now. And reminding me "...that nothing can ever separate us from God's love..." (Rom.8:39 NLT) Thank you, Father. And than you, Alex, for delivering His message. :)

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