Prepare to Listen. Still your inner noises then pray: Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.
Prayerfully Read Luke 18:9-14
9He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.” 13But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” 14I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’
I’ve always judged this Pharisee as a boasting hypocrite, making it up as he went along. But maybe he wasn't. He was a good, devout person, scrupulous in his obedience to Mosaic law and devotion to God. He’s the kind of person every church wants on their membership roll. His attendance and tithing, giving a tenth of his income, were regular habits. Not only that, his prayer, while sounding braggadocios, wasn’t unusual. It’s an orthodox prayer rooted in Scripture and Jewish tradition. He began with thanksgiving, a major component of Jewish prayers. Thanking God for his goodness and not being like other disreputable people wasn’t unusual. His community respected him for his goodness and devotion to God. Everyone, including himself, believed he was one of God’s favorites.
Tax collectors, on the other hand.... Think of the most deplorable person in your town, the one you’re pretty sure will never be acceptable to God; the one you never expect to see in eternity—unless she/he makes a grand effort to change. That’s the tax collector. His prayer lacked knowledge of Scripture, he failed to use traditional phrases and could only beg for mercy. Yet, and this is the shocking thing, Jesus didn’t condemn him. Instead, he did the inconceivable, he justified this reprehensible man rather than the acceptable devout man. In other words, Jesus did the unacceptable. I suspect he wants us to follow his lead.
What’s the picture of Jesus Luke’s Gospel is helping you draw?
Respond to Jesus
Protect me Lord from thinking certain people are far from your kingdom because they don’t behave according to my standards. And if that means I act, like you, in an unacceptable manner, so bet it. Amen.
Live obediently. Follow Jesus’ lead, do the unacceptable.
 See Psalm 17:3ff as an example of this kind of prayer.
I began reading my Bible when I was 8 years old. I loved it then (albeit didn't understand much) and I still love reading and studying it. I may understand a little more but I keep learning new stuff, seeing things I missed for years. This journey with Luke during Lent has been another new learning experience for me, deepening my relationship with Jesus. I pray it will do the same for you.