In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. His point is to show the fallacy of trusting in one’s righteousness while looking down on others, but it’s striking to me that Jesus places the story in the context of prayer. We learn the heart condition of the two men by listening to their prayers—and we, likewise, reveal some things about ourselves by the way we pray. By the content of our prayers over the course of time, we reveal:
- The depth of our burden about non-believers. If we are deeply concerned about their spiritual condition, our prayer and heart’s desire will be for their salvation (Rom 10:1). In fact, we’ll usually pray for them by name.
- Whether we feel a need to remind God of our faithfulness. Even when we know better, we sometimes pray like the Pharisee did. We too often default into self-righteousness.
- The degree to which we’re genuinely broken over our sin. In this case, we too seldom pray like the tax collector did. Rarely do we beat our chest in agony and dare not look toward heaven because of our sin.
- Whether we recognize the greatness of God. When we do, we’ll spend significant time just praising Him for who He is.
- Whether we understand our privilege and responsibility to pray for our pastors. They will answer to God for the care of our souls (Heb 13:17), and they need our prayer support.
- The degree to which our heart breaks over unreached nations and peoples around the world. When our heart grieves over billions of people who have little or no access to the gospel, we’ll pray about them.
- The degree to which we’re really grateful for God’s blessings. Prayers of thanksgiving are an indication of a thankful heart.
- Whether we generally focus more on ourselves or on others. The content of our prayers will show where we place our priority.
- Whether we’re willing to follow Jesus’ words about how we treat our enemies. He taught us to “pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28). Jesus’ model prayer also assumes that we’ll forgive those who sin against us (Luke 11:4).
- The degree to which we really want to overcome our sin. If we truly do want victory, we’ll pray as Jesus taught us: pray about victory over temptation before we’re in it (Matt 6:13).
Use this list to evaluate your own heart today. I plan to do the same.