Why don’t I pray? The answer is simple. I don’t think I need God. I think that everything I’ve been given and blessed with in my life until now has been the fruit of my labor, the reward for my efforts, the strength of my will. Why would I pray, why would I ask God for anything, why would I show any sign of a need if it was all my own doing?
Even though I think I can attain anything by my own will, the reality is that I’m a wretched sinner riddled with pride that takes credit for everything and suppresses the reality that everything good has been graciously given to me by a good, compassionate and loving God.
Consider Luke 18.
“10 Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13 The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
The pharisee knows the whole Mosaic law. He has followed it to the T. As far as he’s concerned, his effort, his meticulous keeping of the law has given him his position and status. He has earned the respect that others have for him. We might look at him and think him a fool but this is exactly what our sinful hearts are prone to do. Most of us Bostonians have come here for school because we’ve worked at our studies, earned scholarships, earned our degrees and our jobs. We’ve climbed our way up the ladder by our own strength and we now deserve our pay. Why would we need to pray anything more than these self-glorifying, vain, empty prayers? This is why I don’t pray – because I’m just like this pharisee.
The tax collector by all worldly accounts is self-sustaining. He to has financial security. He has his tax collector friends (who Jesus is so willing to eat with btw), drinks and eats to his fill. What need does he have? What can’t he buy? Who does he need to depend on but anyone but himself? Yet he comes before God, on his knees, saying “have mercy on me, a sinner.” His disposition is one of need and dependence.
Christ then says that the kingdom of God is for those that are like children and that they should not be bothered from coming to him. Those who are child-like receive the Kingdom of God like children receive their parents. They need their parents and don’t need to think about it. They just know that they are in need. Have you ever held a crying child? They don’t want you, candy, food, money or anything else. They want mommy and/or daddy. NOTHING else stop them from crying. This is the spiritual reality that the tax collector lives in.
This is the reality we all live in. We are all children dependent on our father for everything. EVERYTHING. Whether we know it or not, it’s the truth.
I need God… so I pray.