Acceptable Prayer

Luke Lesson #16

Luke 18:9-17

Lesson Resources:

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Subject: Prayer

Central Theme: Acceptable Prayer

Objective Statement: We can see the kind of prayer God accepts by noting his response to three attitudes.

Keyword: Attitudes

  • Attitude #1- Religious Pride.

  • Attitude #2- Godly Humility.

  • Attitude #3- Child Like Faith

INTRODUCTION:

CONNECTION:

  • If you have children, you are familiar with this quote.
  • “Dad.   Dad. Dad. Dad!”
  • At some point there are just to many questions and to many attempts to get our attention for the typical parent to receive from their 2-5 year old (or maybe even older).
  • We are finite, and it can be difficult to respond to the whim of just one or two kids much less more.
  • And yet when it comes to our heavenly father, His capacity is infinite.
  • He can hear and respond to every prayer.
  • He knows the number of hairs on our head. They are numbered.
  • Fortunately for us, he can hear us.

TENSION:

  • But which prayers does God “hear”?
  • I’m not referring to a kind of hearing that means he accessed the noise we are making.
  • What I am referring to is the kind of prayers that God has committed himself to accepting?
  • God knows everything people say and think.
  • But what kind of prayers does God accept?

IN TODAY’S TEXT WE ARE GOING TO SEE THE KIND OF PRAYER THAT GOD ACCEPTS BY NOTING HIS RESPONSE TO THREE DIFFERENT ATTITUDES THAT WE SEE DISPLAYED.

 

ATTITUDE #1- RELIGIOUS PRIDE

Luke 18:9-17

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

 

Explanation:

Notice the audience.  The point of the parable comes in clear when we understand who Jesus was striving to talk to about what kind of prayer God accepts.  Who was the audience?  He spake “unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others”.  Often the ones that think they are righteous and have no sin are the ones who despise others that they perceive have sin.

 

We have a clue as to what is coming because we have been studying Luke these last few weeks.  The lawyer that asked “who is my neighbor?”, the priest and Levite that walked past the Samaritan, the older brother in the tale of the compassionate father, and Simon the Pharisee that invited Jesus to his home, have all served as examples as people who see themselves as better than everyone else, and that have despised those around them.

 

Application:

Isn’t it ironic that they the self-righteous think they are right while they harbor superiority over those around them?  They love themselves too much, while being unloving to those around them.  This is an issue.  Whenever I am self-righteous it usually spills over into a lack of love for my neighbor.

 

Response:

If you have any attitude of despising those around you today, check your heart for self-righteousness.

(10)  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

(11)  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  (12)  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

 

Explanation:

In verse 10 we are introduced to two characters.  The first, a pharisee, is familiar to any who have been with us in Luke.  These are the ones to whom Jesus is referring as self-righteous.  These are the ones who despise the sinner while not acknowledging their own sin.

This is the nature of the prayer that this Pharisee expresses to God.

– I am not as other men are.

– I am not an extortioner.

– I am not unjust.

– I am not an adulterer.

– I am not like this tax collector right here.

– I fast twice a week.

– I give tithes of all that I possess.

 

Notice the first word in every expression.  The personal pronoun “I” happens repeatedly.

 

Of course, God’s desire for us is not to be any of these things.  God’s desire is for us to pursue him in prayer and fasting.  God’s desire is for us to be generous and give proportionally of how God has blessed us.

 

The issue is that his prayer does not acknowledge any of his own sin.  He could not have perfectly done these things consistently.  His comparison and standard were others and not God Himself. The object of His prayer was not really God.  He was talking to God about himself.

 

The truth of the matter is that the self-righteous pharisees often were guilty of striving to keep their self-defined minutia when it came to how they defined God’s law but would forsake the greater parts of the law.  They were instrumental in murdering God’s Son!  We are going to see in a few verses that God does not accept this kind of prayer from this kind of heart attitude.  The pharisee was taking religious pride into his prayer life because that was what was in his heart.

 

Application:

We can do the same thing when we try to see our church attendance, service to God at church, and other law keeping as making us better than other people.  We must strive to be poor in spirit, noticing the sin that we have in our lives and striving to repent of it daily.

 

Response:

How can you defeat religious pride in your heart today?

 

WE CAN SEE THE KIND OF KIND OF PRAYER GOD ACCEPTS BY NOTING HIS RESPONSE TO THREE ATTITUDES.

ATTITUDE #1- RELIGIOUS PRIDE.

ATTITUDE #2- GODLY HUMILITY

(13)  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Explanation:

 

Here we see a second man with a very different attitude.  He has an attitude of humility.  As has been revealed so many ways in the book of Luke, those who know that they are sinful and admit are the ones to whom God responds.

 

Look at the position of humility.  He was standing “afar off”.  He was not in the middle of everything trying to attract attention.  Here it seems as if he was away from the crowd.

 

Look at the posture of humility.  He has his head bowed and his eyes down.

 

Look at his expression of humility. He smote his breast, a common expression of anguish and remorse.  His words expressed it as well.  “God be merciful to me a sinner”.  It is not much.  It is not long.

 

Application:

Several questions come to mind that will help us point our lives toward this kind of attitude.

  • Do I express my worship to God and not to be seen of men?
  • Is my public prayer life outpacing my private prayer life? Do I pray more in public than in private?
  • Do my prayers include confession and repentance?
  • When was the last time I wept over my sin?

 

Response:

Which question is most convicting to you today?  What do you need to do in response?

 

(14)  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

 

Explanation:

Which one is justified?  Which prayer did God listen to and heed?  According to Jesus the man who recognized his sin and sinful condition looking to God for mercy is the one who is justified. The one who thought he was good is the one who was not heard.  Jesus puts this clearly in a principle:  “every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth shall be exalted.”

 

Application:

How do we exalt ourselves?

– Failure to recognize sin.

– Inflating in our own mind the impact of our good deeds.

– Self-promotion.

– Despising and putting down those around us.

 

These are issues that we all have wrestled with at one time or another.  Jesus tells us that if this is our way of thinking, we will be abased.  When we recognize our sin and glorify Jesus, we will be lifted.

 

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

James 4:6

 

Response:

Are you exalting yourself in some way today?

 

WE CAN SEE THE KIND OF KIND OF PRAYER GOD ACCEPTS BY NOTING HIS RESPONSE TO THREE ATTITUDES.

ATTITUDE #1- RELIGIOUS PRIDE.

ATTITUDE #2- GODLY HUMILITY

ATTITUDE #3- CHILDLIKE FAITH

(15)  And they brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  (16)  But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.  (17)  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.

 

Explanation:

The attitude of the day toward children bares some difference to our own cultural context.  Children are more revered in our day than they were in Jesus’ day.  There was a high infant mortality rate compared to our day.  Children were “not adults” and of lesser importance.  We place a higher value on individual children than they did at the time of Christ.  So, when children were brought to Jesus for Him to bless them, the disciples saw it as a potential nuisance to the busy Jesus.  Yet, as Jesus often did, He proclaimed a different way of thinking than the thinking of his day.  He proclaimed that children were like those who were a part of the kingdom of God.  How can this be?  Well, he explained it in verse 17.  There is a child-like faith that is needed to enter the kingdom of God. Children tend to believe and receive what they have been taught.  Children tend to trust.  It takes trust in Christ to be saved.

 

Application:

We do not need to check our minds at the door to enter into Christianity.  The Bible gives all kinds of internal evidence to the validity of its claims, and as one may well expect, there is all kinds of external evidence to its’ claims as well.  Yet, no matter the evidence, we will not have every question we can come up with answered.  Every worldview is at its root a faith position.  At some point, the most skeptical person, if they are to be saved, must accept the truth of the person of Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation by faith to be a part of the kingdom of God and inherit eternal life.  We must believe that when we humble ourselves and ask for the mercy of God that He can hear us, will forgive us, and will receive us into everlasting habitations when we die!

 

Hebrews says this about faith:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Hebrews 11:6.

 

For our prayers to be receive we must reject any kind of religious pride, adopt godly humility, and express a childlike faith that God is there, He hears us, and will answer us when we pray to Him!

 

Response:

Take some time today to pray, believing that God will hear you!

 

Conclusion:

WE CAN SEE THE KIND OF KIND OF PRAYER GOD ACCEPTS BY NOTING HIS RESPONSE TO THREE ATTITUDES.

ATTITUDE #1- RELIGIOUS PRIDE.

ATTITUDE #2- GODLY HUMILITY

ATTITUDE #3- CHILDLIKE FAITH