This is one of those posts I hate to have to even write, knowing that almost all of my family and friends are devout Christians of one stripe or another and will likely take this the wrong way when they read it. Recently due to the tragedies that have occurred in the US, China and no doubt other places I feel this is necessary.
I want to start out with a passage from Luke 18:9-14. It’s about the Pharisee and the Tax collector (publican in the King James). I got this from BibleGateway.com.
9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
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.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
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.
If you can’t get what is going on, Jesus is telling a story about a Pharisee (a member of an ancient sect of Judaism), who went into the temple and says to God, “Thank you that I am not as big a scumbag as those other guys. You know the ones, the ones who extort people out of money. Those guys that aren’t fair with others. Oh yeah, and those people who cheat on their spouses, a lot. Also I’m super glad I’m not like this tax collector over here. Look at all the stuff I do right! I don’t eat twice a week so I can concentrate on you, and I give ten percent of my stuff back to you! I’m awesome!”
The other guy just kind of stood in a corner, crying and beating himself and begging God to forgive him of all the awful things he’d done.
The way I’d always heard this story told was that the Pharisee was being kind of loud as you were expected to pray out loud. So he was sort of bragging about his righteousness, to everyone there, and to God. The fact is that the Pharisee was probably a good man. He probably didn’t do a lot of stuff wrong, and in those days his sect was considered the one that was doing things right. It seems to me Jesus used them as examples not because they weren’t righteous, but because they were and were still missing the point of it all entirely.
Have you ever felt so guilty that you fell to your knees in your bedroom, crying to God asking for forgiveness or at least help and mercy for something you’d done or become involved with? I know I have, more than once. I truly knew I’d screwed up and my desperation finally led me to that point. That’s where the tax collector was. Desperate, in need of forgiveness, and wanting to make himself right with God. He was doing this in the place that he felt closest to God in, and trying not to make a show of himself.
That is what truly talking to the Father is. That time of your day, or week or however often you pray, or meditate when it’s only you and He. Those broken or ecstatic moments in your life when you really connect with Him, whether for healing of your wounds or thanks for His blessings are what prayer is about.
And this brings me to my point, something I’ve always felt. I know that many of you reading this will be offended but I think it must be asked. I ask you think about your answer carefully.
What is the difference between posting your prayer on Facebook in front of that small but significant part of the world you know will read, and what the Pharisee was doing in the temple? Is it not mostly because something happened and you want your circle of friends to know your piety?
In other words are you not really saying, “Father God I thank you that I am not like the extortioner, the unjust, the adulterers and the unseemly on Facebook who post pictures of cats? See I post my thoughts to you when it seems best to me, and when those here in this temple can see?”
Shouldn’t you be like the tax collector and be on your knees begging God to heal whatever it is wrong with the world? But mostly shouldn’t you be asking Him to heal whatever is wrong with yourself, and those around you?
One of the many verses that I had to memorize is from the Old Testament. It’s 2nd Chronicles 7:14. I find the King James version of this one to be the best.
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Don’t post prayers on Facebook. Humble yourself, pray, get rid of your own sinful ways, and seek God. He’s already promised to fix this mess. Just realize you’re already called by his name, not just friended on social media.