The Story of Two Men

Luke 18:10‑14  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 6
There were two men who went up to the temple to pray. That was a good religious thing to do, and they went to the right place to pray, and they offered their prayers to the right Person. That’s a good start, isn’t it?
God tells us stories like this to show us what happens to our prayers. We are praying to someone we can’t see, and if God did not tell us, we might never know what happens in heaven when our prayers get there.
It doesn’t take long for one little prayer to go up from one little child right to the throne where God is sitting. God has no problem with distance or sound waves. This story brings things clearly into focus so we can see what happens.
The first man was a Pharisee, one of those people who liked to wear religious robes and make long, public prayers. He was looked up to as a leader of religion, and he prayed like this: “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, [cheaters and full of sin].”
The Pharisee continued praying, telling God that he was not like the other man, who was a publican. Then he listed his fastings and givings, which are things people should not brag about.
Are your givings secret? God has an unpublished record of things done for His sake, but perhaps you think your record is blank. It is only things done for Jesus’ sake that He can reward. Even if you can’t remember what’s on your record, don’t worry. You don’t have to remember everything, because God does not forget.
Then the other man prayed. Being a publican, nobody liked him, because he was employed by the Romans to collect taxes. Tax collectors were dishonest, and this man had a bad conscience about it. Perhaps he had taken money dishonestly from people and could not begin to pay it all back.
The publican could not even look up to heaven when he prayed, but he struck himself on the chest and said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
We will not ask your opinion about those two prayers, because God has already told us how He received them. He says, “This man [the publican] went down to his house justified rather than the other.” Justified. That’s a big word. If you say you are sorry, someone might forgive you, but if you are truly guilty, only God can say, “Justified”! This means that you stand before Him as righteous in His holy eyes! No one but God could do this for you.
That guilty publican went down to his house justified, and we know this because God says so. Perhaps you are in your house now, or perhaps in a hospital or in a prison or on the street. You can pray that same prayer as the publican did, with the same answer from the same God, for the Lord Jesus has died to redeem you.