To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:
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. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
But 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.’”
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. (Luke 18:9-14 NIV)
Let’s be honest with ourselves: we are not the worst people in the world. But neither are we perfect, and we need to be honest about that, too. Our need for God’s mercy is much more important than how we stack up to our neighbor. God gives mercy to the one who asks for it … the other one, who thinks he doesn’t need mercy, gets nothing. Which would you rather be?
Pray the Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” This is an ancient and simple prayer that combines the prayer of the tax collector: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner”; with the earliest confession of the Church, “Jesus is Lord”.