PRAYING BETTER

LUKE 18:10-14


Luke 18:10-14 New King James Version (NKJV)



10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’

13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat 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 everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”



Dr. Gough:


In times like these, is your prayer life effective?

--Is it all it could be? Mine could be better.

--Blessed are they who pray. Who want to pray better.

--In Luke 18:1, Jesus said, "Men always ought to pray, and not lose heart." Not give up. But improve.


I've been praying since a child, but I can do better.

--I learned from parents, and grandfather Stafford.

--I saw in their lives what prayer meant and can do.


What is prayer? A heart-to-heart talk with God.

--In love. Grace. In fellowship, praise, surrender.

--In reverent communion, for His will and blessing.


In Luke 11:1, Jesus' disciples asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." Not how, but "teach us to pray."

--To pray about anything, or everything, any time.

--They never asked, "Teach us to preach, win others."

--"Lord, teach us to pray." He did.

--Jesus gave the Lord's Prayer. And other examples.

--You see, the more we pray, the better we pray.

--People, especially youth, learn by doing.


Luke 17:26 tells of the days of Noah and Lot comparing them to troubled times prior to Jesus' coming again.

--Jesus follows that, Chapter 18, urging us to pray!


Here in Luke 18 we are told we "always ought to pray."

--To keep on praying. Not get discouraged or give up.

--He tells of a "judge who did not fear God nor regard man" (v 2). Gave no attentior to a widow, harmed.

--But she kept coming, "Get justice for me" (v 3).

--Finally the judge said, "because this widow troubles me (kept praying to him), I will avenge her."


Jesus adds, "Shall God not avenge His own elect, who pray day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will" (v 7,8).

--A Holy God is going to bless His elect, in His will.

--No matter what comes, trust God. Keep praying.

--My motto: Be ready to pray. Preach. Or pass away.

--So friend, keep praying in, and for, God's will.

--The evidence and experience shows prayer is power.

--All for right asking.


Prayer is our first and finest resource, of God.

--Open to His saints at all times. It is priceless.

--So, just pray. From your heart. In Jesus' name.

--That is, in a way, and for things, Jesus would.

--Begin with praising God. Thanking Him for blessings.

--For Jesus. The Holy Spirit. For saving us.

--Then, petitions for others. Finally, our own needs.

--Remember, "The effective, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much," God says in James 5:16.


Beginning at Luke 18:10, listen to these two, praying.

--Note contrasts. Compare their prayers, to ours.

--What can we learn from these men, and how to pray?

--Both "went to the temple to pray." To God's House.

--A good place, but any place is good to pray!

--One "a Pharisee." Other, a "tax-collector."

--Pharisee, "stood and prayed with himself," (v 11).

--Tells how good he is. Not how good God is.

--Parades his piety - "Not like other men. I fast. I give tithes of all I possess. Not an extortioner or unjust or adulterer." All good qualities, right?

--No praise. No repentance. Compassion or humility!

--He sought acceptance by his goodness - not God's!

--As Jesus said, "he prayed with himself."


Hear the tax-collector's prayer as he "stood afar off."

--"Would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat on his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner" (v 13) Note his reverence, humility.

--Acknowledged his sin. Friend, "all have sinned."

--We all need to confess it, to God. Repent. Daily.

--His prayer shows worship. Praise, to a Holy God.

--Shows his sorrow for his sin. Wanted to get right.


"He beat on his breast," a Jewish sign of penitence.

--Of his reverence, contrition; examining his heart.

--He asks God, "be merciful to me, a sinner."

--What does "be merciful" mean?

--To "let an atonement - a sacrifice - be made for me."

--That is, sin offering, "propitiation" or sacrifice.

--In the Old Testament, an animal, as a lamb, offered.

--Jesus is our "Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world" - of all who believe and receive Him. --Christ Jesus, "sacrificed Himself for us" on a cross.

--Don't you want to praise Him more? Obey Him better?


John writes of Jesus, "Be is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (I John 2:2). Have you received Him as such?

--All who come to God, come that way - by a sacrifice.

--There is no better than Jesus, the "door to heaven."


Of these prayers of these two men, what did Jesus say?

--Of the tax-collector Jesus said, "This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (v 14).

--In brief, this man is forgiven! Justified before God!

--The Pharisee's prayer, was not accepted.

--The tax-collector, was saying, "I'm not worthy, but I pray for God's mercy, to meet my need." God did.


Lord, help us all to pray. In the right way. Always.


There are so many world religions. All of them pray.

--Many Christians, and churches, all differ a bit; but all believe in, and are to practice, prayer.

--That tells us of the necessity and efficacy of it!


Also, I say to you, prayer brings us all to one place.

--To the throne of God - or it should!

--All saved believers meet at the cross and throne.

--It is the level meeting ground for everyone.

--There, dear friends, God hears all who come.


One prayer God never refuses, "Lord, forgive and save me for Jesus' sake." And He will.


What can prayer do for us? Much, every way.

--Praying in Jesus' name, we have God's presence.

--We lay hold on God's promises.

--On the path to God's pardon. To obtain His peace.

--We come seeking "mind of Christ; will of God."


I've watched prayers improve for so many, to unfold the "plan for good" God has for us to "give you a future, a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). Meet a need. Work a miracle.

--It puts us into partnership with God's Spirit.

--It is the key to unlock the miraculous, for us.

--Maybe you, as I, need that today.


Mother's prayers especially, meant much - and still do.

--The prayers of many have blessed me. I'm grateful.

--Children, of all ages, remember heartfelt prayers.


Are we using fully, this privilege we have?


You say, I don't know how to pray. Yes, you do.

--If you can think, speak, or write, you can pray!

--In your own words. Your own way. God will hear.

--Using another's prayers is good; but your own, I believe, is better - for its from your heart.

--Your own feelings. Joys. Needs. They are yours!


If parents delight in listening to little children in their simple words, as much as older, wiser ones, God surely does also, of His children of all ages.


Jonah in the belly of the big fish prayed, and he was delivered up, to live and preach again (2:1).

--Daniel prayed, "in the den of lions," and God stopped the lion's mouths. He was spared. Chapter 6.

--Moses prayed, and God opened the Red Sea to become, as dry land, for all Israel to flee Egyptian slavery.

--The Bible is full of praying people God blessed.


Jesus said, "I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not, when you are converted, strengthen your brethren" (Luke 22:32). Fervent prayer does that.

--When others, like Jesus, are praying for us, let us surely pray for ourselves, and for all we can!


I honestly tell you, if I don't take time to pray early morning to the Lord, the day doesn't go well.

--Then, all through the day, I pray as God leads, for others, and life's situations, "with thanksgiving."

--Prayer is behind most miracles. And any salvation!

--The devil is delighted if he can keep us from praying! Don't let him! Defeat him, by prayer!


S. D. Gordon said, "Prayer is not the only thing that God wants us to do - but it is the chief thing."

--My seminary professor used to say, "We can do nothing better than pray, and afterward, we can do everything better." You know, that works!


Perhaps your prayer life, as mine, could improve.

--Ask God. He's ready to help.



Wilbert D. Gough, ThD., DD.

INDEX OF SERMONS