The tax-gatherer said, “Be merciful to me, the sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified … for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted. Luke 18:13–14
This is the simplest of the prayers that elicit the forgiveness of God. While it does not contain a litany of specific sins, it is our confession, our agreement with God about the seriousness of sin. When we pray this way, we agree that our sin is an infinite insult to the infinitely glorious God, and that we could do nothing to correct the situation. By calling out for mercy, we humbly acknowledged the danger we are in because our faithless disobedience impugned the holiness of God’s reputation. And we imply that we are willing to repent of our unbelief. Thus he is willing to forgive us so that we will take sin more seriously and learn to fear and trust him more completely. Indeed, he says we are right to take this stance. What should make us even more eager to seek God’s mercy is that along with forgiveness and restoration to a right standing with him, he exalts us. God doesn’t just answer our request to wipe away our guilt. He lifts us back into fellowship with him. He removes his anger and he restores his friendship. As godly people, we seek not to sin, but when we do, we must seek restoration on his terms. The way up to the home of God is down the staircase of humility.
“Blessed God, you have not turned away my prayer, nor your lovingkindness from me.” “Make glad the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul,” in Jesus’ name.
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