This story is featured in a collection of Bible stories for kids called Pray without Ceasing: Bible Stories for Kids about Prayer.
When we pray, we must be humble before God. He does not respond to our prayers because of how holy or special we are. He responds to us when we pray in humility and faith that we need him in our lives. Jesus warned us to be careful not to let pride influence the way we pray.
As you read this story, pay attention to the difference between the way these two men speak to God in prayer.
Jesus told his disciples a parable about two men who went up to the Temple to pray.
One of the men was a Pharisee. Pharisees were experts in God’s Law. They were supposed to be holy and respectable people.
The other man was a tax collector. The Jews had to give money to tax collectors to give to their Roman rulers. People did not like tax collectors, because they often took more than they were supposed to collect. They kept this extra money for themselves.
The Pharisee stood alone in the Temple and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people who break the law, or even like that tax collector over there.”
The Pharisee looked back at the tax collector and shook his head, then continued his prayer, “I fast by not eating any food twice a week. I give ten percent of all the money I make to the Temple.”
The tax collector was standing far from the Pharisee. His head was bowed. He would not even look up to heaven while he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest with his fist, praying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
Jesus explained this parable to his disciples. He said to them, “The tax collector went home closer to God than the Pharisee. For all who pridefully exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- What was wrong with the way the Pharisee prayed, and how was the tax collector’s prayer different?
- Do you ever mistakenly think you deserve God’s help because of how good or holy you are? How can you be more humble in prayer instead?
- When was the last time you asked God to be merciful on you as a sinner?
Pharisee and the Tax Collector Video
I made this video to help explain the significance of this parable about prayer:
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