It is not for any man to judge the salvation of another. There is, however, a mark of true discipleship that exceeds all others. The man that enters into a right relationship with God through our Lord Jesus Christ becomes a man of prayer.
This post is not meant to cause doubt concerning the assurance of salvation. Neither is it to heap guilt upon anyone that struggles to pray. There is just a direct correlation between the man who knows God and the prayers he prays. Likewise, there is a similar correlation between religious but unsaved people and their prayers.
Jesus spoke of two men who went up to pray; the first was religious and unsaved. Consider his prayer. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.” (Luke 18:11, 12) This religious leader when “praying” spoke very highly of himself. Jesus said of this man that when he prayed, he prayed to himself. “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself.” This man though religious was not praying to God.
The second man of whom Jesus spoke, prayed in a much different manner. “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ Unlike the man who thinks he prays but only speaks to himself, the sinner who enters a right relationship with God through repentance and faith comes to know what manner of man he is. He knows he is a detestable sinner in God’s sight; therefore, he beats his breast and begs for mercy.
Jesus concluded His story with a profound truth. It is not an empty religion that saves people but a humble heart. “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” At an outward glance, the hypocrite can look good to many. To God, all have sinned and come short of His glory. Jesus did not come, by His own words, for the righteous but that sinners might come to repentance. For this reason, the hypocrite was not heard for his praying, but the thug, liar, and thief went his way justified in God’s sight.
Humble prayer is the door opened by God’s grace, that then makes a way to God’s mercy, forgiveness, and fellowship. In my next post, I will explain the dynamic of prayer that changes saints into warrior soldiers.