When I talk about praying warriors or plugged-in saints, what
images come to your mind? Perhaps one of our greatest struggles
with prayer is our perception of the Bible’s plugged-in saints.
We have a tendency to look on their rosy side and forget the
realities of their personalities. Then, believing we are not
remotely like the men and women of whom we read in the Bible, we
hold back on prayer, wanting to wait until we are more worthy to
If that is true, and I believe it is for many, we need to
see what a real plugged-in saint is. No doubt we could take a look
at Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Peter or Paul but our views of these
men are already so grand we feel that we could never be what they
were. Instead, let’s look at another plugged-in saint, one we
might be tempted to overlook. Luke
18:10-14 tells us about a plugged-in tax-collector. This tax
collector prayed and he moved God. Jesus tells us this man went
away justified. Here was a man who not only prayed, but connected
to God. When he plugged in, he was empowered with forgiveness and
justification. Take a look at this saint, because this saint can
What the plugged-in saint is not.
plugged-in saint is not perfect.
The confession of this tax-collector is astounding. His very brief
prayer was an exclamation of his imperfection. “God, be merciful
to me a sinner!” We must not refrain from prayer just because we
have sinned. Do you remember Romans 3:23? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of
God.” With the exception of Jesus, all our heroes were sinners.
None of them were perfect. Yet they connected to God. They prayed
and God moved mountains for them. Do not wait until you are
sinless to pray, it will never happen.
plugged-in saint is not a religious scholar.
The Pharisee was probably a religious scholar. He had devoted his
life to the exact knowledge of the law. Yet notice what it did for
him. He became puffed up with arrogance. We should not be
surprised. Paul told us knowledge produces arrogance (I
Corinthians 8:1)? Do not misunderstand. We are to add
knowledge to our faith and virtue (II
Peter 1:5). We will be destroyed if we lack knowledge (Hosea
4:6). However, we must not be so enamored with knowledge that
we believe we have arrived because we know things others do not.
Nor must we believe we are not God’s servants who can pray to
Him until we have attained a specific level of knowledge.
Certainly, the plugged-in saint studies and learns God’s word,
growing in knowledge, but he is never so self-centered as to
believe he is special for his knowledge or that he must wait to
call on the Lord until he is special enough through his knowledge.
plugged-in saint is not some kind of supersaint.
Like the issue of knowledge or scholarship, this idea of trying to
be a super-Christian focuses far too much on ourselves; this keeps
us from focusing on God. We either believe we can pray because we
are so much better than everyone else or we believe we cannot pray
because we are so much worse than others. Either end of this
spectrum hinders real prayer. Was the tax collector a supersaint?
Clearly not. He struggled with sin. He was no more righteous than
you and I. He did not have his whole life under control. He lived
in the real world and dealt with real challenges that overcame him
at times. He knew the only way to overcome was to connect with
God. Therefore, he prayed. The Bible goes to great lengths to let
us know that our heroes were not supersaints. James
5:17 says Elijah was just like us. In Acts
14:15, we witness Barnabas and Saul asserting they are just
like us. Over and again, the Bible demonstrates the weaknesses of
the men whose stories we admire. Noah got drunk. Abraham lied.
Moses struck the rock. David committed sexual immorality. Peter
denied Jesus. Paul had been a persecutor. Praying Christians are
not special saints. Rather, we have become saints and therefore
God grants us the special privilege of prayer.
What the plugged-in saint is.
plugged-in saint is humble.
The tax collector would not even look up to heaven. He beat his
breast as he begged forgiveness. In contrast to the Pharisee, the
humility of the tax collector is palpable. Pay careful attention
to this. Regrettably, too many Christians get fowled up in prayer
because they have some concept of entitlement. “I got
baptized,” they think to themselves, “Therefore, I have the
right to prayer. I have a right to my requests. I have a right to
be heard and answered.” Few of us would actually say those
words, but do our actions betray us? When we do not get what we
ask, do we get upset with God? When we think prayer is not
working, do we quit praying? Notice that the tax collector asked
for mercy—unmerited favor. He knew he did not deserve his
request. He knew he did not deserve to even ask. Yet he knew God
would let him ask and ask he did—humbly. Paul warns us in Romans
12:3 not to think too highly of ourselves. As we come into
God’s presence, this warning is especially true. We must never
enter God’s presence as though we deserve to enter. Do not be
confused, we may be confident that we are allowed to pray because
Jesus died for us (Hebrews
10:19). However, that prayer is a privilege, not a right or
entitlement and every request is a request for grace and mercy.
Therefore we must humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God (I
plugged-in saint is penitent.
The plugged-in saint is not perfect, but he is penitent. The tax
collector new he had sinned. Clearly he had recognized sin for
what it was and what it had done to him. It had separated him from
God (Isaiah 59:1-2). He
had repented, that is he had thought through his actions again and
decided to change them. Therefore he humbly came into the presence
of God to confess his sin and seek forgiveness. Do not for a
minute believe we are allowed to hang on to our sins but then come
into the presence of God in prayer, just because nobody is
perfect. Psalm 66:18 is
clear, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not
hear.” If you have not repented and become a child of God, God
does not hear your prayers. If you have become a child of God, but
you are now hanging on to some sin, trying to serve two masters,
God will not hear your cries either. You must turn from your sin
because of godly sorrow (II
Corinthians 7:10). This is the point of I Timothy 2:8, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere,
lifting up holy hands…” We argue so much about whether or not
we are allowed to raise our hands in worship that we have missed
the point. Certainly, the Bible demonstrates that a scriptural
prayer stance (not an outburst of emotion) is to lift our hands to
God as though opening ourselves up to Him. But when we lift our
hands they had better be holy hands. We must not think we can hang
on to sin with our hands all day long and then lift our hands up
to God in prayer at night. The plugged-in saint, is not perfect,
but he is penitent, confessing and forsaking his sin (Proverbs
plugged-in saint is normal.
This may sound odd, but we simply need to notice that the praying
Christian is normal. Not normal in the sense of conforming to the
norms of society or the world. I have no doubt the world would
consider the plugged-in saint odd. However, look at the normalcy
of this prayer in Luke 18.
He had a secular job. He was an average child of God. He was not
spectacular in any sense of the word. No one would look up to him
as some special case. In fact, some might even look down on him
because he was so “not special.” But here he is, praying and
being empowered by God’s grace. I want you to see this, because
I want you to see that you can be a praying Christian. You can be
a plugged-in saint.
What the plugged-in saint does.
plugged-in saint trusts God.
Jesus told this parable, according to vs.
9, because he was talking to “some who trusted in themselves
that they were righteous.” Notice in whom the Pharisee put all
his trust—himself. He did all these good works. He was better
than everyone else. Not only could he trust Himself, but really
God should put all His trust in the Pharisee too. But the tax
collector had none of this arrogance. He trusted God. His faith
was in God. Not only did he believe in God, but he believed God.
He knew the promise of God, which we read moments ago in Proverbs
28:13. He knew he was a sinner and needed forgiveness. He
trusted that God would do what He said if he would simply confess
and forsake his sin. So he did. This is the beginning point for
real prayer. Do you trust God? Do you trust God’s power, that He
can do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)? Do you trust God’s word, that He will do what He
has said (e.g. James 1:5-8)?
Do you trust God’s love, that He will give us good gifts (Matthew 7:7-11)? The plugged-in saint trusts God.
plugged-in saint prays.
We do need to state the obvious. Satan has a way of letting us
deceive ourselves such that everyone else around us can see the
truth, but we miss it. How justified would this tax collector have
been if he had just walked around realizing his guilt? He would
never have been justified. The promise is that those who confess
their sins will be forgiven (I
John 1:9). Prayer is not some nice activity that God hopes we
get around to whenever we get a chance. Prayer is essential. God
said in I Thessalonians
5:17 that we must “pray without ceasing.” You may attend
every assembly of the church. You may give all kinds of money to
the Lord’s work. You may work to be better than everybody else.
If you stop short of real prayer, you are no better off than the
Pharisee in our story. Without true, humble, penitent prayer, you
are not connected to God.
plugged-in saint impacts God.
Here is the really amazing part about all of this. When normal
Christians humble themselves before God, trusting Him and
penitently praying to Him, we can impact His action. We have
already admitted it. God owed nothing to this tax collector. The
tax collector could have felt guilty all day long, but he would
not have been justified. The tax collector could have gone to the
school of the Pharisee and learned to be better than everyone
else, but God would not forgive him. God was not planning to
forgive this tax collector and it just happened to coincide with
the man’s prayer. The man prayed and based on his prayer, God
acted. The man went away justified. The tax collector asked that
his mountain of sin be uprooted and cast into the sea and God did
it. Wow! God allows our prayers to impact Him. I know that I am
not mature enough spiritually, and probably never will be, to
completely grasp how this works. However, I
John 5:14-15 says, “Now this is the confidence that we have
in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears
us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that
we have the petitions we have asked of Him.” As much as it may
just blow our minds, God has said if we are plugged-in to Him,
submitting to His will in our actions and in our prayers that He
will be moved by our prayers and will do what we ask, not because
our prayers force Him to, but because He loves us.
How amazing is that? Do not miss out on the blessings God
has to offer His praying children. I want you to notice a very
simple passage. Matthew
7:11 says, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good
gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in
heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Notice what it
does not say. It does not say God gives good things to those who
want it. It does not say God gives good things to those who need
it. It does say He gives good things to those who ask. How many of
God’s gifts go unopened because His children do not ask? Plug
in, connect with God, become a praying Christian.
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Church of Christ