I was reading Luke 18 over the weekend. Jesus tells two stories about prayer. One is about a widow and the other a Tax Gatherer. Both are desperate prayers. One cries day and night for justice and the other beats his breast for mercy.
One is commended for her faith and the other for his humility. Yet both had faith in the character of God and both were in humble positions. The widow was in a humble position by the very nature that she was a widow. The Tax Gatherer humbled himself. Both were desperately aware of their need. They were both without hope unless the 'judge' intervened on their behalf.
In one story the antagonist is an unjust judge who stands in contrast to a just, caring God. In the other story the antagonist is a Pharisee who stands in contrast to the Tax Gatherer. The Pharisee trusts in what he has not done (robbed, evil deeds, adultery), and what he does (tithes and fasts twice a week).
Luke says that Jesus told the first story to show his disciples that they should always pray and not give up. Luke says that he told the second one to those who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on others. The end result of the prayer for justice is a fair judgment and the end result of the prayer for mercy is justification.
I read these stories again and wonder... Do I really see my situations as desperate? Do I truly have faith? Do I humble myself or am I trusting in my own righteousness? Will I see justice and mercy? Do I really care?