How to Pray like Michael Scott (Part 1)If you’ve ever seen NBC's, The Office, then you know about Michael Scott, the narcissistic Regional Manager of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton, PA.

The annoyingly comical thing about Michael Scott is how he tries way too hard to make himself look good—usually at the expense of others. In episode one, season one, he actually awards himself a coffee mug that says, “World’s Best Boss.”

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In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told a story about two men who went to pray. One prayed like Michael Scott (proudly), the other prayed nothing like Michael Scott (humbly). The story was less about the words of the prayers and more about the hearts of the pray-ers.

The first pray-er was a proud-hearted Pharisee, drunk on self with no capacity for humility. As a religious expert, he was good at being good. He would go throughout his day telling himself: “I’m amazing! I must be God’s favorite! Nobody loves God like I do!”

As Jesus points out, this man trusted in himself and treated others with contempt. Naturally, his proud heart poured out as he prayed…

11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

From the Pharisee’s prayer, we see 3 marks of a proud-hearted pray-er (i.e., how to pray like Michael Scott).

1. Proud-hearted Pray-ers are God-Minimizing.

Notice how quickly the prayer shifts away from God and back to the Pharisee. Here are some questions to help us know when we might be praying like this…

When I pray, am I out to make much of God, or are am I more interested in God making much of me? Do I minimize God’s worth by failing to adore Him as merciful and gracious or able and powerful? Do I minimize His faithfulness by demanding He give me more while never thanking Him for what He’s already provided? 

2. Proud-hearted Pray-ers are Self-Referencing.

A proud-hearted person’s favorite subject is self. Enter Pharisee. He mentions God once while referencing himself five times. The only reason God makes the cut is so that He can attend the Pharisee’s personal parade of self-glory.

Here’s the paraphrased prayer: God, I, I, I, I, I am really fantastic. Don’t you just love me. You’re welcome.[1]

Sickening, right? I mean, who really prays like this?

We do. You see, when our prayers are all about us, we are praying like this. They may not come out sounding this narcissistic, but we are still the focus.

More questions… if God answered every prayer I prayed last week, how many other people would benefit? How many… Would begin to follow Jesus? Follow Jesus better? Missionaries be empowered? Marriages be saved? Bills get paid? Prodigals come home? Addictions be broken? Sick find healing? Orphans adopted? Would finally forgive? Or, stay in school?

If the only person who ever benefits from my prayers is me, then I am praying like a proud-hearted Pharisee.

3. Proud-hearted Pray-ers are Others-Condemning.

In verse 9, the Pharisee, lists off the filthiest groups of people he can think of. The tax collector—who as I will share in the next post, actually was a filthy guy—makes that list.

Have you ever considered why those who don’t come to Church, don’t come to church? This is a big reason why. The un-churched, de-churched, sometimes re-churched are often victims of a condemning eye. 

Let’s examine ourselves by asking: who am I proudly condemning that Jesus died to pardon?

Is it… The person who pulls for a different team? The Social Media user who always gets more likes than you? The Dad who passively allows his kids to run buck wild in Target? The single mom who shows up late to Church and can’t get her baby to stop crying during the message? The Republican? The Democrat? The fit person? The overweight person? The addict? The rich? The poor? The LGBTQ? The straight? The black? The white?

Listen, it’s okay to give unequal weight to the ways of certain people. Jesus did that. It’s not okay to give unequal weight to the humanity of certain people. Jesus did not do that.

The main difference between those of us who think we’re better than others and Jesus is the fact that Jesus really is better than the rest of us. Later in Luke’s gospel, the same Jesus who told the story about the Pharisee, would go to die in place of the Pharisee.

So, instead of crushing our proud-hearts with the condemnation we deserve, Jesus humbles our proud-hearts with the commendation that only He deserves (see II Corinthians 5:21).

On the cross, Jesus prayed and died for proud-hearted people.

May this awesome truth humble us all.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~Jesus~

 

References:

[1] I am indebted to Mark Driscoll for this paraphrase in his sermon, Works Righteousness vs. Gift Righteousness: https://markdriscoll.org/sermons/works-righteousness-vs-gift-righteousness/

Posted
AuthorJeremy Woods