If prayer is us talking with God, there is a real sense in which the Bible is God talking with us. The Bible reveals God and his ways to us. When we pray in response to the Bible it is the best kind of conversation.
One of the most famous stories of Jesus is about his encounter with the wee little man, Zacchaeus. Thinking about the desperate case of the tight-fisted tax man and then Jesus’ responses to him inspire quite a bit of hope for us today. Consider first the Bible’s recounting of that historical encounter, and then follow along with an example of responding to God in a hopeful prayer.
“He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost’” (Luke 19:1-10).
It is amazing, O God, that you know me on the earth. All people are but small creatures in a vast creation. More so, we are rebellious creatures.
I have sinned in many ways. I have made choices that have hurt myself, but also my family and friends around me. I have sinned against you.
I have put distance between myself and the good things of this life. My company is comfortable with those that join me in dishonoring you.
In spite of all that, you know me. In spite of that, you care about me. When I make the smallest of efforts to seek you, you really are there.
Zacchaeus was an utter outcast from his society. O how hard his heart must have been because of all of the choices he had made. He wanted nothing to do with the righteous, and I’m sure they wanted nothing to do with him.
But Jesus piqued his interest. What had he heard about Jesus? Had he caught wind of stories of healing, kindness, and grace. Miracles were happening. Did a red spark of hope kindle within his black heart?
Zacchaeus responded to that spark. He sought to see Jesus, even climbing a tree to see.
You stopped. You looked at him. You spoke to him. You called him by name. You went with him to his house.
When he received you his darkness turned into light. His despair turned into joy.
Can I imagine a response like that for me today? Could my small spark of hope lead to a tiny effort to seek Jesus? I’ve heard the stories about him too. Although, they happened long ago, they are all true. Your kind character is exactly the same.
Please look up at me. I want to seek you like Zacchaeus. I don’t care that people might mock me for climbing a tree in public. I’ve got to find out if your grace still reaches out to sinners today. I’ve got to see if you would stop and look and call me by name.
Please help me to humble myself. Please help me to seek you. Please help me to have a red spark of hope in my black heart. Don’t douse it with water, but fan it with your kindness.
I can’t imagine one as undeserving as the tax man having you come into his home. But if you would, come into my life. May my hope respond with joy and generosity like Zacchaeus. His responses show his renewed heart.
God, I am clinging to that word that your Son came to seek and to save the lost. I feel so lost right now. Seek me. Save me. Please come to my house today.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.