The One Who Is Speaking
“Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’ ” (vv. 9–10).- Luke 17:7–10
In every conversation, our understanding of the one to whom we are speaking shapes the direction and the tone. This is not less true of prayer, which at root consists of a conversation between us and God. Yes, there is a sense in which we may call ourselves friends of God, just as Abraham was a friend of God (John 15:15; James 2:23). However, our friendship with the Lord can never be a casual relationship. After all, God is our sovereign Lord who is majestic in holiness and awesome in power (Ex. 15:11; Rev. 6:10). If we do not come before Him with awe and wonder, we sin greatly by lacking the humble spirit that our Creator regards so highly (Isa. 66:1–2).
When it comes to prayer, then, the most fundamental thing we have to remember is the identity of the One to whom we are speaking. The second most fundamental fact we must recall is the identity of the one who is speaking to God in prayer. Recognizing God as the Sovereign Lord cannot help but make us recognize that we are His servants. And ultimately, God does not owe even His faithful servants anything. Jesus makes this point in today’s passage (Luke 17:7–10). Servants do not come before their masters demanding thanks or a reward. Any thanks or blessing they do receive is given only according to the good will of the master. In other words, though God does bless and reward us for our service, this reward finds its origin entirely in His grace. We cannot merit anything from Him; His blessing is always a gift.
God does not owe us anything because He is the Creator and we are creatures (Gen. 1:26–28). He must graciously choose to be in covenant with us; we could not demand a relationship with Him even in our unfallen state. But the fact that we have fallen into sin makes it all the more true that we cannot rightly claim that He owes us anything. We have fallen short of His glory, not living up to His perfect standard (Matt. 5:48; Rom. 3:23). Thankfully, God in His grace has solved that problem by providing us the righteousness of Christ, with which we are clothed when we turn from our sin and trust in Christ alone for salvation (Rom. 3:21–26; Gal. 2:15–16). This turning from sin happens decisively in conversion, but we must regularly repent of sin throughout our lives as well (1 John 1:8–10). Remembering who we are when we pray entails confessing our sins when we address our Maker in prayer.
We are creatures, and God alone is the Creator. That fact alone should generate in us a spirit of humility when we come to God in prayer. We are utterly dependent on Him and His grace for all things, and we are in need of His cleansing power to restore us when we sin. When you go to the Lord in prayer, confess your sins to Him and remember that you are dependent on Him for forgiveness and for all other good things.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 7:10