HUMILITY always comes before EXALTATION: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:14)
Our Lord Jesus spoke the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (vv. 9–14) to people who prided themselves on being righteous, and who despised all others as inferior. He reminded them that it is this spirit of self-humiliation and repentance that is acceptable to God. God exalts the humble, but He humbles those who exalt themselves!
Although the Pharisee went through the motions of prayer, he was really not speaking to God. He was so proud of himself that he started off his prayer with a comparison: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men”. Instead of comparing himself with God’s perfect standard and seeing how sinful he really was, he compared himself with others in the community and prided himself on being better.
The tax collector was a striking contrast. Standing before God, he sensed his own utter unworthiness. He did not think of himself as one sinner among many, but as the sinner who was unworthy of anything from God. This man shows us the path to true identity. It is based on honesty about ourselves and becoming like Christ!
Thus, Jesus identified the contrast between the Pharisee and the tax collector as one between pride and humility, between those who exalt and those who humble themselves. God will bring down the proud and will exalt the humble. The Pharisee relied on his own merits, not having discovered that no human righteousness is sufficient before a God who demands perfection (Matt. 5:48). The tax collector relied on God’s mercy and found it.
True prayer should humble us and make us love others more. We should be like children coming to a Father when we pray. Let us remember that humility always comes before exaltation!
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble". Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:5-7)