Prayer – Parable of Pharisee and tax collector


To help pupils understand that prayer is part of a relationship with God.

Bible base

Luke 18:9-14 – the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector.

You will need:

A mobile phone


  • Arrange, in advance, for someone to be waiting for a phone call from you during the assembly. It could be your mother or father or someone posing as them. Alternatively, you could arrange for the person to phone you during the assembly (when you are ready, dial the number you want and let it ring a couple of times as a signal to the person to ring you back).
  • Rehearse the phone conversation in advance, along the lines indicated in the Content section below.
  • Rehearse your reading or telling of the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14)


Phone home!

1. Begin by saying that you have got your mobile phone with you this morning (show it to the pupils). Comment how amazing it is that you can speak to anyone you like, as long as they are near a phone, within a few seconds. How is that possible? There are not so many messages rushing around the earth. This phone is not even connected by wires or cables! The technology is incredible!

2. Mention that you were told that ‘orange’ ones were good, but the shop only had black ones in stock!

3. Suggest that you could make a call, here and now, from the assembly! Explain that you know someone who is in, because you always have a chat on the phone at this time of day. Tell everyone that it’s your mother or father (don’t say the number!). Say that everyone will have a chance to talk to him or her. Ask the audience to keep very quiet until you give a signal and then they must shout, ‘Hiya Mum (Dad).’ Give the audience a practice at doing this before you phone.

4. Make the call and during the (pre-arranged) conversation, make sure you include the following:

  • Say thank you for something;
  • Say sorry about something;
  • Ask for a favour;
  • Make it appear that you are listening to some advice (eg by saying something like, ‘OK I will’);
  • End by saying, ‘I love you’ so softly that you have to repeat it, to your ‘embarrassment’! Let everyone say ‘Hiya Mum (Dad)!’ and end the call.

5. Comment that your mobile phone is a good one but it’s got its limitations. For example, you have to keep it turned on and the batteries fade; it has to be within range and, as with any phone, the person you are trying to call has to be in and has to want to talk to you! Say that you doubt whether you could talk to the Queen, although there was a Canadian journalist who once managed it!

Talk with God

1. Explain that you have another mobile phone that’s usuable any time and at any range. It has free rental and there are no charges for calls. It’s called ‘prayer’. Christians think of prayer as being like a two-way conversation, a bit like using the phone. Then add that they may have noticed, though, how some people treat phones as though they are made for one-way conversations! They forget that there are two parts to a phone. Ask if they have ever had that sort of experience? (Hold the phone, outstretched, away from your ear!)

2. Comment that some people treat prayer like that, too. They keep on talking at God, instead of having a conversation with him.

3. Read or tell the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) from a contemporary version of the Bible.


  1. Make the point that although we may not feel good enough to pray, that is the very attitude God is looking for in prayers! Instead of long, formal prayers, the Bible shows people talking to God as a person – which is what he is!
  2. Remind everyone that during your telephone call earlier, there were three very important things you said: there was a ‘thank you’, a ‘sorry’ and ‘a please’. And those are exactly the sort of things that many Christians try to include in their prayers with God: telling him about all the things that have happened to them and are going to happen; all the different ways in which they have felt, happy, angry, disappointed. Conversation with God – prayer – is about being real with someone who is always at the end of the line, never out, never switched off, and who never has flat batteries!
  3. The conversation you had on the phone earlier also included your listening to some advice and being reminded of some things you had forgotten. And there was also a chance to say how you felt about your mum (dad). For the Christian, these things are part of prayer too.
  4. Conclude by reminding everyone that conversation is part of a relationship; and prayer is part of our relationship with God. Like all relationships, it needs working at! Encourage pupils to talk with God. It’s good to talk.



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