Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced
of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. "Two
people went up to the Temple area to pray;
one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax
collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke
this prayer to himself, ´O God, I thank you
that I am not like the rest of humanity --
greedy, dishonest, adulterous -- or even like this tax
collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay
tithes on my whole income.´ But the tax collector stood
off at a distance and would not even raise
his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed,
´O God, be merciful to me a sinner.´ I
tell you, the latter went home justified, not the
former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and
the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you. I believe
that you have created me and redeemed me from sin.
I believe that everything that is good in my
life comes from you : my existence, my faith,
my education, what virtues I have. I come to you
today in prayer to place my life before you.
I know that you are the source of all
goodness in me. So often I wonder if I really
know how to pray. I wonder how fruitful my
prayer is. In the face of my misery I offer
you the one thing I know I can offer:
my humility before your majesty.
help me to be humble when I approach you in
1. Parallel Monologues, Not Conversation: The Pharisee went up
to the Temple to pray. We can assume that
his intention was to talk with God. As he stood
there in the Temple, he thought he was praying:
he was in the right place, he was facing the
right direction, he seemed to be doing the right
thing. But his prayer was contorted. In fact it
was not prayer at all; it was a self-righteous discourse.
If a friend were to ask him the next
day if he had said his prayers, he would have
said, “Yes.” Is my own prayer sometimes a false
prayer like the Pharisee’s? Do I think I am
praying, doing all of the right things, but in reality
not praying at all and only justifying myself?
Bare Minimum Does Not Satisfy: The poor Pharisee gets
painted as the “bad guy” in this parable. But
in reality he is not an outwardly evil person. He
does not commit grave sins. He is honest, faithful
to his wife, generous in his giving. But his
pride blinds him to a much deeper relationship with God.
He lives his religion as the bare minimum of
not committing grave sins. His prayer is sterile. I must
examine myself to make sure I am not doing
the same, thinking I am doing all the right
things but in reality barely living my faith. God does
not ask us simply to avoid evil. He invites
us to do good. True generosity is what brings
peace and fulfillment to our lives.
3. Humility - An
Essential Element of Prayer: The tax collector is justified not
because he has done all of the right things,
but because he has the humility to recognize his
own sinfulness. Perhaps he even heard what the Pharisee was
saying and it moved him all the more to
plead for God’s mercy. One of the most important
characteristics of our prayer is that it be humble. When
we go to pray we must approach God recognizing
our sinfulness and weakness and the fact that we have
received everything good that we have from him. This
is what makes our prayer fruitful. God loves a
humble, contrite heart.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Lord,
grant me a humble, contrite heart. You know my misery.
I offer you the misery of my sinfulness so
that you can purify it and do with it as
you will. I do not want to live my
life merely avoiding the big sins. I want to have
a deep and intimate relationship with you founded on
Resolution: I will always make
an act of humility at the beginning of my prayer.