Listen to the podcast version here.
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.
Petition: Lord, help me to be humble
when I approach you in prayer
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?
2. The 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 substantial humility.
will always make an act of humility at the beginning
of my prayer.