In today’s parable, a Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed about how good he was, but the tax collector asked for God’s mercy as he was a sinner. The Pharisee was so consumed with his own accomplishments that he self-righteously looked down at the tax collector; whereas, the tax collector was so consumed with acknowledging his own sin and his need for God’s mercy that he didn’t have time to evaluate the Pharisee.
Jesus said that it was the tax collector who went home justified before God. He concluded, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
So much can be said about prayer. Very simply, prayer is the time we spend nurturing our relationship with God. The saints’ lives have revealed much about the human experience of prayer. We hear about St Teresa of Avila and her “Interior Castle” as a way of prayer and communion with God. We also have come to know about St Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s ‘dark night of the soul’ where she reveals her struggle with prayer. We have all had moments where prayer has come easy and other times when it is a commitment to keep.
The Gospel nourishes our prayer life and instructs us on how to pray so that communion with God can be constant, honest and simple. Last weekend we were taught that we are to be persistent in prayer. This Sunday we are reminded that God expects and honours a humble heart.
Jesus taught about humility in the act of prayer when he instructed his followers to “go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret” (Matthew 6:6). He made it clear that the purpose of prayer was not to win the admiration of others but to experience a real connection with God.
Jesus also reminded the disciples that the purpose of all prayer is to give glory to God. The exaltation is not for us, but for the Father who answers our prayers through his Son. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). In a world of self-promotion, we are blessed when we humble ourselves, giving God glory, honour and praise.
Dear God, we come to you with humble hearts, praising you as the author of all creation, awaiting your grace and guidance in all our lives. We love you. Amen.