Humility in Prayer
Sir 35:12-14, 16-18
2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18
Last Sunday we heard about the need for persistence in prayer. This week, we learn about the need of an attitude of humility in our prayer life. In the gospel, Jesus tell the parable of two men who go to the temple area to pray. One is a Pharisee, a teacher of the law. He holds a high position in the religious community of believers. The other man is a tax collector, a collaborator with the Roman authorities. The contrast is clear – a respected member of the community and a collaborator with the despised Romans.
In the Pharisee’s prayer God is reminded of how good a person he is when he says, “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.” And then we hear about the tax collector who stands off by himself, won’t raise his eyes to heaven, strikes his breast, and prays, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” We see two contrasts – pride and humility.
The surprise in this parable is that Jesus offers the humility of the tax collector as the model for prayer, not that of the Pharisee. We are reminded that when we pray we need to recognize that we need God in our lives. If we are filled up with worldly concerns and filled with ourselves and all we have and do we leave little, if any, room for God to be with us. All of us are in need of God’s grace, God’s presence. Everything in this world is part of God’s creation. Nothing compares to the immensity of God and God’s love for us. None of our time, talent and treasure can match God’s plenitude.
The gospel ends with these important words,” I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” It’s a good practice to not toot our own horn, but rather, that of tooting God’s!
The refrain and first verse of the Responsorial Psalm is a good reminder for us.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall be ever in my mouth.
Let my soul glory in the LORD;
the lowly will hear me and be glad.
In your relationship with God and in your prayer life are you someone who humbles yourself or one who exalts yourself?
How honest are you with yourself regarding your relationship with God?