Posts Tagged Prayer

Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting (Ash Wednesday)

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.”

Today is a universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholic spirituality traditionally includes in repentance some form of penance. Penance means some practice that lets us express sorrow for our sins and helps repair the damage that sin has caused.

Penance gives us important practice in resisting temptation, thereby strengthening us. It greatly strengthens a number of virtues, especially charity, and it greatly enriches life.

The Catholic Church has two official forms of penitential practices: fasting and abstinence. These are so important that they’re one of the precepts of the Catholic Church.

Fasting is reducing the amount of food you eat below normal levels. Specifically, on fast days you may eat one full meal and two smaller meals, but those two smaller together should not exceed the amount of the normal meal. Snacking is also prohibited on fast days.

All Catholics age 18 to 59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. You are excused from fasting if you have a legitimate need to eat a normal amount of food on fast days. This includes:

The sick or infirm, including handicapped or mentally ill people who need the nourishment or cannot make a free choice to fast Pregnant or nursing women Some manual laborers Abstinence means not eating meat (fish is not considered meat in this case). All Catholics 14 and older are required to observe abstinence on these days:

Ash Wednesday, Good Friday (the Friday before Easter), and all Fridays in Lent. This is required on all Fridays of the year, in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. In the U.S., it is still strongly recommended to observe Friday abstinence outside of Lent, but Catholics may choose to substitute another penitential practice or act of charity for these days. Note that the duty to perform the tasks of your state in life takes precedence over the law of fasting in the precepts of the Catholic Church. If fasting honestly causes you to be unable to fulfill your required tasks, it is uncharitable to fast — the law of fasting would not apply in this case. (Consult with a priest if this is a concern to you.)

Catholics all over the world, in this season of Lent, are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434). 

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is , therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR)

Penance such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882) 

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful?

  • Let us do our penance out of personal conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and ostentations if one fast “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures, and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6; 16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time, it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4).

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy.

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13).

 

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Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 ALMSGIVING, PRAYER AND FASTING

Today is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins the great season of Lent, when we are invited to “return sincerely to the Lord our God with fasting prayer and mourning” (Jl  2:12) and to offer to God a sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.  It is the time of the year when we are reminded again that we are dust, and to dust we will return. On a more positive note, we are reminded “to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” 

Today is universal day of fasting and abstinence. Catholics all over the world are encouraged to pray, to fast and abstain, and to share to the poor and the needy. Simply put, to do penance. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer and almsgiving (Cf. Tob 12:8; Mt 6:1-18), which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others (CCC 1434).  

What is penance? What does it mean to do penance? “Penance is concrete daily effort of a person, supported by God’s grace to lose his/her own life for Christ as the only means of gaining it; an effort to put off the old man and put on the new; an effort to overcome in oneself what is of the flesh in order that what is spiritual may prevail; it is a continual effort to rise from the thing of here below to things above, where Christ is. Penance is ,therefore, a conversion that passes from the heart to deeds to the Christian whole life” (JP, PR) 

Penance such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare us for the liturgical feast; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart (Cf. CIC, cann. 1249-1251; CCEO. Can. 882) 

How do we make our penance fruitful and meaningful? 

  • Let us do our penance out of personal conviction and in freedom. Let us guard ourselves of legal formalism and superficiality which the prophets had already denounced, pride and ostentations if one fasts “in order to be seen by men. It must be done in secret, with sincerity and voluntarily.  
  • Let us fast, pray and share to the needy as our penance out of our love for God and neighbor. This is the greatest commandment. This is the summary of the all the laws of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. Nothing more, nothing less and nothing else.  
  • “This rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread to the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked, and not turning your back on your own” (Is 58:6-8).  
  • Penance finds its fulfillment, meaning and relevance only in the context of “Jesus call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes”, fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance (Cf. 2:12-13; Is. 1:16-17; Mt. 6;1-6; 16-18).

Interior repentance is a radical orientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our hearts, an end to sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of the spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of the heart) (Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1676-1678; 1705; cf. Roman Catechism, II, V, 4). 

Fasting, prayers and almsgiving are interconnected and complimentary. Fasting is the soul of prayer. Mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So when you pray, fast; when you fast, show mercy. 

Starting this Ash Wednesday as we begin the season of lent, strive to be humble and “return to God with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts not your garments, and return to the Lord  your God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” (Jl 2:12-13). 

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Luke 18:1-8 Parable of the Persistent Widow

 

Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”  I do not exactly the context when and why he  said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it.  Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.

 

The gospel  parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.

 

There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.

 

Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:

 

First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613). 

Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22).  This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote: 

“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)

 

Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffereing and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.

 

Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.

 

If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait   pause and think about this:

 

God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.

 

Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:

 

1. Yes

2. Wait

3. I have something better for you.

 

When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:

 

1. The love of God that wants the best for us.

2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.

3. The power of God that can accomplish it.

 

Allow me to end my homily with an exhortation taken from the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians:

 

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus, “ (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

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Lk 18:1-8 The Parable of the Persistent Widow

Charles L. Allen once said, “When you say a situation or person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.”  I do not exactly the context when and why he  said it but considering the message in itself in the light of the gospel we can somehow conclude that he was indeed correct when he said it.  Why? Because there is no such thing as hopeless situation only people who have grown hopeless about their situation. And more importantly, with God nothing is hopeless. No one is hopeless. To the one who believes nothing is impossible. To the one who persistently prays nothing is impossible.

The gospel  parable that we just heard is commonly known as the “The Parable of the Persistent Widow.” As the title suggests, the main theme of the Gospel is PERSISTENCY IN PRAYER.

There are people who have stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer stand the delay. The way this group of peoply pray is this: “Lord, I pray for this. And I want it here and now.” Fundamental question about prayer such as “Until when should I pray?” always pops up like adwares, starwares and trojan viruses in the internet even among the devout believers? Today we are happy to know that the theme of today’s gospel parable gives us an explicit and direct answer to the question.

Considering the gospel as a whole it gives us several points:

First, the duty to pray, to pray constantly, to pray with confidence and persistence. As Jesus assures us: “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.” To the one who prays like this, the heavenly Father will “give whatever he needs,” and above all the Holy Spirit who contains all gifts (see CCC 2613).

Second, the answer to the prayer, persisted in, is certain. “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22).  This is best articulated to us by Bruce R. McConkie when he wrote:

“If an unjust earthly judge will finally dispense justice because of the repeated importunities of the widow, how much more shall the God of all the earth, who is the embodiment of perfect justice and impartiality, grant the just petitions of his faithful saints.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 1: 542.)

Third, God is always on the side of the poor, needy, exploited, and oppressed. When we are suffering and when we are in need, exploited, and oppressed the more reasons for us to pray with confidence and persistence because the Lord is always our side. If the evil judge grants justice to the widow, however reluctantly, how much more will a loving and just God vindicate God’s people in times of need and crisis.

Fourth, prayer is rooted and flows from faith. When we are no longer praying constantly, confidently and persistenly it’s a sign, an indication that our faith is already wavering. This is the reason why Lord warns for the failure of faith when he comes again as judge both of the living and the dead. See to it, therefore, that you still believe and pray with persistence even in a seemingly hopeless situation, even in times of desperation, even in moments when God seems to be sleeping, far and busy with other concerns.

If you belong to those group of people who stopped praying because they claimed their prayers were not answered by God or they can no longer wait   pause and think about this:

God always says yes to our prayers. The yes of God however is not the yes we want it to be. If he does not give us our request, it is because he gives something better.

Yes God always reply to all our prayers. His reply may be as follows:

1. Yes

2. Wait

3. I have something better for you.

When you pray always consider and be consoled with these:

1. The love of God that wants the best for us.

2. The wisdom of God that knows what is best for us.

3. The power of God that can accomplish it.

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Mark 1:29-39 The Cure of Simon’s Mother-in-Law

In today’s gospel story we heard that Jesus heals Peter mother-in-law who was threatened by a convulsion caused by a high fever which was considered a deadly disease in the ancient times.

The healing of Jesus was considered a miracle for three reasons:

  • Instantaneous
  • Complete
  • Caused by the personal intervention of Jesus

Because of this healing miracle of Jesus, news spread near and far, that Jesus has the power over sickness and death. As a result, “When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons, not permitting them to speak because they knew him” (Mk 1:32-34).

What is something unique in the story is this. In spite of being busy doing the “work of God” Jesus never fails to forget the “God of work.”  As the gospel writer relates, Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35).

What usually is our justification for failing to pray, for failing to go to Mass? Usually it may be one of the three or combination of them all.

  • I’m busy.
  • I’m self-sufficient so what’s the use of praying.
  • My work, apostolate, service is my prayer.

If there is any person who has the credibility or right to say them all is no other than Jesus. But Jesus never fails to find time and place to be alone with God the Father in prayer, intimacy and friendship.

Ezra Taft Benzon says it best when he wrote:

“[Jesus] communed constantly with his Father through prayer. This he did not only to learn the will of his Father but also to obtain the strength to do his Father’s will. He fasted and prayed forty days and forty nights at the beginning of his ministry. (Mt. 4:2; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:2) He prayed all night just before choosing his twelve apostles. (Lk 6:12-13.) He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mt 26:39) It would seem that during his earthly ministry he never made a major decision or met a crisis without praying.” (Come unto Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 44.)

When you have problems,  when you are in trouble, in crisis, and difficulties, when you are confronted with major decisions and tasks in life  never fail to find time and place to be one with God in prayer, communion and friendship. With God everything is possible. With God we bear abundant fruits. With God, like Jesus, we can also overcome the world.

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Lk 18:9-14: The Parable of the Pharisees and the Tax Collector

Today’s Gospel parable has deep meaning and no word wasted. It has a message that challenges and hits the bull’s eye. Exalt yourself and you will be humbled. Humble yourself and you will be exalted.

The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector is terribly contemporary, for it raises the shadow of two constant temptations.

The first temptation is thinking that we alone save our souls. Jesus’ parable is addressed to all who attribute to themselves as pleasing to God, all who lift themselves to heaven by their own bootstraps. It’s true we cannot be saved unless we want to, but even that wanting, that very desire, is God’s grace to us. It is Jesus who saves.

Now don’t misunderstand the parable. God will not mind if your prayer of thanksgiving sounds in part like the Pharisee’s: “O God, I thank you for all I am. I have such a high IQ. In looks I score 10. I never miss Mass on Sundays (despite your boring preachers), haven’t broken any commandment this year. I work for the victims of wars, and earthquakes, of typhoons and floods. I helped the poor and the lonely, the sick, the “sungit” and “pangit.” I even support the parish priest with all kinds of gifts.”

Not a bad prayer, but useless unless you add, day in and day out, “O God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am.” In your prayer of thanksgiving thank God for His mercy, from the birth of His Son in a stable, through his death on a cross, to his birth in your heart. Without that mercy, without God’s constant forgiveness, all your work would be worthless.

The second temptation is less subtle, a danger to everyday living — comparing oneself with others. Throughout history men and women have fallen prey in some measure to the Pharisee’s fault: “I am not like the rest of mankind.” Early Christians looked down on the Jews “rejected by God,” Crusaders on infidels they would massacre. Protestants and Catholics despised one another. The upper educated class looks down on the bakya crowd. And so on across the spectrum of human living.

Perhaps we can raise our prayer of thanksgiving to a high Christian level: “O God, I thank you that I am like the rest of humankind. I thank you that like everyone else, I too have been shaped in your image, with a mind to know and a heart to love. I thank you that, like everyone else, I too was embraced by the crucified arms of your Son. I too have him for a brother. I thank you that you judge me, like everyone else, not by my brains or looks, my clothes, the figures of my bank account, the size of my house and the model of my car, but by the love that is your gift to me, by the way I share the passion of your Christ. I thank you that, for all our thousand differences, I am remarkably like the people all around me.”

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Luke 18:12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess

“This parable is not about hypocrisy; it’s about pride. By objective human standards, in terms of the number and frequency of rules kept, the Pharisee really was the more righteous of the two individuals! Yet according to the Savior: ‘I tell you, this man [the publican] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ (V. 14.)

“I fear that, like the Pharisee in the parable, some of us who are relatively good at keeping the rules also trust in ourselves that we are righteous. Such are inordinately proud of their own goodness; they exalt themselves. But whenever we are proud of how good we are instead of being humbled by how imperfect we are (cf. “2 Ne. 4:17″2 Ne. 4:18″2 Ne. 4:192 Ne. 4:17-19), our hearts are not broken, nor are our spirits contrite.

Robert E. Wells

“If we are to increase in favor with God, we must resolve to overcome as much as possible the sin of pride. President Benson maintained that pride is the universal sin (Ensign, May 1989, p. 6). That means that every one of us, to one degree or another, suffers from the problem and must do all in our power to overcome its influence. As human beings, we have a remarkable capacity to fall under the influence of pride—even when we think we are in the safest of religious settings.

“I remember reading about the Sunday School teacher who taught her class that great scriptural lesson on the proud Pharisee who thanked the Lord that he was not a sinner like the publican, a penitent sinner who prayed for forgiveness. Jesus said the publican was more justified than the Pharisee (see Luke 18:9–14). The Sunday School teacher then suggested to her class that they should all thank God that they were not like that Pharisee! (See Robert J. McCracken, What Is Sin? What Is Virtue? New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p. 14.)

“Another story relates that a Carthusian monk, explaining to an inquirer about the distinctive features of his monastic order, said: ‘When it comes to good works, we don’t match the Benedictines; as to preaching, we are not in a class with the Dominicans; the Jesuits are away ahead of us in learning; but in the matter of humility, we’re tops’ (ibid., p. 14).” (“Resolutions,” Ensign, Dec. 1994, 65)

Joe J. Christensen

Luke 18:13 the publican…smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner

“How do you pray? Like publicans or arrogant officials? The Pharisee recounted to the Lord his many virtues. He was not an extortioner, unjust, an adulterer like the publican or other men. He fasted twice a week and tithed possessions. But the publican standing humbly in the background ‘would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18:13Luke 18:13.)

“In your secret prayers do you beat your breast and present yourself with your soul bared, or do you dress yourself in fancy coverings and pressure God to see your virtues? Do you emphasize your goodness and cover your sins with a blanket of pretense? Or do you plead for mercy at the hands of Kind Providence?

“Do you get answers to your prayers? If not, perhaps you did not pay the price. Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord? Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly? Do you offer pennies to pay heavy debts when, you should give dollars to erase that obligation?

“When you pray, do you just speak, or do you also listen? your Savior said, ‘Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ (Rev. 3:20Rev. 3:20.)

“The promise is made to everyone. There is no discrimination, no favored few. But the Lord has not promised to crash the door. He stands and knocks. If we do not listen, He will not sup with us nor give answer to our prayers. Do you know how to listen, grasp, interpret, understand? The Lord stands knocking. He never retreats. But He will never force himself upon us.” (October 11, 1961, BYU Speeches of the Year, 1961, p. 6.)

Spencer W. Kimball

TWO KINDS OF PRAYER: Prayer states one’s relationship with God. The way we pray reveals that relationship. The Pharisee prays as a character who “prays to himself” or “with reference to himself.” What he spells out is quite true: his observance of the Law goes beyond the legal requirements. But his prayer has been transformed into boasting. He has become full of himself that he seems not to need God anymore. Moreover, he assumes the role of judge and despises others. He reminds God of the deficiency of the tax collector, in case God has not noticed.
In contrast to the prayer of the puffed-up Pharisee, that of the tax collector is of utter simplicity and truth. Indeed he is a sinner. Indeed he needs God’s gift of righteousness because he has none of his own. In praying to God to have mercy on him, he asks God to give him what God “owes” him: mercy and forgiveness.
At the end of the story, the tax collector is the one justified by God, that is, God has placed him in right relationship with God. The Pharisee needed nothing and asked for nothing; he received nothing. The tax collector, by contrast, recognized he needed God’s gift of righteousness, and so he received it.

Source: 365 Days with the Lord

http://graceandspace.org/welcome/home/365-days-with-the-lord/543-the-parable-of-the-pharisee-and-the-tax-collector.html

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