Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else: ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.
The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.”
The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’
The parables that are such a significant part of Luke’s Gospel are the source of the Gospel again, this coming Sunday, the 30th In Ordinary Time.
The Pharisee prays ‘to himself’. It’s a telling phrase, descriptive of the prayer, and revealing that despite the words said the prayer is not in fact being spoken to God but simply it is the speaker, the supposed ‘pray-er’ speaking to himself. In this case it is the Pharisee who doesn’t speak to God, so taken up is he, with himself.
It is the tax collector, who knows his limits, and to his shame, who does speak, directly to God. And who is heard, and who is saved.
- To whom do I speak in prayer? What proportion of the time is given to God, and how much to self reflection?
- Doe the self-reflection precede the prayer to God? Or follow it?
- How do I take responsibility for my prayer?
Pharisee and Publican: Tewkesbury Abbey. (c) 2016, Allen Morris.