The Proper Attitude of Prayer

Sunday, October 23, 2022 | By Rev. Michael P. Hanifin

Readings: SIR 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 TM 4:6-8,16-18; LK 18:9-14

In last week’s readings we were encouraged to remain persistent and constant in our prayer life. Today we focus on the proper attitude of a faith-filled person at prayer.

In the Gospel passage from Luke, Jesus illustrated the humble attitude disciples of Jesus Christ must have as we approach God in prayer through a parable of two praying men. One is a Pharisee, a man with respected status, theological training and all the right credentials. He marched right up to the front of the temple to speak a prayer “to himself,” thanking God for making him just a little bit superior to everyone else!

The other man is a tax collector, known by those of his day to be a cheater and a Jewish sell-out to Roman Occupiers. In contrast to the Pharisee, he stood near the back and cried out to God in a simple and honest way: “Be merciful to me a sinner.”

Jesus tells us that it is the tax collector and not the Pharisee who left the temple justified. Why?

The Pharisee was full of himself as he approached God. He felt no real need for God as he rattled off his resume of good works and spiritual practices. He was simply going through the motions of prayer. His lack of humility prevented him from entering into a real dialogue with the Father. He was not transformed by his time of prayer because he was so egotistical that He left God no space to enter in.

The tax collector, by contrast, emptied himself as he approached God. He recognized who he truly was (a sinner) and asked simply for mercy, leaving all the rest up to God. This is the kind of attitude that God can work with! This is how we are to pray — with trust, with complete openness to God’s will, with a listening mind and heart, and a readiness to serve as God leads us.