Ecclesiasticus 35:12-14, 16-19
The Lord is a judge
who is no respecter of personages.
He shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man,
he listens to the plea of the injured party.
He does not ignore the orphan’s supplication,
nor the widow’s as she pours out her story.
The man who with his whole heart serves God will be accepted,
his petitions will carry to the clouds.
The humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds,
until it arrives he is inconsolable,
And the Lord will not be slow,
nor will he be dilatory on their behalf.
2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18
My life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to be gone. I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his Appearing.
The first time I had to present my defence, there was not a single witness to support me. Every one of them deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it. But the Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear; and so I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from all evil attempts on me, and bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
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 prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds
Nagging is quite possibly one of the ugliest traits a person can have. The basic premise of nagging is trust, or more accurately, the lack of it. We nag because we don’t trust that things will get done unless we are actively micro-managing it. But when we repeat petitions and prayers to God, isn’t that a little like nagging? And nagging God, no less? I was reflecting on this while at church last Sunday, as I rattled off a litany of petitions to Him. As request number 25 rolled off my tongue, I wondered — how must it feel to be God? To be talked to like some bearded, blue-tinged genie? If I were to weigh out how often I asked of Him, ‘Can you please do this/that…’, versus how often I said ‘Thank you’, or ‘Forgive me’, what would that ratio look like? 2:1? 10:1? 50:1? When it comes down to it, what is the quality of our prayer?
On reading the gospel from Luke today, the image of the Pharisee in ‘self-congratulatory prayer’ struck me. Most of us would probably go, “That’s so not me! Of course I give thanks! Of course I’m grateful for His blessings!” But words are empty unless they’re spoken from the heart. The Pharisee also ‘gave thanks’ but what is thankfulness without humility and self-awareness – “Oh God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity…” Is it really thanksgiving?
The quality of my prayer has been something I’ve started to think about a lot lately. I tend to ‘list’ things. I list my thanks for all His blessings. I list my requests. I list my sins or what I can think of at least, and ask for His forgiveness. But always, I am checking off lists, making new lists, updating lists, deleting lists. Somehow, I don’t think that’s how we’re supposed to be praying. I’d like to have a conversation with God sometimes, a heart-to-heart without the tyranny of all these lists and boxes I need to complete. I know He knows my heart – all the things I want to say, the things I can’t say, the things I’m too afraid to speak. And He has already given me all that I need, all the gifts for this journey called Life. Wouldn’t it be great for once, to be able to just sit with God, and be?
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for the honesty to engage God in thoughtful, prayerful, mindful conversation.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for The Word, our guide to how to live a prayerful, purposeful life.