Praying to Oneself

Do you ever find yourself praying to yourself, like the pharisee in today’s parable (Luke 18.9–14)? Luke is very hard on the pharisee. Most pharisees were good people, and, far from being hypocrites, were devoted to the Law, charitable and upstanding members of society. Unfortunately, being ‘good’ can sometimes get in the way of being truly open to God; and that is exactly what happens with the pharisee in today’s gospel. Instead of praying to God, he addresses himself; and rather than acknowledging his sinfulness, he gives thanks for his virtues. The tax-collector, by contrast, knows he is a sinner through and through and simply asks for mercy.

Being honest about oneself does lead to a great simplification in prayer. There is nothing to say except, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. The pharisee, alas, has obviously read too many books about self-worth and that has led him onto dangerous ground, making comparisons between himself and others (to their detriment). Clearly, being honest about oneself shouldn’t mean denying the gifts God has given, but it should make us realise that they are indeed gifts, not something we have earned or have of ourself.

We can all take something away from today’s reading, but I guarantee it won’t be comfortable.


2 thoughts on “Praying to Oneself”

  1. Something that we can learn from the Pharisee and the Tax Collector that humility is the first step to self acceptance and knowing that all that we have and are given is from God’s blessings, not purely from our own efforts.

    Sometimes we do forget this and wander off in the exciting adventure of our ego, but our ego is an obstruction to God, and perhaps the cause of sin and separation from God.

    I do say on a daily basis, Lord have Mercy on me a poor sinner, because I know that I am . That seems to me to be a better measure of self worth than any ego.

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