This week I have four short meditations on prayer based on Luke 18:9-14:
“He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9–14 NRSV)
This parable is in many ways about prayer, but it isn’t trying to teach us what to say, so much as the kind of attitude, or posture we are to have when we pray.
The Catholic football team was on its way to an important game. A reporter boarded the train and asked for the football coach.
“I understand,” said the reporter, “that you carry a chaplain to pray for the success of the team. Would you mind introducing me to him?”
“That would be a pleasure,” said the coach. “Which one do you want to meet, the offensive or the defensive chaplain?”
From Anthony de Mello’s Song of the Bird (p.150)
Many of us are probably familiar with at least the idea of the great lengths that sport fans will go to make sure their team is on the winning side. But there’s another way to hear this second parable and it is about the attitude in which we pray. Continue reading Prayers of Offense and Defense (pt. 1)