Praying with an open heart
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22; Psalm 84:1-7; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; Luke 18:9-14
It’s not uncommon when you work with people -- and who doesn’t, in some way? -- to need to express frustration and irritation with a trusted friend, to blow off steam.
When this happens among my circle of friends, I’ve noticed that we tend to end our conversations with the statement, "It’s a good thing we’re perfect…”
Now let me be clear: We are well aware of our imperfections, painfully so most days. So, it’s a good thing that I’m nothing like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable.
And there is the danger. We read this scripture and realize that the Pharisee’s prayer of thanksgiving comes up a little short, and actually sounds more like a comparison. "I’m so fantastic, especially when you look at all these losers around me, thank you, God, for making me nothing like them."
Um, well, OK.
We recognize that this is no way to pray, no way to present one’s self in the house of the Lord, but at whose expense?
Are we any better than the Pharisee when we utter our exclamation of thankfulness that we’re nothing like that guy?
So, what are we to do? As usual, Jesus’ parable lifts up one of those scorned by society for his approach to God. The tax collector enters with a posture of humility and servitude and entreats the Lord for mercy as a sinner.
How do we engage in prayer? What is our prayer attitude?
One of the most moving times of worship on Good Friday for me as a worship leader is kneeling at the communion rail to pray the petitions of the bidding prayer.
Except for my small reading light, our sanctuary is dark by this point. In that space -- physical and emotional -- the weight of approaching God in prayer feels heavier than my everyday conversations with God.
Part of it, I know, is the context -- it’s Good Friday, after all.
But I imagine that there are ways to carry the solemnity of worship on that night to our prayers every day.
• How do our prayers -- both prayers we offer in worship and those we lift in times of personal prayer -- embody the humility of the tax collector?
• How do our prayers embrace the bravado of the Pharisee? Is there a place for both attitudes?
• If God knows our innermost thoughts, how much attention do we need to pay to the words we use in prayer?
• Is there a place or time that allows you to be more prayerful?
Jennifer Moland-Kovash is a pastor at All Saints Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation in Palatine, Ill.