Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
“The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself…” (Lk. 18:9-14) This story likely steps on many toes, but it illuminates a fundamental question for each of us. That is, when we pray are we speaking to God or to ourselves? How many of our private prayers are directed inward and linger there?
Conversely, do we envy lay persons who pray spontaneously without seeming to break a sweat? When the group seeks a volunteer to open or close a meeting with prayer do you fear that your prayer won’t measure up? Do you wish you were spiritual enough to offer a prayer for healing or blessing? Does our inner critic - often gazing outward - cause us to withhold prayers which would bless the community or lift a sister or brother in need? Public prayer is necessary. It edifies the Body of Christ. While one can improve with study and practice, I’m not speaking of impressing others with our skills. Meditating on this passage opened my eyes (again) to my own need to cultivate a more intentional and consistent private prayer life. How easy it is to get off track. Given work life, family obligations, ministry, etc., I wonder how our ancestors of faith developed daily prayer routines including Bible study. The saints and mystics tell us to linger in conversation with the Lord. We are told that God wants to speak with us. I’ve even heard that the Lord wants to sit with us in our sadness and disappointment, and likewise in our joy and contentment. So, how can we shake off the same fatigue that plagued the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane? Do we run to Jesus in emergency times but otherwise speed through prayer? For some, praying the rosary is key. Daily Mass helps others to carve out regular time prayer time. Still, God offers us still more but has given us free will. Get ready to plunge into the soothing water of intimate divine friendship. Then let go and let our Triune God have their way. And we would do well to teach our children, grandchildren, and godchildren how to pray. But first, we need to pray.
I welcome further conversations on this subject of praying to God – and not praying to ourselves about God. May the peace of Christ dwell in your spirit!
Author: Donna Toliver Grimes, Assistant Director, African American Affairs