GOD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER!
How can we know if our prayer is pleasing to God or not? The prophet Hosea, who spoke in God's name, said: "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice". The prayers and sacrifices we make to God mean nothing to him if they do not spring from a heart of love for God and for one's neighbour. How can we expect God to hear our prayers if we do not approach him with humility and with a contrite heart that seeks mercy and forgiveness? We stand in constant need of God's grace and help. That is why Scripture tells us that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34).
God hears the prayer of the humble - Jesus reinforced this warning with a vivid story of two people at prayer. Why did the Lord accept one person's prayer and reject the other's prayer? Jesus' parable speaks about the nature of prayer and our relationship with God. It does his by contrasting two very different attitudes towards prayer. The Pharisee, who represented hose who take pride in their religious practices, exalted himself at the expense of others. Absorbed with his own sense of self-satisfaction and self-congratulation, his boastful prayer was centred on his good religious practices rather than on God's goodness, grace, and pardon. Rather than humbling himself before God and asking for God's mercy and help, this man praised himself while despising those he thought less worthy. The Pharisee tried to justify himself before God and before those he despised; but only God can justify us. The tax collector, who represented those despised by religious-minded people, humbled himself before God and begged for mercy. His prayer was heard by God because he had true sorrow for his sins. He sought God with humility rather than with pride.
"Lord Jesus, may your love and truth transform my life - my inner thoughts, intentions, and attitudes, and my outward behavior, speech, and actions. Where I lack charity, kindness, and forbearance, help me to embrace your merciful love and to seek the good of my neighbor, even those who cause me ill-favor or offense. May I always love as you have loved and forgive others as you have forgiven."
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