My sacrifice, a contrite spirit,
A humble contrite heart, O God,
you will not spurn. Ps 51:19.
As Jesus was teaching his disciples to pray, he told them not to be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. The disciples were to go into their inner room, (the heart), and pray to the Father in secret, not babbling like pagans with many words, but silently. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask” (Mt. 6:6).
The imagery from psalm 34 describes the “cry” of prayer coming from one who is poor. God is with the brokenhearted, and the crushed spirits he rescues. Jesus contrasts two men at prayer. The devout person he said, spoke his prayer to himself, thanking God that he was, “not like the rest of humanity.” Our prayers are hollow when overshadowed by self-righteousness and failure to hear the cry of the poor.
A beautiful liturgy can focus on the outward pomp of music and ceremony while being deaf to the wail of the orphan or complaint of the widow (Sir 35:17). The homeless pray on street corners when we fail to welcome them to be at home when praying with us. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? (Jms 2:5). A contrite prayer unites us in the person of Christ offering the Father our sacrifice of praise.
The Pharisee, highly praised for being devout, has failed to “pierce the clouds” to offer a plea for God to hear. The sinner receives mercy. Humility is the basis of prayer for it entrusts ones whole being to God’s love. To enrich your prayer life, you may want to spend time learning and praying the Jesus prayer.
Let us pray:
Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.
Daily Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)