Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 23, 2016
Today’s Gospel continues a series of gospel reflections on prayer. Prayers of petition are usually the easiest to pray. My Franciscan community spends an extended time before we begin our evening meal together, and we pray out loud for a variety of intentions—our families, friends, our inner-city neighbors, the wider world around us. Sometimes the same intentions come week after week. We try to be patient in waiting for God to answer those prayers.
We often say that prayer doesn’t change God; rather it changes us. Today’s Gospel helps us appreciate that bit of wisdom. Our Gospel story is the parable of the two men who went to the temple to pray. One was filled with his own self-righteousness; the other humbly acknowledges his need.
Our prayers are often full of things we’re asking for: needs we have or help for others. And that’s OK; Jesus encourages us to pray prayers of petition. But today’s parable helps us to see where we must first begin: with a change of heart. Coming before the Lord with our need, our sinfulness, our openness to God must be the starting point for our prayer. Since all prayer is first the work of the Holy Spirit in us, we can see how beginning our prayers in humility is already God working to change our hearts.