There is one parable in the Bible in Luke 18:9-14, where Jesus talked about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. At that time Pharisees were people who were considered to be very educated and very religious. They had a large knowledge about the books from the Old Testament (especially God`s Law given through Moses). Average people considered them as those who should be very close to God. On the other hand there were tax collectors and this group of people were considered as very bad people and people who were far away from God. Those people normally did not know a lot about God`s Law and religious rituals. I would like to read again this parable because we could learn something very important from this story and it could be applicable for our everyday life. Take a look:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
I remember some situations when I was visiting Christian shops, both online and offline. When I lived in Serbia I used to go to Orthodox Christian shops where I could buy many icons, crosses, rosaries, incense or myrrh, candles of pure fax and surely many books. Among them I had my favorite two types of books and those were prayer books and books about saints and holy father`s messages. At the time when I used to live in a monastery I was spending sometimes 3 to 4 hours reading and reading prayers and praying rosaries. But many times something interesting was happening at the time of reading prayers. My thoughts were going here and there and my focus was away. So it was like praying 3 or 4 hours and actually praying for much less period of time. Why I am talking about this example is because I believe that this is happening to everyone. When we pray from prayer books and we think that we actually pray but we do not. I remember I read about some pieces of advice from Christian books. And they were mainly focused on the quality of our prayer not its quantity. God is a real person and our real heavenly father and he wants us to truly talk to him. Rosaries and written prayers are beautiful but they should include our minds and our hearts without that inclusion our `blank` word saying is just like rapping and hipping and hopping. Can be fun, but useless. I remember that I read in some Christian book when I lived in monastery that even one short sentence said from the heart with a pain and desire that God will hear us can be more powerful than reading thousands of Our father without our hearts and minds involved in the prayer. In this reading we had this parable between tax collector and Pharisee. Tax collector did not know any prayer, he did not have any prayer books or religious tools like rosaries or candles. The only thing that he offered to God was his true repentance and his heart. And from the bottom of his heart he prayed `Have mercy upon me, a sinner`. God knows our hearts and he wants our hearts. Religious rituals, prayers from the books, songs, rosaries, candles and incense can help us in our prayer practice. But let us all rather pray like tax collector and avoid praying like Pharisee because God is aiming our hearts rather than regularities, forms, books, etc.
A prayer can be anything we do in the name of Jesus. Feeding the hungry, donating something to those in need, helping a friend, a colleague, showing mercy and love. In my life I am sad to say that many times I saw people who were praying a lot but did not display love and respect or mercy toward the other people. And I was always sad about that. They do similar things like Pharisees. They have the form of religious practice but deep inside they are empty. We should be good and just. It is written in Sirach 35:14-18 about the importance of being just with other people.
Do not offer him a bribe, for he will not accept it; He will not show partiality to the poor; but he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint. Do not the tears of the widow run down her cheek.
Sometimes we may feel that God is not listening to our prayers. But it is that God always has a plan for all and each one of us. Nothing is happening with no reason and purpose. Let us learn to trust God and learn to pray from the heart. Blessed be the Lord.