“Whenever we want to ask some favor of a powerful man, we do it humbly and respectfully, for fear of presumption. How much more important, then, to lay our petitions before the Lord God of all things with the utmost humility and sincere devotion. We must know that God regards our purity of heart and tears of compunction, not our many words. Prayer should therefore be short and pure, unless perhaps it is prolonged under the inspiration of divine grace.”
-The Rule of St. Benedict
Today, as I was working on my Oblate lesson, a question on prayer came up. This brought to mind several stories from the Bible. The first was the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, from Luke 19. A Pharisee and a tax collector were in the temple praying. 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.”
As I pondered St. Benedict’s words, I thought, how many times have I spent my prayer time, making a list of the good I have done to justify the sins? How many times have I listened to the homily and thought, “Boy, I hope ______________ is listening, because this is right up his/her alley!” How many times have I presumed to tell God how to answer my prayers?
The very essence of prayer should be rooted in humility. And that’s hard for us to do…at least it’s hard for me. In a culture that tells us to be strong, self-sufficient people, it goes against our nature to admit we are weak and in need of help.
But in I Peter 5:6-7, it explains why we should do just that. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties upon him, because he cares for you.”
Humble ourselves…recognize that God is sovereign. That God is in control. When we come before him in humility, we acknowledge that we are not in control.
Wait for God…it’s a humbling act. To not race ahead and try to resolve an issue on our own. To wait for his time and his guidance. To wait for the one who already know the absolute perfect time to supply our need or to answer our prayer.
Cast our cares on him…why tell God our problems if he already knows them? It is an act of humility. I Peter 5:5 says that God “opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”
Because he cares for us…God created us. He knew us in our mother’s womb. There is no one, no where, not time, no way, that will ever know you or love you as much as God. Period.
Another story I thought of is Peter, when Jesus called him out of the boat, to walk on the water. Peter was fine until he took his eyes off Jesus; then he noticed the storm and sank. Matthew 14:30, reads, “But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Do you know what I love about that verse? I love that Peter cried out when he began to sink. As soon as he recognized he was in trouble, he cried for help. How many times do we wait until the waves are over our heads, until we are drowning, to acknowledge we need help?
Also, I love his prayer. Just three short word…but oh so powerful. They embody all that I mentioned before. Lord (sovereign God), save me (I am weak, and I need help.)
Purity of heart…tears of compunction. Words optional
(If you’ve never heard this version of Softly and Tenderly, please listen…it is so powerful)