Almighty and Everlasting God, Who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of Thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
--Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
--Luke 18-9-14 (NKJV)
The Gospel lesson today teaches us many things about prayer. It demonstrates the necessity of humility in prayer, in trusting God over ourselves, and in recognizing our sinfulness and God's grace in even hearing our prayers. In teaching about prayer and ourselves, it also implicitly teaches us many things about God.
In our American Christian culture, where we have been taught to treat God more as a friend than as the Creator of the universe, more of a chum than our Lord, and more of a pushover than as God with expectations, the attitude of the tax collector ought to drive us to our knees in repentance...and in hope. For as the prayer of the day reminds us, God is 'always more ready to hear than we are to pray' and is accustomed to 'give more than either we desire or deserve.' That description of God's grace is one of pure grace and joy! In spite of ourselves, who too often act like the Pharisee, God lavishes mercy upon us, the undeserving, in an act of amazing grace.
O Thou Who Dost to Man Accord (Gregory I, 6th cent.)
O Thou Who dost to man accord
His highest prize, his best reward;
Thou Hope of all our race;
Jesus, to Thee we now draw near,
Our earnest supplications hear,
Who humbly seek Thy face.
With self-accusing voice within,
Our conscience tells of many a sin
In thought and word and deed:
O cleanse that conscience from all stain,
The penitent restore again,
From every burden freed.
If Thou reject us, who shall give
Our fainting spirits strength to live?
’Tis Thine alone to spare;
With cleansed hearts to pray aright
And find acceptance in Thy sight,
Be this our lowly prayer.
O blessed Trinity, bestow
Thy pardoning grace on us below,
And shield us evermore;
Until within Thy courts above,
We see Thy face, and sing Thy love,
And with Thy saints adore.
Photo by Alex Mochalov on Unsplash