Humility of heart is the key to prayer
I recently heard it said that we should “give grace” to people around us. I understood the comment to mean that we should cut people around us some slack when they annoy us or hurt our feelings.1 This is always a good reminder — others have to put up with my faults; I should not expect those around me to be perfect either.
This is all great in theory, but sometimes in life, we take hits from our friends. A cutting word. Not reaching out to us. An honest mistake that is taken the wrong way. I say we take a “hit” because—let’s be honest—it hurts.
As a Christian, we are taught to forgive others.2 If we do not let go of the pain and forgive, we will not have friends. Friendship does not prosper in bitterness and unforgiveness.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have enough friends that I can take losing one. So with God’s grace, I let the hurt go. And thank God my friends do the same for me.
What does this have to do with prayer?
God hears the prayers of one who is humble and does not despise his neighbor.
St. Luke recounts a parable told by Jesus about a Pharisee and a tax collector to teach us about the proper disposition of heart for prayer.3 At the time, Jesus told this parable “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” But the parable, of course, is also directed at all of us.
Two men enter the temple for prayer. The Pharisee approaches prayer with pride and arrogance: “God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” The tax collector, on the other hand, approaches prayer with humility: standing far off, with his eyes down, he cries out “God, be merciful to me a sinner!”
Jesus tells us the point of the parable when he concludes “I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
It is good for us to stop and consider these truths.
We need God’s grace in order to be good. We must pray every day for Divine assistance to be better friends and neighbors. With this humility of heart, we are properly disposed to receive the many graces that God desires to give us.
If we want God to hear our prayers, we should not assume that we are without fault and rail against the slights and failings of our friends or neighbors. Let’s work to give each other some grace.
Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!4
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“Responding to others with grace means ‘bearing with’ (or graciously putting up with) people. It means acknowledging that everyone has areas of weakness and that we all are works in progress. It means loving people in spite of their personalities, habits, and faults.” Doug Britton, Replacing Irritation with Grace.