October 19, 2010 | 10:01 am

Tuesday – Good Prayers & Bad Prayers

It may seem wrong to say that there is such a thing as a bad prayer, so let me give an example to clarify when our prayers can be off the mark. Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee, a religious leader, regards himself as righteous and looks upon others with contempt. And the tax collector represents the sinner who doesn’t meet the religious standard of the day. The Pharisee sees the tax collector at the temple and offers a prayer. You can determine whether it was good or bad. He prays, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people… even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). It seems obvious that this is not a great prayer to offer, but what makes it seem wrong? It is because he used prayer as a means to elevate himself above others rather than open himself to God. Prayer is an act of humility in which we look upward to someone greater than ourselves, not downward towards others. When we do this, it opens us to see others not as we often see them, but as God sees them. The kind of prayers we offer may be the difference between closing off relationships and opening ourselves to new ones.