From the book, “Thoughts for Each Day of the Year”, St. Theophan the Recluse:
Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee
Luke 18: 10-14
Yesterday the Gospel reading taught us persistence in prayer, and now it teaches humility, or the feeling that we have no right to be heard. Do not assume that you have the right to be heard, but approach prayer as one unworthy of any attention, allowing yourself only the boldness needed to open your mouth and raise up your prayer to God, knowing the Lord’s boundless condescension toward us poor ones. Do not even allow the thought to come to your mind, “I did such and such – so give me such and such.” Consider whatever you might have done as your obligation. If you had not done it you would have been subject to punishment, and what you did deserves no reward; you did not do anything special. That Pharisee enumerated his rights to be heard and left the temple with nothing. The bad thing is not that he actually did as he said, for indeed he should have done it. The bad thing is that he presented it as something special; whereas, having done it he should have thought no more of it. Deliver us, O Lord, from this sin of the Pharisee! People rarely speak like the Pharisee in words, but in the feelings of their heart they are rarely unlike him. For why is it that people pray poorly? It is because they feel as though they are just fine in the sight of God without praying.