Above all else, prayer leads Orthodox Christians to repentance, forgiveness, piety, and every virtue inspired by Great Lent. His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph preached this lesson at St. Nicholas Antiochian Orthodox Christian Cathedral in Los Angeles on the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the day that ushers in the Church's preparation for the Great Fast.
Sayidna Joseph said that the Pharisee, a religious leader perceived to be pious, offered a "judgmental prayer" to God by saying he was not like others, "extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:11). "This is not a prayer at all," His Eminence said. "But the Publican offers a holy prayer — 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' (Luke 18:13) — this is what God wants to hear from us.He is ready to visit us through this type of prayer because we are ready for Him."
His Eminence likened the Pharisee's prayer to superstition, thinking he could justify his faith by tithing and fasting twice a week (Luke 18:12). "This is just like thinking it's enough to light candles, socialize, and then fight one another in the Church," Sayidna said. He pointed the faithful to the prayerful humility of the Publican. "When we humble ourselves, we lose nothing but pride and anger and gain Christ. He moves closer to us and we move closer to Him."