Signpost for Sunday 9th October 2016: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7; Psalm 66:1-12; 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Luke 17:11-19.
After last week’s call for the virtues of faith and humility, our Gospel reading today turns us towards faith and gratitude. The tenth leper’s gratitude contains humility – so overwhelmed is he by his healing, he prostrates himself before Jesus.
Do we measure up to his example? To be sure, we from the liturgical tradition week by week become the tenth leper and offer up the great paean that goes by the name of The Great Thanksgiving. But in reading around this week’s theme I find that my own personal prayers, and those of any small group I may be part of, contain a great deal more supplication than thanksgiving. Selfish or for others, carefully thought through or influenced by the current crisis, my own words or somebody else’s much better ones, I seem to be continually asking God for something.
The great C.H. Spurgeon, preaching on this same Gospel reading in 1886, believes the number of people who pray is greater by far than the number who praise. Ten men prayed, but only one praised. “They all joined in the litany, ‘Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us’ but when they came to the Te Deum, magnifying and praising God, only one took up the note”.
We are certainly duty bound to bring to God all our needs, right down to the need for daily bread, to pray without becoming weary, but perhaps the energy we devote to intercession outweighs that given to thanksgiving. A worthy but somewhat sugary old hymn (What a Friend we have in Jesus) is devoted to the benefits of “carrying everything to God in prayer” but has nothing to say about giving thanks here and now for what God is and what God has done. How much better Meister Eckhart’s suggestion, “If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.”