Dear Rabbi Simon
Do we regard it as theft if I run into a shop and I don’t pay for parking meter?
I guess the risk of a large fine could also carry its own punishment, but if I ‘get away with it’ and I don’t get a fine then do we regard this halachically or even morally as a form of theft?
Ironically, perhaps, I often say a quick prayer to Hashem that the warden not come while I run into the shop, but if this is indeed an aveirah (sin), I should not be praying for Divine assistance….
I do not believe it is theft to park on a public highway without paying (though it is risky, of course). The council expects people to pay to avoid a fine, and of course the fines themselves further enrich the council. Parking in a private car park without paying, however, may be different, as the owner only allows you access on the understanding that you will pay. By the way, with regard to your wondering whether a prayer for an aveirah is a contradiction in terms, it would seem that it is not (despite the irony). See intro to A/S siddur, p. XII re Ber. 63b (even a burglar prays before entering the home of his victim [pray then prey]).
Rabbi Rashi Simon