“There are two ways to attain high esteem. One is the world’s method: Take every opportunity to promote yourself before others, seize occasions for recognition and manipulate your way into the center of attention. The other way is God’s way: Humble yourself. Rather than striving for recognition and influential positions, seek to put others first. Cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you.” – Henry Blackaby
Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra was asked what was the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied, “The second fiddle! I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.” This is the problem we as Christians face. We don’t easily want to play second fiddle because it’s too humbling a position. We want to be important. We want to be first, but how we can cultivate a humble heart in our prayer life.
In John 12 Mary of Bethany offered thanks humbly at the feet of Jesus. She freely gave her all with a grateful and abandoned heart. Clothing herself in humility, she poured a perfume on Jesus that he quickly recognized because of the sacrifice. It was costly.
Many of us are worried about our finances and are consumed with thinking about an uncertain future. We worry about our retirement or money for college. Mary gave her most valuable possession—worth $40,000 in our day—her entire inheritance and future. Take a moment to think about the reality of what Mary did in this one humble act. She freely gave her all to Jesus, and the fragrance of what she did filled the entire room. It seems in a world that is getting progressively dark, a fragrance of humility would make a marked difference. Mary had a humble heart.
As we evaluate our life, what is one of the best things we can give one another, and especially those in our own family? Perhaps we can offer a humble heart—a heart that looks out for the interests of others and is not self-seeking or proud, a heart that serves and loves unconditionally, and a heart that cultivates humility in prayer. Isn’t this what Jesus wants in our life? He hates pride and selfish ambition, but He loves the meek and lowly.
Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility, but he was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it? I think we can all identify with this preacher because we all need to grow in humility. It does not come naturally.
Perhaps we need to be more like the scientist George Washington Carver. He developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut! When he was young he asked God to tell him the mystery of the universe. But God answered: That knowledge is reserved for me alone. So he said, “God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.” Then God said, “Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” And he told him.
A good example of both the proud and the humble is Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Tax Collector found favor with God. We read in Luke 18:13-14: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”
Cultivating Humility in PrayerJesus is our daily example of humility. As you consider cultivating humility, ask God to develop humility in your prayer life. Meditate long and carefully on the humility of Jesus as you apply the following:
- Have a worshipping heart – Jesus had a worshipful heart. Worship and praise open the heavens and bring heavens blessings onto the earth. It ushers in the glory of God. Begin your prayer time with a worshipping heart. Enter God’s court with praise.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).
- Have a grateful heart – Jesus was always grateful. Gratefulness ministers the fragrance of thanksgiving and kindness. It carries a heavenly fragrance. It moves our eyes off of our self and esteems God. It brings encouragement and victory. A grateful heart changes the atmosphere around us. Thank God for specific things He has done for you this past year.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
- Have an abandoned heart – Jesus gave His all for us. He did not use His divine power for His own ends while on earth but lived dependent on the Holy Spirit and abandoned to God. Jesus emptied Himself completely. In prayer have you laid all your plans and desires at His feet?
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).
- Have an obedient heart – Jesus was obedient even to death on a cross. He embraced a type of death that involved indescribable emotional shame and physical pain. In God’s presence, evaluate your life in the area of obedience. Write a prayer asking God to help you in any areas where you struggle in obedience.
“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).
- Have a servant’s heart – Jesus was the servant of all. See John 13:3-17. He made Himself of no reputation. He embraced shame and disgrace as a servant. He hid his glory under the veil of humanity and did not insist on His own rights. Evaluate your heart, and repent of any lack of humility or servanthood in your life. Take time being still, and then specifically bring them before the Lord.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45).
- Have a considerate heart – Jesus considered others as more important than Himself. He was not self-absorbed or self-preoccupied, but He was absorbed in the good of others. As you pray, consider others. Don’t be preoccupied with praying only for yourself, but bring the needs of others before the Lord in prayer.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
Let’s ask God to teach us humility in our daily life and in our prayers.
Simple acts of humility will make a difference in a world that esteems getting ahead and self-promotion. Jesus is our greatest example. He is out to win our hearts for love. One so strong and tender stooped so low for each one of us. Can we not do the same for Him?
“That which brings the praying soul near to God is humility of heart. That which gives wings to prayer is lowliness of mind. Pride, self-esteem, and self-praise effectually shut the door of prayer. He who would come to God must approach the Lord with self hidden from his eyes. Humility is a rare Christian grace of great price in the courts of heaven, entering into and being an inseparable condition of effectual praying. It gives access to God when other qualities fail. Its full portrait is found only in the Lord Jesus. Our prayers must be set low before they can ever rise high.” E. M. Bounds
Together in the Harvest,
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff
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How to bring together your body, mind, heart and soul in prayer is not easy but not difficult as well. Why should a Muslim perform their prayer with humility, get closer to God?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have some form of an invisible protective shield around us while we pray to keep the distractions away from us? Yes! And here’s some good news: each one of us can and should build this protective shield to guard our Salah as per the instructions given in the Qur’an and the Sunnah:
And those who strictly guard their Prayer (Al-Mu’minun 23:9)
This averse goes to show that our salah needs to be constantly shielded and guarded from everything that affects its quality.
The collective attentiveness in the actions of the heart, tongue and limbs form the basis of the khushu` protective shield.
In the first part of this article, we looked at the nature of khushu` and how it affects us both in and out of salah. Now we will look at some practical steps you can take on your path to developing khushu` in your own salah.
Here are some practical tips to maintain humility in prayer:
Table of contents
Increase in Islamic knowledge; learn about Allah, tawheed, His Names and Attributes, and various aspects and sciences of the Sunnah. Why? Because Allah says:
It is only the learned amongst His servants who truly fear Allah. (Fatir 35:28)
With regards to gaining knowledge, even our Prophet (peace be upon him) had a teacher to understand the deen (religion) of Allah: it was Jibreel (Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him). Therefore, we must seek knowledge under the guidance of Islamic teachers and scholars.
2- On Time
Pray on time and plan your life around salah timings and not the other way around. Prioritize pleasing Allah over pleasing people. We can’t say, ’But I have work, I have to meet so-and-so etc.’ because before all of that came about, we already knew about our salah timings; so that’s not a valid excuse. But in situations that are out of our control, such as an exam, try to ask the moderator if a few minutes can be allowed for salah. That way we would have at least tried our best rather than not trying at all.
3- Seek Refuge in Allah
Seek refuge in Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) from Satan by saying ‘a`udhu billahi min Ash-Shaytan ir-rajeem’ (I seek refuge in Allah from the accursed Satan) before starting the salah and during the salah too when needed. Also say bismillah (in the name of Allah) before beginning the salah.
4- Be Mindful
Contemporary psychologists use a very simple technique called ’Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy‘ to help people stay focused in the present moment rather than being engrossed in foggy thoughts of past or future while losing touch with reality. It means to simply remind yourself to come back to the present moment as soon as you realize that your thoughts have drifted away from what is happening right now.
With practice, insha’Allah we can benefit from this technique to maintain our khushu`. Start by being mindful of Allah when you make the intention for ablution; be attentive while doing the ablution; then recite the recommended du`aa’ (supplication) after completing the ablution. At all times of the day, keep away from anything that makes you forget the remembrance of Allah.
Satan will use various tricks and tactics to divert us, so we have to be aware of his methods. The moment you realize that the heart and mind have wandered off, try to bring your attention back. The more often you do this, the more your humility will improve insha’Allah.
Read the tafseer (exegesis) of Surat Al-Fatihah; understand each verse and pause in between. (Tafseer by Ibn Kathir is recommended.) Remember, well-begun is half done! Read translations to understand all the surahs that you recite during salah. Try to offer Tahajjud and recite the Qur’an during those hours of the night, as that is a good time for understanding the words of Allah.
Always try to remind yourself that you are standing in front of Allah, pray as though you see Him; and if you cannot do that, then be aware that He is definitely seeing you. As you recite, visualize the Arabic words of each surah (chapter of the Qur’an). Do not close your eyes, but focus on the place of sujud (prostration).
7- Never Stop
Be wary of sticking to your salah, particularly in times of distress – it will help a lot in dealing with the situation as mentioned in the Qur’an:
Seek Allah’s help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humbly submissive. (Al-Baqarah 2:45)
Help children develop their humility and concentration from a young age. Do not force them to offer salah; rather inspire them to come to salah.
8- Good Pace
To attain humility in prayer be attentive and relaxed by maintaining a good pace between salah actions, giving a minimum of 5 seconds or more per action. Every time you say ‘Allahu Akbar’, say it from your heart. Make your sujud a bit longer than usual, recite du`aa’s in it and also before the final Tasleem.
9- It Could Be the Last
Before approaching salah, remember the inevitable reality: death. Allah created us only to worship Him. Perform every salah as you would perform your last salah. We may not know when, but one day we will be praying our last one.
After each salah, develop a habit of reciting the supplications as recommended by our Prophet.
To grow humility
After reading this article and understanding what it says, it is really up to us to take a moment and step outside of our self, honestly analyze the quality of our prayer, level of our iman (faith) and the impact of these on our life as a whole. We’ll all agree that correct knowledge is absolutely lovely, but it will be of no use to anyone at all until we actually decide to implement what we now know. It is only then that knowledge becomes lovelier and in turn beautifies us from inside and out.
Do not lose hope or give up if these tips do not work at first or do not provide an immediate solution. Remember that the seed of khushu` and humility will grow only after a gentle rain of consistent reminders seep into the heart by Allah’s will.
Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… Isaiah 53:1-4
Gracious Jesus, before now, I’ve never thought of the manger as the garden spot the Father “planted” you—the “tender shoot” of Isaiah’s vision. But truly, you are the “root” which broke though the dry ground in a fallen, barren universe. Who could have imagined that the humble estate of a stable would become such a greenhouse of grace and glory? Who could have dreamt that the mighty arm of the Lord would be revealed most powerfully in the weakness of your birth?
Jesus, I praise you for the humility and tenderness of your incarnation. You who created the very category of beauty… you who are quintessential beauty… became the one with “no beauty” for us. Though I don’t fully understand all that entailed, one glance beyond your cradle to your cross brings this difficult and demanding prophecy to life.
You literally became sin for us—everything ugly and vile about my sin. You became sin for us that in you we might become the very righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:20-21). What an exchange!
You, who’ve enjoyed the eternal delight of the Godhead, and the adoration and esteem of angels, became the despised and rejected one for us… for me. There’s no way of measuring such condescension and humility.
Jesus, you are the fountain of pleasures… your laughter fills heaven… your joy is our strength… yet you became the man of sorrows for us… for me. And though you didn’t remain a tender shoot, you retained all your tenderness. No one is familiar with suffering like you. In taking up your cross, you took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… all of them. What a wonderful, merciful, tender Savior you are. Why would we ever look for life and salvation anywhere else?
If we could make progress in only one thing this Advent season, Jesus, may it be to have a much greater esteem you. Reignite and intensify our love for you, as you deepen our awe of your manger and gratitude for your cross. Gentle us by the gospel and reveal your tenderness through us, wherever you’ve planted us, hard soil or not. So very Amen, we pray, in your holy and loving name.
A Prayer for Humility — Insights from God’s Word
For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. – Matthew 23:12
So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:12
A Prayer for Humility – True Humility
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I must begin my day today by confessing that my heart has often been deceived into thinking that I am living a life of humble service when in reality, many of my motivations are grounded in selfishness. I am so grateful You helped me to understand this about myself many years ago — and are still faithfully reminding me when I start to get off track again.
I am on my knees today asking You to help me understand that any influence I might have in the Body of Christ needs to be given by the Holy Spirit Himself and not by my own strength. Remind me that it is far better to have no reputation at all than to attain great things on my own power. I acknowledge this is a hard lesson for me to fully understand. I also realize that You have grown me up enough to recognize the things that You are blessing — so I will be able to join Your efforts to my own, where I will always find success.
The more I have come to understand how wise You truly are, and how Your Holy Word is so full of practical advice for my day to day living, the stronger I have grown. You have blessed me with fruit that was planted solidly. Thank You that You are showing me that my feelings of inadequacy are actually good because they keep me from becoming self centered. I look at the lives of those folks around me and the first thing I see is their humble attitude of service to others. I see them putting You first, seeking to serve You at the expense of their own advances. I see You richly reward them with Your own reflection shining brightly out of their innermost being.
Because I know I will never be up to the job You have chosen for me, it makes me realize how very dependent on You I have become. I am so grateful I do not wait for my own strength to surface, but instead, rely on Your strength to point me in the right direction. I pray today that I will become more like Jesus than I was yesterday. I pray I will be unafraid to act in obedience when I hear You call. Make me more aware each day of the tremendous authority I have received from You, which helps me not blow it by claiming it as my own. Please never let me misuse the gifts You have given me.
I close this prayer today by asking You to never let me become a stumbling block to anyone because I claimed authority that You did not give me. Help me to never do anything that could bring harm to others by stepping out in anything other than the authority of the Holy Spirit. Please, I beg you keep me humble in heart, grant me the nature of a true servant, and give me discernment and wisdom to be able to take my stand against Satan and his evil attempts to counterfeit and destroy that which You have been preparing for me.
Finally, Jesus, please keep me honest by recognizing that a true, humble servant of God is someone who is in agreement with what You are doing. Remind me that true humility is the exact opposite of powerlessness. True humility empowers and strengthens and casts out fears. Thank You for reminding me and keeping me pure and motivated by my devotion to You.
A Prayer for Humility – Making it Personal
Reflect: We must learn to clearly hear what God is saying to us so we will not be deceived by Satan or by our own human inadequacies. Try to remember that God became angry with Moses for his false humility, and Moses was one of the most humble men who ever walked the earth. Stop now and ask God to reveal this truth to you in a very personal way.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions