“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
This month we will be praying through Psalm 90. This is a great Psalm to pray for humility. We are all born with pride in us because of our sinful nature passed down from Adam and Eve. The word of God has alot to say about pride vs humility.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:3
A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor. Proverbs 29:23
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
You save the humble, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them low. 2 Samuel 22:28
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:9
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:10
Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
We have a lot to learn from Moses. Moses had been so close to God. He was known for his humility.
“Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)
This intimacy with God came at a great cost.
He chose a path that took him from the palaces of earth to the very throne of God. He couldn’t have both. He didn’t want both. He chose the greater. He chose God. Moses started high in the Egyptian palace and descended to the desert with God. He exchanged heaven for earth.
Below are comments on Moses’ perspective of life from Psalm 90. If we adopt his perspectives, then we will gain humility and wisdom.
We invite you to meditate on Psalm 90 and use the prayer points to pray verse by verse this month.
|(A Prayer of Moses the man of God.)||Verses from Psalm 90||Prayer Point to consider on each verse|
|Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.||We never have and never could be in a place where we were not totally dependent upon what the Lord God has made.|
|Exalt God’s Eternal nature
|Before the mountains were born, Or Thou didst give birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.||God always was in His greatness. God is above time; He created it for man. God is not dependent upon anyone including ourselves! He is Elohim.|
|Remember our humble origins
|Thou dost turn man back into dust, And dost say, “Return, O children of men.”||We started off as dust and shall return to such. God put us together, but we keep thinking we are more than what God has assembled. Time will tell!|
|Bound in time (Psalms 90:4)||For a thousand years in Thy sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.||God is beyond time; but we are bound in time. Our lives are as a brief second to Him. He is Omnipresent. He will exist forever.|
|Memories washed away (Psalms 90:5-6)||Thou hast swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes, and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades, and withers away.||Man’s hard work will be all washed away like a flood. No more remembrance. Comes and goes like a flower that blooms for one day.|
|Under judgment (Psalms 90:7)||For we have been consumed by Thine anger, And by Thy wrath we have been dismayed.||God’s anger is upon us even as we are part of creation and have been cursed. Death chases the life in our bodies. We are frail and keep afloat only by God’s grace. Without it, we would perish in an instant.|
|Exposed (Psalms 90:8)||Thou hast placed our iniquities before Thee, Our secret sins in the light of Thy presence.||We might hide our sin before man but not before God. Each sin, every thought or action is all exposed before our Creator and our rebellion judged.|
|Frailty of old age (Psalms 90:9)||For all our days have declined in Thy fury; We have finished our years like a sigh.||We might still be young in spirit but our real age reflects God’s coming judgment upon our bodies. Our systems start malfunctioning. Movement becomes painful rather than exhilarating.|
|Numbered Days (Psalms 90:10)||As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.||Our days are numbered. Long life is a joke. Life only seems long to the young. Those who are older know life is astonishingly brief.|
|Ignorance (Psalms 90:11)||Who understands the power of Thine anger, And Thy fury, according to the fear that is due Thee?||We forget, ignore and look for distraction from the signs of God’s judgment upon our lives. We are oblivious to what is so obvious.|
|Gaining wisdom (Psalms 90:12)||So teach us to number our days, That we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom.||Wisdom comes only when we see the value of our days. We can value our days only when we know they are limited in number.|
|Seeking mercy (Psalms 90:13)||Do return, O LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Thy servants.||We need relief from God’s judgment. We seek help from Him.|
|Seeking grace (Psalms 90:14)||O satisfy us in the morning with Thy lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.||True life comes from Him. In the midst of destruction, God brings love and favor all of our days.|
|Developing Thankfulness (Psalms 90:15)||Make us glad according to the days Thou hast afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil.||Only the Lord can make us glad in the midst of this hard and evil world. Let us ask Him for this thankful heart!|
|Passing the blessing on (Psalms 90:16)||Let Thy work appear to Thy servants, And Thy majesty to their children.||Since our lives are so short, we want to pass our blessing of knowing God and His work on to our children.|
|Establishing value (Psalms 90:17)||And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And do confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.||A fulfilling life starts with the Lord’s favor. He alone can make what we do valuable. In a sense, our work is nothing to Him, but He can establish it through His strength.|
Here is a prayer for you. “Lord God, help us to gain a heart of wisdom into your humility by getting the proper perspective on who we are compared to who You are. We thank you God for sending your Son Jesus to die for our prideful nature. That Jesus took our place on the cross and exchanged His perfect life of humility for our sinful lives. We are made new creations in Christ Jesus through His death and resurrection and now we can walk daily in humility by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives within us. Lord God help us not to forget that we have the ability through the Holy Spirit to daily crucify our prideful nature and choose humilty. By doing this we become living epistles to everyone around us and declare that we are indeed your children. For whom the Son sets free is free indeed. We thank you Lord and we love you. In Jesus Name. Amen.
Chart provided by Biblical Foundations for freedom.
Part 2 of this article is called 21 ways of countering pride with humility and you can find it here
Here are some other prayers that have to do with restoration:
Proverbs 23: 17-19 The Prayer of Expectation
Joshua 1:8 – Prayer For Success and Prosperity
Praying for a Hundredfold Blessing on Your Harvest – Matthew 13:3-9
Table of contents
Disturb Us, Lord
Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
– Attributed to Sir Francis Drake, c. 1577
A Christian Prayer for the Virtue of Humility
Lord Jesus, when you walked the earth,
Your humility obscure your Kingship.
Your meekness confused the arrogant,
Hindering them from grasping your purpose,
Your nobleness attending to the destitute.
Teach me to model after your eminence,
To subject my human nature to humility.
Grant me with a natural inclination
To never view myself greater than anyone.
Banish all lingering sparks of self-importance
That could elevate me greater than you.
Let my heart always imitate your humility.
– Author Unknown
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God, I am far too often influenced by what others think of me. I am always pretending to be either richer or smarter or nicer than I really am. Please prevent me from trying to attract attention. Don’t let me gloat over praise on one hand or be discouraged by criticism on the other. Nor let me waste time weaving imaginary situations in which the most heroic, charming, witty person present is myself. Show me how to be humble of heart, like you.
– Author Unknown
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A Christian Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
– Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val
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Prayer for Humility
Let me have too deep a sense of humor to be proud.
Let me know my absurdity before I act absurdly.
Let me realize that when I am humble I am most human,
and most worthy of your serious consideration.
– Daniel A. Lord, SJ
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If one enters into the prayer life of Orthodoxy, you will find a great emphasis on keeping Christ on your heart and mind at all times. The monastics and many laypeople strive to attain “prayer of the heart,” in which their heart speaks the name of Christ or what is known as the Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” at every waking and sleeping hour.
Entering into this realm of life is exciting and transformative. It requires two things: first of all is grace from God. Without His grace, everything else is worthless. Secondly, it necessitates a readiness on our part to receive him. If our hearts and minds are full of the cares, attachments, and desires of this world and our flesh, then there is no room for grace within us. Of course, it takes the grace of God to remove these things, but we must make ourselves available and take the tiniest step of effort toward Him.
Releasing the desires and attachments of the flesh is a slow process. The more we dig around inside of us, the more we will realize needs cleansing. The command of Christ “Be ye perfect” begins to sound quite daunting if we have spent any time in honest introspection.
St Gregory of Nyssa teaches us that we can never reach that final resting place called “perfection.” God himself is perfection, and God is infinite and limitless. Therefore, if our goal is infinite, there is no stopping place where we will finally say, “Yes, I have arrived.” Instead, we move from glory to glory, and the very journey itself toward Christ is the perfection that has been commanded of us.
HOW TO BEGIN PERFECTION
So, where does one even begin their journey toward perfection? One place that most people start is attempting to keep Christ in mind at all times. Working toward receiving prayer of the heart is an excellent place to begin.
However, there is another place too, that perhaps for some of us is an even better place to begin. Today, I read about venerable Sisoi the Great who was a disciple of the well known Anthony the Great. I came across the following story:
To the question of one of the monks as to how he might attain to a constant mindfulness of God, the monk remarked:
‘That is still not of much consequence, my son, but more important is this – to account oneself below everyone else, because such disparagement assists in the acquisition of humility’
WHAT IS HUMILITY?
I’m not sure I know what humility is. I’ve read about it, and I recognize it in the lives of the saints, but I am unable to offer an experiential definition. Elder Porphyrios teaches that it is impossible to be a Christian, much less attain to the Kingdom of Heaven without humility. In Wounded by Love, he states “The heart gives life to the body and humility gives life to the soul.”
St Theophan the Recluse teaches that when one begins to very purposefully work with God toward the Kingdom, the enemy will attack in one of two ways: either he will lash out with everything he’s got, or he will completely back off and allow the person to feel like they are rapidly excelling in their spiritual life.
This second tactic is extremely dangerous for us because it so often leads to vainglory in those who are pursuing constant remembrance of God and prayer of the heart. Without a foundation of humility, the person who is practicing great spiritual disciplines will easily think of himself as being superior to those around him. He will have feelings of affection toward others, but it will be in a condescending way.
For this reason, Sisois the Great taught that monks should first practice thinking more highly of everyone else than themselves so they can begin to acquire humility, and then worry about the spiritual disciplines.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF HUMILITY
Because I know so little about humility, I am going to allow the fathers of the Church to speak about it:
From Wounded by Love* (Elder Porphyrios):
Within us there is a part of the soul called the ‘moralist.’ This ‘moralist’ when it sees someone going astray, is roused to indignation, even though very often the person who judges has strayed in the same way. He does not, however, take this as an occasion to condemn himself, but the other person. This is not what God wants…
In this way we do harm, not only to our neighbor, but also to ourselves because we distance ourselves from the grace of God. And then we pray and our prayers are not heard…
It is a kind of self-projection of our own when we insist on other people becoming good. In reality, we wish to become good, but because we are unable to, we demand it of others and insist on this. And whereas all things are corrected through prayer, we often are distressed or become outraged and pass judgment on others.
On teaching and correcting our fellow Christians, St Ignatius (Brianchaninov) writes in The Arena**,
He who acts in his own strength, acts for vainglory; he offers both himself and those who listen to him as a sacrifice to Satan…
We will observe that the Fathers forbid us to give advice to our neighbor of our own accord, without our neighbor’s asking us to do so. The voluntary giving of advice is a sign that we regard ourselves as possessed of spiritual knowledge and worth, which is a clear sign of pride and self-deception.
Elder Zosimas, a desert father, was one of the first fathers that I ever read when venturing into Orthodoxy. His teachings began to turn my world upside down because they resemble the teachings of Christ,
Who could ever persuade a humble person to weave thoughts against someone else? For, no matter what a humble person suffers or hears, that person will see this as an opportunity to insult and shame himself…
For, a person that longs for the true and straight way will rebuke himself harshly when troubled by something like this (being insulted). That person will always practice self-examination, saying:
“My soul, why have you lost your mind? Why are you troubled like those who are insane? It is precisely this, which indicates how unwell in fact you are. Had you been healthy, you would not have been troubled. Why do you neglect to blame yourself and begin accusing your brother for revealing to you your illness both in deed and in truth?
Learn the commandments of Christ: ‘When He was abused, He did not return abuse; when He suffered, He did not threaten ’ (1 Pet. 2.23). Listen to Him, when He says and when He shows us in reality : ‘I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who beat me. I did not hide my face from insult and spitting’ (Is. 50.6).
Yet, you, wretched soul, just because of a single insult and dishonor, sit there and weave thousands of thoughts, ultimately conspiring against your own soul in the manner of the demons. After all, what more can a demon do to such a soul, that it has not already done to itself? We see the cross of Christ, we read of His passion each day, what He suffered for us. Yet, we cannot endure the slightest insult. We have indeed deviated from the straight way.”***
All of this can be a bit overwhelming when I realize my lack of humility. But as St Gregory says, perfection is being on the journey toward Christ; that is all that is requested of us…that daily, little bit by little bit, we allow God to transform us into the image of His Glory.
*Elder Porphyrios, Wounded by Love. Published by Denise Harvey, copyright Holy Convent of the Life-giving Spring (Chania, Crete, Greece), 2005.
**Brianchaninov, Ignatius, The Arena. Holy Trinity Publications 2012.
***Chryssavgis, John (2008-06-06). In the Heart of the Desert: The Spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers (Treasures of the World’s Religions) (Kindle Locations 2170-2171). World Wisdom. Kindle Edition.