Humility and Prayer

Humility supports prayer, and prayer supports humility.

First, humility supports prayer. Suppose that I enter into a time of prayer arrogantly. When I address my heavenly Father—who, by the way, is also the Creator, Sustainer, and Judge of all the world!—I might start addressing him casually, as though he’s my homeboy. I might start thoughtlessly babbling about whatever comes to mind—and not be concerned that I’m doing it. I might start rattling off a list of the things I wanted God to do for me, rather than deferentially asking God what he wants of me so that I can get in line with that.

I confess that I have often come to prayer lacking in humility. Oh how pride and selfishness have hurt my prayers! Humility is foundational and built into the very structure of prayer.

But not only does humility support prayer, prayer also supports humility. When I stumble out of bed to take a prayer walk on a dark and cold morning, I preach the truth to myself that God is my priority, not my warm bed. When I struggle to focus my prayers and allow my thoughts to wander, and then, when I awaken to what I’m doing, I discover yet again how utterly inadequate I am in prayer. When I notice that the content of my prayers is frequently self-serving, I have no choice but to cast myself on the mercy of a God who wants to expose this selfishness in order to redirect me into his ways. Prayer has tended to expose my selfishness and pride in a way and to such a degree that almost nothing else has (except, perhaps, sharing the gospel and raising children). Prayer leads toward increased humility.

But not only does humility support prayer—and prayer support humility—but their intertwined relationship entails that they grow together. Humility and prayer become mutually reinforcing as time passes. Thus, the more you pray in awareness of your weakness and tendency toward pride and selfishness, then humility grows. As humility increasingly becomes a pattern, prayer also increases in authenticity and effectiveness. Since prayer generates humility, and humility is essential to genuine prayer, prayer and humility grow together.

James (and Peter) would agree (James 4:6-10; cf. 1 Peter 5:5-7). James bids us to humbly draw near to God, and humble ourselves in his presence, since God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Humility and prayer go together. Humility and prayer also grow together.

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