A Prayer for Humility

(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

Today I came across a liturgical prayer that requests humility. I thought it quite striking and powerful. I did modify it slightly as made sense to me (apologies to anyone if that causes offense!).

Here it is:

When the litany of humility is prayed in a private setting by two or more people, the lines given in italics below are the responses to a leader.

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

[Repeat after each line: Deliver me, Jesus.]
From the desire of being esteemed by others,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,

From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being slandered,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected.

[Repeat after each line: Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.]
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

I do think that many of these desires are good and right - but they find their truest, deepest, lasting fulfillment when they are met in fellowship with the Triune God.

In addition, freedom from these desires and fears, can give us strength to live for God’s will in humility and confidence.

I welcome further thoughts or other prayers for humility.

(SeanO) #2

@CarsonWeitnauer Thank you for that reminder to walk in humility and find our meaning in Christ rather than in worldly success or fame. How do you reconcile some of the lines in this prayer with Proverbs like the following?

Proverbs 22:1 - A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.

Can we humbly pursue the path of leadership without setting our eyes on recognition, but rather on the good that could be achieved?

Very intriguing. Who wrote this prayer originally? Was it written by a monastic or ascetic community?

The approach I take is that as long as leadership or authority does not become an idol, where losing it destroys our sense of self or makes us strike out at other people, then it is okay to pursue. It is the humility of heart that is most important and seeking God before worldly things. Curious on others’ thoughts.

(Carson Weitnauer) #3

Hi Sean,

That’s a great question.

I cannot do anything but agree with Proverbs 22:1! A good name is better than great riches.

I don’t think the prayer has to undermine our acceptance of this wisdom.

For instance, we can accept a good reputation as a gift that follows on the heels of living a wise and humble life. Or, we can strive to make a name for ourselves, and in our pride lose ‘a good name’.

I think the prayer finds a biblical basis in passages like Philippians 2:

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

I would be glad to be corrected and learn from your further insights or from others!

(SeanO) #4

@CarsonWeitnauer Hmmm… I certainly agree that pride results in the loss of a good name and that exaltation from the Lord can follow humility.

However, this entire stanza is not Biblical imho. It sounds much more like self-mutilation. Ultimately we are seeking God’s glory and there are times when that is best served by others being exalted. But, on the other hand, like when Paul confronted Peter about avoiding Gentiles, there are times when we need to assert authority in order to bring God glory. Paul the apostle did this quite often. Paul knew he had been granted authority by God and he used it.

In addition, there is nothing inherently praiseworthy about going unnoticed or being overlooked. While I agree our identity should not rely on being noticed or being chosen, those things are not wrong.

Based on what I have seen, RZIM does not seek to go unnoticed :wink: And I think that is perfectly okay. IN fact, I am glad so that more people can know Jesus through this ministry.

That others may be esteemed more than I,
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

(Anthony Costello ) #5

It just so happens we were speaking on this very issue in my ethics class today. After looking at Ayn Rand’s caricature of “selfless” love, which she rejected in building up her own system of “ethical egoism,” where all expressions of love are selfish, we then asked the question if Christian love is selfless.

I think we have to make sure when we speak of humility that we keep in mind that Christian love is not self-less. It does not reject the self, its inherent dignity and value, nor does it reject desire, itself necessary to love anything at all. Christian love is self-affirming (we are in God’s image and likeness) and desire-affirming (desire itself is good, even if the objects of our desire are often deficient, or the intensity and arrangement of our desires disordered.)

Therefore, Christian love is foremost love of God, but it is also love of self, and then love of neighbor. Moreover, our love of God is not self-less; it does lead to personal reward; namely, our own glorification in Christ, and our relationship with God himself!

So, as long as we remind ourselves that Christian love is not a denial of desire, nor a denial of our selfhood, but rather the fulfillment of desire (with our ultimate object of desire being God), and a validation of the worthiness and value of our own self (which is made in the image of God), then we can have a heathy and truthful understanding of humility. Even Christ’s own sacrifice ended in resurrection and glorification; not in death and humiliation. For Christ did not save us, then get nothing out of it, he saved us, and then got us; his mystical body according to St. Paul! Thus, our faith is, as John Piper recently (and Augustine and Aquinas before him), has reminded us, a Christian hedonism!

Thus, we probably should not strive to be self-less, rather I think we should strive to be unselfish. The difference being that we do want our desires to be fulfilled, but we also realize 1) that those desires, when fulfilled, are always filled by God, 2) that some desires might be for the wrong things, and, therefore go unfulfilled, and 3) that we can want both our own desires AND the desires of others to be fulfilled. And, in fact, the fulfillment of others’ desires can also be a source of joy for us; and that’s a good thing!

In that sense I do worry a little about how the first and the last stanzas of this prayer might be interpreted by some; especially those who do not have a healthy sense of their own worth, or who have grown up in homes where they have been told their desires, or desire itself, is bad. I think the notion of desire itself being bad is more of an Eastern belief, than a Christian one. But, I think we often confuse that issue.

in Christ,

(Kathleen) #6

Very interesting thoughts, @anthony.costello! And thank you for posting this, @CarsonWeitnauer. This will give me something to think about for a while.

I grew up in a church culture that prayed similar prayers every Sunday, and it’s only been recently that I’ve reflected on the psychological repercussions and patterns of thought that these prayers, when divorced from a solid grounding in sonship, have the capacity to produce. I actually believe that fear and desire (depending on the object, of course) can be good things. However, I would see being enslaved to those things is what tends to be our downfall.

So to modify the prayer a bit, I would pray…

So it’s not so much that the fear of being ridiculed or the desire for approval is a bad thing, but being controlled by that fear or desire is what leads us down slippery slopes. :slight_smile:

(Anthony Costello ) #7

I think your qualifications are good Kathleen. To be in bondage to any thing other than Christ Jesus, would be ultimately unsatisfying, and eventually hellish.

That said, I bet your experience in church growing up was not uncommon. I think mine, in the Catholic church, was also similar. Desires were considered de facto bad, especially sexual desire. I think that not only can this denial of desire be damaging, but honestly, it neglects or outright rejects the very best of historical, Christian theology. Neither Augustine or Aquinas, or the Reformers would have suggested that love of God is a denial of self. Love of God is the fulfillment of self, and the end of our desires. C.S. Lewis has a great line on this in “The Four Loves” were he talks about the soul finally reaching heaven and standing before God, only to profess some kind of dispassionate, impartial “love” for the Creator. As if we could really be self-less before the beauty of God! Of course we want Him, He is excellent!

@CarsonWeitnauer does this make sense? I realize this was your original post, so I hope I’m not rubbing you the wrong way. Certainly the prayer has its merits as well; I think it’s just the way it might be interpreted that could be problematic. Thoughts?

In Christ,

(C Rhodes) #8

@CarsonWeitnauer. I think the litany is beautiful in its intent. Much of what we yearn for is as well. I think when it is spoken from our hearts it’s true intent is known by GOD GOD knows our hearts and gets the limitations of the building in which it is encased. But, I also believe like most of our efforts, we can become fixated upon things already remedied by just following on to know the Lord. Or by just letting His mind dwell in us.

One of my favorite prayers come from Psalms 27:4. “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” Your litany says basically the same thing.

Sometimes, Psalms 27:4 feels like fire shut up in my bones! It speaks the yearning of my heart. This, the Lord already knows about me. My prayer addresses the complexity within my own flesh for my remembrance.

“O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24. Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Robert Lowry 1876.

It does and it will. Prayers answered. :wink:

(Carson Weitnauer) #9

Dear friends,

It would be rather unfortunate if I shared my appreciation for a prayer that asks for freedom from the desire of approval and the fear of being rebuked, and then failed to appreciate your kind and insightful responses. :slight_smile: First and foremost, thank you for the gift of your wise and caring perspective. It is helpful to me - and, I trust, to everyone listening in on the conversation. What a blessing!

I think part of the appeal of the prayer is how it sets the heart in the opposite direction from some of the worst excesses of my own culture. There is an enormous amount of attention given to gaining a platform, becoming a celebrity, having lots of followers, and so on. I sense that these are easy to ‘get caught up in’ for their own sake. The goal becomes more attention - not greater service of others.

I appreciate the reminder to affirm and encourage what God has done. He made us well. He loves us - with delight and joy in his heart! I also value the admonition that this prayer could lead to a damaged view of oneself. We could think of ourselves - or our God-given desires - in such lowly terms that we denigrate the good work of God.

I like the way Kathleen reworked the words to be more precise and clear. What we want freedom from is bondage to these desires. We want to be free to have pure desire - the completion, the fulfillment of what God wants us to want.

To be esteemed and honored by God is worth wanting - and wanting more and more! If that desire is robust and healthy, and finding fulfillment in Christ, then I think there will be a reduced desire to find its fulfillment in ‘the crowd.’

Perhaps the prayer could also be improved by a final stanza that speaks to the kind of good, holy desire we long to have and have fulfilled as the Holy Spirit renovates our lives.

(Isaiah J. Armstrong) #10

Paul asked the opposite of the Corinthian Church:

1 Corinthians 11 (HCSB)
Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.

(Lauren Riley) #11

Hi everyone,

Wow! Thanks for all your encouraging and challenging thoughts in this thread. Admittedly, I often tend more toward being an observer and ponderer than a participant in settings like these, so thanks to Carson for encouraging me to step beyond my comfort zone and share. :slight_smile:

Although I had never heard of this prayer when I came across the thread this morning, I instantly recognized it as the source of the lyrics to one of my favorite Audrey Assad songs (that I had, interestingly enough, been listening to earlier in the morning). I wanted to share a link to the song, “I Shall Not Want,” because I think it offers an interesting perspective on another way this prayer could be understood. I love how she links it back to Psalm 23:1 with the chorus, “And I shall not want, no I shall not want. When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want.”

Perhaps this interpretation stands out to me because of a study I’ve recently started in Psalm 23. One resource I’m using is a little book called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller, who was a shepherd at one point in his life. Here is a quote from the chapter “I Shall Not Be in Want,” which I think really ties in with what many of you have already observed about the key being where our contentment and fulfillment are to be found:

Contentment should be the hallmark of the man or woman who has put his or her affairs in the hands of God. This especially applies in our affluent age. But the outstanding paradox is the intense fever of discontent among people who are ever speaking of security. Despite an unparalleled wealth in material assets, we are outstandingly insecure and unsure of ourselves and well nigh bankrupt in spiritual values. Always men are searching for safety beyond themselves. They are restless, unsettled, covetous, greedy for more – wanting this and that, yet never really satisfied in spirit.
By contrast the simple Christian, the humble person, the Shepherd’s sheep, can stand up proudly and boast.“The Lord is my shepherd – I shall not be in want.” (Phillips, 2007, p. 34)

Anyway, just a thought. Hope it’s encouraging! The God of creation is my shepherd, my caretaker, my provider. How could I possibly lack anything I need? To truly understand this is to dwell humbly in security and fulfillment. So maybe this prayer could be seen as a plea for the focus to be drawn away from self and settled on the Shepherd? May it be so in me!