Posted by: davidlarkin | November 23, 2018

Prayers for Humility

Prayers for Humility

The Scripture makes it clear that the virtues of humility and modesty are not natural features of the flesh and our sinful nature, but are gifts of God by grace.  For example,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6 (ESV), 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV), Proverb 3:34 (ESV)

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

James 4:10 (ESV)

“Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.”

Proverbs 21:4 (ESV)

Andrew Murray, in his fine devotional Humility, The Beauty of Holiness, wrote:

Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. 

Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all. God has so constituted us as reasonable beings, that the truer the insight into the real nature or the absolute need of a command, the readier and fuller will be our obedience to it. The call to humility has been too little regarded in the Church because its true nature and importance has been too little apprehended. It is not a something which we bring to God, or He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all. When the creature realizes that this is the true nobility, and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the form, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place. In the life of earnest Christians, of those who pursue and profess holiness, humility ought to be the chief mark of their uprightness. It is often said that it is not so.

Humility, Chapter 1: Humility: The Glory of the Creature”.

It is easy to see why we need prayer for humility and modesty, a word for outward expression of humility.

Here are four prayers for humility I have found over the years, and also a prayer for modesty:

The first is a prayer from Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917), who was a South African writer, teacher and Christian pastor. Murray considered missions to be “the chief end of the church”. Wikipedia.

From Your great goodness, Lord, make known to me and take from my heart, every kind and form and degree of Pride, whether it be from evil spirits, or my own corrupt nature; and awaken in me the deepest depth and truth of that Humility, which can make me capable of Your light and Holy Spirit.

Adapted from Andrew Murray’s book, Humility, Chapter 12 “Humility and Exaltation”.

The second prayer is from Walter Russell Bowie (1882 – 1969), was an American priest, author, editor, educator, hymn writer, and lecturer in the Episcopal Church.  He was born in Richmond, Virginia, actually the fourth of his family to have the same name, and with family relationships among the First Families of Virginia. Nonetheless, he traveled north for his college education, receiving a B.A. (1904) and M.A. (1905) from Harvard University. As a Harvard undergraduate Bowie was co-editor of The Harvard Crimson, with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wikipedia.  He then returned to Virginia and entered the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, now known as Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, where he earned a B.D. in 1908 (shortly after which he was ordained a deacon) and later earned a D.D. (1919). Wikipedia.

O God, our Father, since he who stands must take heed lest he fall, deliver me this day from the foolishness of pride. Grant that neither outwardly nor inwardly may I boast of my imagined powers. Give me such reverence for the real tasks of life that I may know that they are above my own unaided strength; that so with a clean mind and a pure heart I may turn to You for the help by which alone I may stand unashamed when the day is done. And to You be the praise both now and ever. Amen.

Adapted from Walter Russell Bowie, Lift Up Your Hearts, p. 21.

The third prayer for humility is from William Barclay (1907 – 1978), who was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific writer, and is best known for his 17 volume Daily Bible Study, a commentary on 17 books of the New Testament.  A list of the over 120 books published by William Barclay can be found here.

William Barclay Prayer for Humility

O Father, give us the humility which
Realizes its ignorance,
Admits its mistakes,
Recognizes its need,
Welcomes advice,
Accepts rebuke.
Help us always
To praise rather than to criticize,
To sympathize rather than to condemn,
To encourage rather than to discourage,
To build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.
This we ask for thy name’s sake.

– From Dorothy M. Stewart (editor), Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, #78 p. 162

This fourth prayer is from St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582):

Whoever loves you, good Lord,
Walks in safety down a royal road, far from the dangerous abyss;
and if he so much as stumbles, you, O Lord, stretch out your hand.
Not one fall, or many, will cause you to abandon him
        if he loves you
and does not love the things of this world,
because he walks in the vail of humility.

– from the Lion Prayer Collection, compiled by Mary Batchelor, p. 19

This last prayer for modesty, is from Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, (1928 – 1996), who was an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Cincinnati from 1972 until 1982, and as Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996 from pancreatic cancer. Bernardin was elevated to the cardinalate in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. former Archbishop of Cincinnati and Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago:

Prayer for Modesty

Grant us, Oh Lord, the gift of modesty. When we speak, teach us to give our opinion quietly and sincerely. When we do well in work or in play, give us a sense of proportion, that we be neither unduly elated nor foolishly self-deprecatory. Help us in success to realize what we owe to you and to the efforts of others: in failure, to avoid dejection; and in all ways to be simple and natural, quiet in manner, and lowly in thought: through Jesus Christ, Amen.

— adapted from Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, Oxford Book of Prayers, #406 at p. 122, George Appleton (editor).

What’s the difference between Humility and Modesty:

While “humility” and “modesty” are often used interchangeably, they are different in usage.  A modest person generally is humble, and a humble person is generally modest.  Here is a discussion of the difference in usage.

‘Modesty’ and ‘humility’ are often used interchangeably, but they are actually very different concepts.

‘Modesty’ derives from the Latin modus, ‘measure’ or ‘manner’. It means restraint in appearance and behavior: the reluctance to flaunt oneself, to put oneself on display, or to attract attention.

Modesty often implies a certain artfulness and artificiality, perhaps even inauthenticity or hypocrisy. The fictional character of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is notable for his obsequiousness and insincerity, often emphasizing his own “umbleness” to cover up the true scale of his ambition. Modesty often poses as humility, but, unlike true humility, is skin-deep and external rather than deep and internal. At best, modesty is no more than good manners.

‘Humility’, like ‘humiliation’, derives from the Latin humus, ‘earth’ or ‘dirt’. Unlike mere modesty, true humility derives from a proper perspective of our human condition: one among billions on a small planet among billions, like a fungus on a tiny fragment of cheese. Of course, it is nearly impossible for human beings to remain this objective for very long, but truly humble people are nonetheless far more conscious of the insignificance of their true relations, an insignificance that verges on non-existence. A speck of dust does not think itself more superior or inferior than another, nor does it concern itself for what other specks of dust might or might not think. Enthralled by the miracle of existence, the truly humble person lives not for herself or her image, but for life itself, in a condition of pure peace and pleasure.

Neil Burton, M.D., Psychology Today, June 30, 2018.

It is a lifelong struggle for me to be humble and modest, and prayer is essential for me.

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