Prayer: A Litany of Humility

James Tissot - Jesus Ministered to by Angels

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 to others, 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. Amen.

Attributed to Rafael Cardinal Merry Del Val by Charles Belmonten in Handbook of Prayers (Manila: Studium Theologiae Foundation, 1986). 

Hungry for Greatness

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Someone once told me that what they wanted most in life was to be seen and acknowledged for who they were. We can describe that desire as a hunger for greatness or, at least, a desire to be necessary. We all want someone to see who we are and what we have to offer. That hunger for greatness can be appropriate, such as our longing for someone to recognize the uniqueness of how God has made us (Psalm 139:13-14) and also the unique talents and abilities God has placed within our lives (Romans 12:4-8).

However, there are times when our hunger for greatness expands beyond what is appropriate. John Milton, in Paradise Lost, describes Satan’s great sin as “Monarchal pride,” signaled by his belief that it is “better to reign in Hell, than to serve in Heaven.” The way of Jesus the Messiah is unlike this. He taught differently – “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27) – and He lived differently – “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

The same sort of pride seen in Satan can infuse our human longings for great- ness. This is why Paul the Apostle wrote to the church in Rome: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3). Jesus Himself reminds us that we live in a world where hungers are often turned upside down. But in His Kingdom up is down and down is up: “For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest” (Luke 9:48).

James the Apostle comments on this theme: “Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:6-8). Throughout this week in the devotional, we will explore what it means to have an appropriate hunger for greatness that does not expand into pride.

RESPOND THIS WEEK:
Each week’s practice will feature some aspect of the process Paul describes for us in Ephesians 4:22-24, where we are to TAKE OFF something from our lives that has become corrupted or distracting and PUT ON in its place something God wants us to do.

Take Off:Take note this week of the ways that you tend to seek attention or turn conversations with others back toward yourself. How many times do you interject or interrupt others with stories of how what they are sharing relates to you? When you dress in the morning, how much of what you wear is intentionally chosen so that you will be noticed? Use the space below to take note of your experience this week.

Put On: Find ways each day this week to celebrate and build up someone else in your life. Write them a note, throw them a party, brag about them on Facebook, etc. At the end of each day, thank God for specific people and how they have blessed you that day.

[This a devotional I wrote with Jim Caler as part of the Eastbrook Church Lenten devotional, “Hungry for God.”]

The Disturbing Temptations of Pastoring in Obscurity

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I had the privilege of writing an article for Christianity Today‘s CT Pastors imprint that was released today. There’s an excerpt below, but you can read the full article here.

Gregory the Great, so tradition tells us, was a reluctant pope. Well-educated and from a wealthy family, Gregory experienced inner tension between his longing for the contemplative life and his sense of calling toward secular responsibilities. After converting to the monastic life and transforming his house into a monastery—the happiest years of his life—Gregory often was called into service of the church in public ways, including serving as Pope Pelagius II’s legate to Constantinople. When troubles gathered around Rome, Gregory was called from his monastic life to the city to help. Soon afterward, Pope Pelagius died of the plague sweeping through Rome at that time, and Gregory was elected to succeed him. Gregory tried to refuse the office, preferring his monastic life, but once elected, he accepted his duties faithfully and worked hard to serve God in his new position. The best leaders, according to the old proverb, are reluctant leaders.

Of course, as my own story shows, reluctance is not an inherently laudable trait…[read the rest of the article here]

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 9]

Andrew Murray 2Continuing my series of posts on Andrew Murray‘s brief book Humility, today I look at both chapter ten, “Humility and Death to Self,” and chapter twelve, “Humility and Exaltation.” While I admit I’m pulling these two chapters slightly out of order, I believe they fit together as two book-ends around chapter eleven (which we’ll look at next week) on “Humility and Happiness.”

“Death to self” is a phrase that we don’t hear too often any longer but derives from Paul’s description of Jesus in Philippians 2:8 (“he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death”) and Jesus’ teaching on discipleship in Luke 9:23 (“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me”). On this theme and its connection with humility, Andrew Murray writes:

The first and chief of the marks of the dying of the Lord Jesus, of the death-marks that show the true follower of Jesus, is humility. For these two reasons: Only humility leads to perfect death; Only death perfects humility.

This chapter comes into strong conflict with the prevailing approach to Christianity in our day as strongly as any other aspect of Murray’s book. In a time when we are focused so much on self-actualization, finding our gifts, understanding our personality, living out our uniqueness, the call toward death to self and its defining mark of humility seems like a message from another age. Read More »

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 8]

Andrew Murray 2In chapter nine of his book HumilityAndrew Murray explores the connection between “Humility and Faith.” The benefits of the Christian life, according to Murray, are something we can see but not access until the gift of faith comes into our lives. Faith is not only trust in God or the ability to perceive the heavenly blessings of God, but at its root that deep sense that we need God. For, as Murray writes, faith is “the confession of nothingness and helplessness, the surrender and the waiting to let God work.”

This is where the connection between faith and humility becomes evident. Faith cannot develop until we have the humility of right perception of who we are and who we are not before God. Faith cannot take root in our lives until we fundamentally turn from ourselves and from others to God. Pride and faith are inimical to one another and, therefore, “we never can have more of true faith than we have of true humility.”

This touches upon the outlook we have in our lives. The outlook of faith is truly a looking outward from the self to God beyond the opinions of other people or our society.

As long as we take glory from one another, as long as ever we seek and love and jealously guard the glory of this life, the honor and reputation that comes from men we do not seek, and cannot receive the glory that comes from God.

Faith removes the misdirected fears of our lives into a holy fear of the Lord that shapes our living with humility.

It is humility that brings a soul to be nothing before God, that also removes every hindrance to faith, and makes it only fear lest it should dishonor Him by not trusting Him wholly.

Faith is the characteristic that enables us to truly draw near to God. This very act of drawing near aright demands a humility for entrance and an ongoing humility of dependence upon God to bear fruit.

We might as well attempt to see without eyes, or live without breath, as believe or draw night to Go or dwell in His love without an all-pervading humility and lowliness of heart.

Murray concludes this chapter with an emphasis on humility being a channel of a deeper experience of God and the Holy Spirit in our lives. There is a difference, in a sense, of having the Spirit of God move through us and the Spirit of God having ongoing residence in us.

The Holy Spirit not only working in them as a Spirit of power, but dwelling in them in the fullness of His grace, and specially that of humility, would through them communicate Himself to these convert for a life of power and holiness and steadfastness now all too little seen.

I am reminded of F. B. Meyer’s quotation:

There are three kinds of Christians out there. Christ’s Spirit is present in everybody who’s born again. Christ’s Spirit is prominent in some people. And Christ’s Spirit is preeminent in, alas, only a few.

May we be the humble in whom Christ’s Spirit is not only present, not only prominent, but preeminent.

[Read the entire series of posts on Andrew Murray’s book Humility here.]

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 7]

Andrew Murray 2As I continue with my series of posts on Andrew Murray‘s brief book Humility, today I look at both chapter seven, “Humility and Holiness,” and chapter eight, “Humility and Sin.” These two chapters augment one another as counterpoints on similar themes.

In addressing the relationship between humility and holiness, Murray writes: “Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness.” As he has done before with other aspects of our walk with Christ, Murray returns to the theme of humility being the proof of our holiness.

The great test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it be manifest in the increasing humility it produces.

This flows from Murray’s conviction that humility is a direct reflection of the character of God revealed in Jesus’ life and teaching. Thus, he can say at one point in this chapter: “the holiest will ever be the humblest.” This is so, he writes, because:

humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all….And where the creature becomes nothing before God; it cannot be anything but humble towards the fellow-creature.

This leads directly into the central theme of chapter eight, “Humility and Sin,” where he describes humility as “the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.” Similar to his comments in the preface to the book, Murray is intent on differentiating between what he see as an unhelpful over-emphasis on and fixation with our sinfulness and the appropriately needful sense of our need for grace that leads us to fixation on the glory of God in Christ.

The point which I wish to emphasize is this: that the very fact of the absence of such confession of sinning [in the writings of the Apostle Paul] only gives more force to the truth that it is not in daily sinning that the secret of the deeper humility will be found, but in the habitual, never for a moment to be forgotten position, which just the more abundant grace will keep more distinctly alive, that our only place, the only place of blessing, our one abiding position before God, must be that of those whose highest joy it is to confess that they are sinners saved by grace.

Although the flow of language could use some editing, the flow of thought is overall clear. If we want greater humility, we must not become fixated upon our daily struggle with sin but with the greater grace of God that overcomes our sin. The way toward this is what has sometimes been called the expulsive power of Christ’s presence in our lives:

As health expels disease, and light swallows up darkness, and life conquers death, the indwelling of Christ through the Spirit is the health and light and life of the soul.

Putting it even more clearly, Murray writes:

Being occupied with self, even amid the deepest self-abhorrence, can never free us from self. It is the revelation of God, not only by the law condemning sin but by His grace delivering from it, that will make us humble. The law may break the heart with fear; it is only grace that works that sweet humility which becomes a joy to the souls as its second nature.

Both in terms of holiness and sin, Andrew Murray emphasizes the grace of God and His presence in our lives through Christ as more valuable than anguish over sin as the key.

Do you agree with Murray’s emphasis? 

What have you found to be most helpful in your own growth in humility?

[Read the entire series of posts on Andrew Murray’s book Humility here.]

Thursdays with Murray [Humility, week 6]

Andrew Murray 2Continuing with my posts from Andrew Murray‘s short book Humility, I turn to chapter six, “Humility in Daily Life.”

Time and again in this chapter Murray returns to the theme that any supposed humility we have before God will be proved true, or not, by the humility with which we relate to those around us.

Here are a sample of those related quotations:

It is easy to think we humble ourselves before God: humility towards men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real.

Humility before God is nothing if not proved in humility before men.

Our humility before God has no value, but as it prepared us to reveal the humility of Jesus to our fellow-men.

Join me in reflecting on how truly humility has taken root in our lives? Do we see it not only in our private attitude before God but also in the public interactions we have with others?

A list of Scripture passages that Murray references may clarify where we stand on this:

  • “Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
  • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16).
  • “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
  • “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (Galatians 5:13).
  • “Be completely humble and gentle” (Ephesians 4:2).
  • “Always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
  • “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
  • “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-7).
  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13).

If, like me, you feel a bit low on the humility scale after reading these passages, perhaps it would do us good, as Murray says, “to turn humbly and meekly to the meek and lowly Lamb of God, in the assurance that where He is enthroned in the heart, His humility and gentleness will be one of the streams of living water that flow from within us.”

May God make much of us by truly humbling us, and may the humbling in the hands of God bring the joy of the abundant life that Christ promises.

[Read the entire series of posts on Andrew Murray’s book Humility here.]