I pray for humility. And no, it’s not like praying for patience.
I was a part of an extended prayer moment recently in a group of almost a dozen people and as we went down the important list of prayer needs and my mind kept going back to “What about praying for humility? What about seeing others as better than ourselves as we are told to do?”
We pray for Holy Spirit’s power, and that’s needed. We pray for love for one another, and it goes without saying how important that is. We pray for God to use us in His way and why would we not pray for that?
All of the above is good! It’s all needed and you will never find me complaining when I hear those prayers. But I feel like it’s still incomplete, and I rarely hear mentioned these days as I take part in prayer circles the deep need for humility.
What is Humility?
I define it biblically. Scripture is my point of reference for morals and values, humility being near the top for my life. There are two verses written by the person who, if he hadn’t written, nearly half of the New Testament wouldn’t exist:
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit. Romans 12:10
According to just these two verses humility is:
- Not being selfish
- Not trying to impress others
- (My favorite) Thinking of others as better than ourselves
- Have genuine affection for others
- Let someone else get the credit
That last one is very, very important if we want to be humble. It’s not about us. We know our place and are willing to relinquish getting credit.
What Isn’t Humility?
I can definitely say being someone’s doormat isn’t true humility. The man who wrote the above words was prolific. God used his mind and his passion in ways the church probably has yet to see in its history. But if you were standing next to him in a crowd, I’m guessing you would never notice anything different about him! He defended himself and his authority as an apostle of Christ over and over again. He was no one’s doormat.
And yet, the humility with which he expressed and lived his life is remarkable. Defining humility by what it isn’t is effective, to a point. I believe we have such a skewed view of what it really is that taking a minute to consider what doesn’t constitute an authentic humility helps. Read and reread these next three bullets. How do they speak to you? What do they say about you? With that in mind, humility isn’t:
- Allowing others to trample on your self-image or person
- Being willing to never have any say in matters
- Having little or no self-worth
How to be Humble
I can’t add to the list I found in only two places there in Paul’s writings. Go back to reread them and you will find out how to be humble. And above all I would suggest: pray for humility. It’s an easy prayer to say, but harder to live. And be careful! Publicly praying for humility is risky. By its very nature and definition, humility shies away from publicity. It’s not to say one can’t be “famously humble” so to speak.
I think of another prolific author who wrote many, many very popular books that spoke to so many hearts at just the right time in people’s lives, including mine when I was just starting my spiritual journey. Here’s his Amazon.com page and you can see how many he produced during his life. I had the privilege of him sitting in a chair in front of about a dozen of us in seminary while we asked random ministry questions and he was so quiet and so unassuming. Humble. And that was probably one of the biggest reasons for his writing success.
I will tell you how it has shown up in my life though. Inside me there’s a voice that says, “Notice me!” I want to be seen and somehow appreciated for who I am. As a man. As someone who is a part of a church community. As a human being.
It’s a simple part of human nature and I believe perfectly natural to a point. But as I have prayed in recent months for God to keep me humble, there have been times when it appears to me no one notices. It doesn’t mean I’m not doing something, or helping or changing a life with my presence. It just means, well, an opportunity to actually be noticed and pointed out goes by the wayside.
And I have to be okay with that. We have to be okay with not being noticed constantly. It’s that simple.
I’m Wondering: How do you balance “Notice me!” with humility? Leave a comment below.