2017-08_LT-PrayingForHumility

How to Pray/My Prayer

What it’s Really Like to Pray for Humility

Praying for humility makes me feel really holy. The saints totally did this, so when I actually do it, I feel pretty confident that I’m doing something right. In fact, my prayers for humility often get interrupted by my own self-praise, which sounds something like, “Look at me, praying for humility. I’m doing such a good job.”

Ironic? Yeah, I know.

When I realized this, it was pretty devastating. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to shut off my thoughts, though, and I started to lose patience. More and more, my prayers sounded like this: “God, I know you want me to pray for humility, but, seriously, I can’t even ask you for humility in a humble way! This is hopeless!”

In His Hands

Humility is a concept I struggle with daily. Sometimes it feels like no matter how much effort I put in, no matter how many prayers I pray, I make no progress. It’s as if I’m running a race against my pride, except my pride has a head start and I’m running on a platform that’s moving me backwards the whole time.

I often get discouraged about humility, because I think that my job is to be successful. I think that I have the willpower to force myself to be humble, but I don’t. Only God possesses the grace necessary and only He can give it to me. I cannot sanctify myself, and, thankfully, that’s not my job. My job is to love my Savior, to ask patiently and persistently for the grace of humility, and to trust that everything—including my sanctification—is in His hands.

Careful What You Pray For

Sometimes, humility comes to us in surprising ways. For example, I thought that I would just pray for humility, God would give it to me, and that would be that. But, sometimes, it’s precisely the trying and failing to be humble that I need in order for God to show me how much I need Him.

For example, I get nervous in social situations and feel like I don’t know what to say or worry that I’m saying the wrong things. When this happens to me now, a line from the Litany of Humility often springs to mind: “From the desire of being praised, deliver me, O Jesus.”

One time I was in class and I got into a debate with another student. I was extremely confident in my argument until the teacher pointed out an obvious piece of information from the assigned reading, and my argument now looked stupid. Embarrassed that I hadn’t known, I became defensive and spent the rest of the class with my face bright red. “From the fear of being humiliated, deliver me, O Jesus.”

A friend and I had both completed the same project, but when we saw a friend of ours, she took the time to compliment my friend on what a great job she’d done and ignored me. I was hurt and jealous. “That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

Other times, humility hits us in the face when we weren’t expecting it. One day I was scrolling through a page of saint quotes when I came across St. Josemaria Escriva’s 17 signs of a lack of humility. I still recall reading that list as one of the most uncomfortable (and most humbling) experiences of my life. Before that, I had never really thought about exactly what humility was; I just thought that as long as I wasn’t being a total Disney villain, I was basically okay. But when I read that list, I realized just how lacking in humility I was. I had been avoiding understanding humility because I didn’t want to know my imperfections, but humility is really just the truth. It’s the truth that God is infinitely good, and I am not. God is infinitely wise, and I am not. God is God, and I am His creature.

In those moments, we have a choice to make: 1) we can deny the Truth of who God is and who we are before Him, and refuse to be humbled, 2) we can decide the challenge is too difficult to accept and give up, or 3) we can bow before God and ask for His mercy.

The third option definitely isn’t the easiest, but, here’s the thing:

  1. We were made by the Truth and for the Truth, so denying it will never fulfill us.
  2. We are not destined for comfort; the challenges of the spiritual life are what makes it so meaningful. Deciding that our sin is too great for God is not humility; it’s a sign of underestimating God’s endless mercy.
  3. We ask for God’s mercy by the help of His grace, so bowing before Him and asking forgiveness is not a sign of failure. If we are asking Him to forgive us, we can be sure that He is still at work in our hearts. He hasn’t given up on me, so I shouldn’t either.
  4. I Shall Not Want

    I think that there’s a strong correlation between praying for forgiveness and praying for humility, because asking for humility seems to involve a lot of realizing my own faults, especially ones that I hadn’t noticed in myself before. But God shows me all those things– my pride and selfishness, my vanity and self-importance—because He loves me. He doesn’t want me to continue living my life, ignorant of how I am harming myself with my sin. Instead, He shows me my sins and uses that knowledge to draw me ever closer to the cross. The more aware I am of how much I need Him, the greater my desire to fall at His feet and to honor the wounds with which He bought my salvation.

    Realizing how small I am and how much I need Him isn’t a feeling I would normally go looking for. That feeling can be painful, but the difficulty is diminished by the way it rings with truth in my soul. Deep down, my heart longs to be humbled, to be set free from her pride, so that she can finally do what she was made to do: glorify her Creator.

    God never takes without giving. When I try to let go of my pride, I can get scared of what I might lose if I let God humble me. But He knows what I need; He is what I need. And our God does not disappoint.

    When You Pray For Humility…

    Whenever I was encouraged to pray for humility, people always told me that this was a dangerous prayer. And those people were right, but it wasn’t dangerous for the reasons I had thought. I didn’t find myself suddenly thrown into a whirlwind of humbling situations. But, after spending some time with the Litany of Humility, I did become aware of all the opportunities for humility that I hadn’t noticed before. If you’ve never prayed for humility before, here’s a few tips.

    Pray with the Litany of Humility. If you can, do this every day. The Litany of Humility is a great way to challenge yourself and grow in understanding humility. It’s also an excellent prayer to take into your everyday life. If I notice myself growing jealous or nervous, I can always turn to a line from the Litany of Humility to ask for the grace to approach the situation differently.

    Don’t set expectations. Be open to the Spirit. Humility doesn’t often come to us when we’re expecting it. Sometimes it can be tempting to set expectations or boundaries on what God is allowed to do in our hearts, and what He isn’t. So, when you pray for humility, give Him everything and ask Him for an open and courageous heart.

    I can’t predict what God wants to do in your heart, but I can tell you that being humbled will be uncomfortable, yet peaceful; it will be challenging, yet life-giving. There is no greater joy than worshipping God because that is for what we were made, and it’s humility that sets us free to do that.

About the Author

Sophia Swinford

I'm a theology student at St. Mary's in London, but I'm still an Arizona girl at heart. I basically live off books, coffee, rainy days, and conversations about Jesus, who has stolen my heart and never given it back!