Humility in Prayer
Carter Sanger Download: Audio
Psalm 131, Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Have you ever noticed that when you engage in conversation with people that there is a tendency for stories to keep along a similar theme and tend to grow in “wowness” with each shift of speaker? It’s as though every oneis trying to “one-up” the other. It can be fun to swap stories and learn things about each other. At the same time, however, you can find yourself only half listening to the speaker because you’re trying to think of your own story to share. Rather than immerse yourself into their story, you find yourself caught up in your own and trying to pull others into it with you.
These are missed opportunities in our relationships. We miss getting to know others by only glancing in the door they’ve opened rather than entering and exploring. Why do we do this? At the heart of it, we’re self-centered people. There is a self that needs feeding. It needs validation. It needs to know it has value and worth. And we think that gaining attention from others, especially if we can impress them, will do this for us. This is such a developed aspect of our way of relating that we bring it into our relationship with God whether we mean to or not. We want God to validate us based on the story we have to tell him.
But this misses the mark on many levels. Rather than our boasting bring validation, it can bring jealousy or even scorn. A little humility goes a long way. It might seem the thing that gets the least attaboys but instead it earns the most respect. Don’t you find this to be the case in your own conversations with others? It is with those people that talk about themselves the least and listen to you the most that you find yourself drawn to. They seem to validate. They seem to appreciate who you are.
Prayer has some overlaps with this. God does enter into our story. That’s what the incarnation was all about. God the son left heaven and came to earth to take on flesh and walk a lifetime in our shoes. When you pray and talk with God, you feel a sense of this to be true. God knows you. But for you to progress in your relationship with God you have to practice not the boastful stories you may tell others, but the honest stories that reveal the joys, sorrows, regrets, heartbreaks, etc. that are the real you. And then you have to learn to listen, for the validation that you desire is there, but it doesn’t come because of your grand stories or grand accomplishments. It comes from His story. It is the story of Jesus entering into those stories of regret and heartbreak with you and for you and carrying them to the cross. That act validates you. It shows you two things: one that you are made clean of your guilt, and two the value God places on you is worth his going to the cross.
This kind of prayer is the prayer of humility. And it is life-giving. In this prayer, God transforms our self-image.