Self Guided Retreat-Day 2-Monday Humbling Ourselves



We take our cue from Jesus Himself to begin to understand what humbling ourselves is about. St Paul writes, in Philippians 2:5-8:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death….”

The key phrase is “He humbled Himself.” We do not pray for humility, we are to humble ourselves. It is like courage; we do not pray for courage, we take courage. Humbling ourselves means coming down from our pride- built pedestal and taking the low place. Even then we need to be careful that we do not take pride in our humility. It’s a tricky business. If we have difficulty humbling ourselves, it is quite appropriate to ask God to put us in a position where we will be humbled. He can do that quite nicely.

The very act of praying is, in a way, a humbling experience. Looking to God is recognizing that there are things we cannot do by ourselves; there are situations that we cannot handle; problems that we cannot solve; death that we cannot defeat.

Of course there are “prayers” that are not humbling at all but are of the “show-off” kind. Jesus noted some Pharisees who, “for a show make lengthy prayers.” (Luke 20:47) He also mentioned the Pharisee who, in the temple, “stood up and prayed about himself. ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, robbers, evil-doers, and adulterers, or even this tax-collector. I fast twice a week, and give a tenth of all I have.’” (Luke 18:11) His problem was not that he abstained from adultery and other sins; of course it was not wrong that he tithed and fasted, his problem was that he “prayed about himself.” He was simply congratulating himself. The Scottish poet Robbie Burns complained of certain preachers he knew who offered “two mile prayers” and showed “half-mile graces.”

Humility is not a gift of the spirit; it is a work of the cross being applied to our lives in areas that need to die. St Peter quotes Proverbs 3:34 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’ and adds, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.” (I Peter 5:5-6)

Question: What is the difference between true and false humility? Is it likely that others may see changes in us before we see them ourselves? Is this good or bad?

Prayer: O Lord God, I humble myself before you. Lift me up that I may serve you better with grace and a steadfast heart. In Jesus Name. Amen.