When Clouds Gather, Humble Yourself and Pray

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  James 4:10 (NIV)

Prayer expresses faith in an Almighty God. Earnest prayer connects us to our Heavenly Father where communication transpires with One more powerful than ourselves. It’s a liberating conversation. So why does it seem we seldom pray until trouble besieges us? Are our prayers only pleas for help? Is our communion with God merely requests for needs and wants?

At times our long lists of petitions trivialize prayer. Have you ever repeated the same prayer over and over again, as if babbling repetitively? Believe it or not, God already knows our needs. Scripture tells us He knows us by name (Isaiah 43:1) as well as the exact count of hairs on our heads (Matthew 10:30). He even knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8). 

Since God has full knowledge of you and me, we ought to take time to be still and get to know Him (Psalm 46:10). Instead of routine words expressed as prayers, humbly bow before Him with joyful expressions of thanks for who He is and what He’s already done for us.

God loves us more than a parent adores her own child. With sacrificial love, He surrendered His Son to die in our place in order for us to gain eternal life with Him (John 3:16). He yearns for a relationship with us like parents long for loving bonds with their offspring. 

Genuine, loving relationships are full of grace. However, imagine the sound of repetitious entreaties from a child to a parent. Yes, parents wish to please their children. But constant pleading? Sooner or later the demands sound like clanging cymbals. Being a parent myself, I understand the simple delight of being loved for who I am, not for what I can do for my child.

Years ago my family learned a valuable lesson about treasuring the person and not his handouts. My husband’s job required him to journey out of town every week for a year and a half except on Saturdays. Because of his travels, we decided I would be a stay-at-home mom for our two preschool children. Even though it was the best plan for us at the time, our family dynamics suffered because of stress. 

While he faithfully provided for us, my husband experienced extreme guilt because of his absence. He began bringing home gifts for our children to appease his conscience. Before long, they anticipated his presents to the point of neglecting him. His dejected countenance pained me. We knew immediately what must happen or not happen—no more goody bags filled with toys. Oh the tears and tantrums that materialized. Eventually our children forgot about what dad brought home and instead squealed with delight when he entered the door. Oh to be appreciated for who you are!

How often do we neglect adoration for our Savior and instead seek what He can give us? Are we as selfish as little children? Doesn’t the God of the universe also deserve to be loved and appreciated simply for who He is? Remember—His love is greater than that of a human parent. And He desires a loving relationship with each of us. Knowing of His sacrificial love for us should shift our prayers from self-serving to God-honoring. Pride out—humility in. 

Humility? How do we pray with humility? Does kneeling help? Or is it a heart issue? Jesus once said to a crowd on a mountainside, “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” 

His statement is included in the list of blessings or beatitudes from His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5). These beatitudes speak to the acceptable attitudes humbly displayed before a supreme being, and Jesus modeled them perfectly. So how do we follow Him?

While teaching His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke about prayer, explaining the essence of pride and humility (Matthew 6:5-15). He detailed how people stand in the synagogues and street corners to pray. They desire to be seen. He told his audience to go where no one sees and then pray. Standing alone with a pliable heart before Almighty God dissolves self-absorption. It transforms a selfish human heart into a humble one. 

Do you have needs to bring before your Heavenly Father? Have you examined your heart before going to Him in prayer? Start with the perfect prayer modeled by His perfect Son, Jesus. He said, “This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’”  Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)

Following Jesus’ example takes our eyes off of our issues and turns them toward God. Recognizing His power and authority exposes our inability to control anything in our lives. Simply gazing at the heavens He created should cause us to say with the psalmist, “Who am I that you are aware of me?” (Psalm 8:3-4). 

Truly understanding God’s majesty increases wisdom. Daily walking in that knowledge inevitably leads to humility. And God shows favor to the humble (1 Peter 5:5).

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If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.  Psalm 66:18-19 (NIV)
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Before we can pray “Thy kingdom come,” we must be willing to pray, “My kingdom go.”
~Alan Redpath