While there is nothing wrong with being proud of a job well done, vanity has no place in our spiritual lives. Our Lord famously illustrated this in his parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (captured by the French Artist James Tissot in the painting above) in which the contrite tax collector is justified before God rather than the smug Pharisee boasting about his religious achievements (Luke 18:9-14).
This prayer for humility starts out with a memorable quote from scripture:
O God, who resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble: grant us the virtue of true humility, where of Your Only-begotten son showed in Himself a pattern for Your faithful; that we may never by our pride provoke Your anger, but rather by our meekness receive the riches of Your grace.
The first line (about God resisting the proud and giving grace to the humble) is quoted approvingly by the apostles St. Peter (1 Pet. 5:5) and St. James (Jas. 4:6) in their New Testament letters. God’s favoring the humble is also mentioned numerous times in Scripture (such as in Job 22:29, Sirach 3:18, Psalm 18:28, and Matt. 23:12)
Humility is also an important element of the Blessed Mother’s prayer the Magnificat, in which she proclaims that God “has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart” and “has exalted the lowly” (Luke 1:51-52).
Why approach God with humble hearts? Because he can work with (and through) us then, when we’re not all full of our own egos and puffed-up pride, treating our Lord as if we’re doing Him a favor by being devout.
Note also that this prayer for humility makes reference to God’s grace. God gives us the inclination with His grace to do good things and to avoid evil. (To do good for God, as it were!) Yet we must be truly open to receiving God’s grace for it to be effective in our lives.
Perhaps you’ve seen a picture of Christ knocking at our door (such as the one shown at right). We can’t let Him in if we’re too full of ourselves. There’s no room for Him in our souls if they’re cluttered with our own smug self-importance.
In terms of meekness, remember also our Lord’s famous line from the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the meek because they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5).
(Matthew quotes another of His most famous sayings later on in his Gospel: “He who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:12).
Note, however, that showing meekness doesn’t mean being a doormat or not standing up for what is right, in our faith and in society in general. Christ showed great humility in his earthly ministry, from being born in a manger to dying on a cross!
Yet He also showed unwavering devotion to His Heavenly Father in setting the example of humble love and service to God and to Humanity he wished us to follow. As the Word made flesh dwelling among us (John 1:14), Christ always displayed a firmness of purpose in carrying out His Father’s will for our good and His glory.
As St. Paul put it so movingly in his letter to the Philippians Christ “humbled Himself…even to death on a cross..therefore God has also exalted Him and has bestowed upon Him the name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:8-9). In His Passion, our Lord conquered death so that we might have Eternal Life with Him in heaven.
We all have times when we feel frustrated by other people’s conceit or by our own feelings of inadequacy. We hope this prayer for humility can help you turn these gloomy thoughts over to God for His grace in dealing with them!