God is intent on doing deep, sweet work in us, when we pray – beyond just the thing we pray for. He is out to produce in us humility. This is a hard word for some, but it wasn’t for Jonathan Edwards, who said that the pleasures of humility are some of the most refined, inward and exquisite pleasures known to man. You might have heard it said, “Don’t ask God for humility, because He might just give it to you.” Edwards would have none of that – as we gain ground in humility, we deepen in this inward, exquisite pleasure.
One simple way that we are meant to grow in humility is by prayer.
Now, let’s make sure we’re on the same page on our definition of humility. I mean it simply to think of oneself less – to be self-forgetful. Even the person with low self-esteem is still thinking of themselves, just in a lowly way. But a gospel-created humility does not so much despise oneself, as it forgets oneself, lost in beholding Something Else.
And prayer is one means by which we do this “beholding”.
When one reads the Psalms, one is struck by the varied kinds of things that David and others pray for. David is vocal, bold and he asks for a lot, about a lot of things. That’s because, as we read the Psalms, the God that David prays to is a generous Father. When His children ask for bread, he does not give a stone. He gives bread, in abundance. He is almost profligate in His generosity to His children – the more we ask, the more we receive (James 4:3).
But there is a problem. You see it with generous parents and their children all the time. The child is prone to pride, and to assume upon the generosity of the parent – perhaps coming to believe that they deserve it. We love the gifts, but we are prone to forget the Giver.
Thus God’s gifts to us – which He is prone and predisposed to give us in abundance – are not spiritually safe for us to receive.
Unless . . . we ask for them.
When we ask for His gifts, He gives them, and we are reminded afresh that all we have is a gift (1 Cor. 4:7). The resulting humility is freeing, because it allows us to forget ourselves, in the enjoyment of His gifts, thankful to Him, our eyes on Him, not on ourselves, for accomplishing it ourselves. This is where life can become sweet, even in times of trouble or threat.
Our need, then, is to simply come to Him more often, for our needs. Perhaps write down your requests, and track them, so that you may behold still more the Giver of Gifts.