In a world where everyone seems to be demanding their rights and evil seems to grow all around us, the idea of being humble sounds very old-fashioned and frankly, foolish. Can humility really be the answer to the prayer, “deliver us from evil”? How can God expect us to give up our rights and act in humility when evil is at our very door? Sometimes love involves defending the weak and helpless (in fact, it requires it). Nevertheless, humility is the Christian response that will get us through such trying days, because it causes us to fall into the arms of God.
“Humility is probably the least sought-after virtue in America. Mostly, it is despised,” writes Eugene Peterson. Yet, to be humble is to understand where we came from and where we must go for our very life. “The Latin words humus, soil/earth, and homo, human being, have a common derivation, from which we also get our word ‘humble.’ This is the Genesis origin of who we are: dust—dust that the Lord God used to make us a human being” (Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places [Eerdmans, 2008], 76). Why is humility so important as we relate to the world and each other?
Humility is the ultimate act of sanity and serenity in a world we cannot control. As much as we want to control the evil we find in the world, we cannot succeed in our own power, because evil lies within each of us. This is why humility is essential. It is the posture of faith, believing in the possibility of something greater than ourselves. Humility is a conviction. According to Peterson , “prayer is the action that builds a bridge across the chasm of self-assertion to a life of humility.”
To despise prayer and virtue is the silent practicality of unbelief. It is the supreme act of atheism for the heart that doesn’t have time to rest in God through prayer. It is the insane man who does not pray, thinking he can control life, or at least that he should.
Yet, prayer is the act of faith to let God be God and no longer attempt control. Prayer is the beginning point of where grace is formed in us, where we submit to the God who is forming his will in us. Prayer follows humility, but it also creates humility in us. Maybe there is so much vice around us and in our hearts and thoughts as Christians because we have forgotten how to pray.
Christian virtue is not showing how superior we are to others or how our lives are so impressive in a world of evil. Christian humility is recognizing our need not only for our Creator but also for a Redeemer. As we pray in humble faith, we open our lives to God, let go of self-control, and live with love towards other people. We must never forget this. For to forget the humble petitions we have been taught is to forget that we are a needy people, after all, who must drink deeply from the wells of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day 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 evil” (Matt. 6:9–13).