How to Develop a Prayer Rule: The Necessity of Humility

 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,  who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,  but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  (Philippians 2:5-9)

There can be no true connection to God unless we humble ourselves before Him. He created us and not we ourselves. So, to approach the Almighty by putting on airs and acting as if we deserve His attention and blessings is a non-starter for any prayer rule. Even boasting that one keeps a consistent pattern of seeking His presence in a 2,000 year old tradition with the scriptures and prayers written by the most storied saints of the Church can be an insurmountable stumbling block if we are arrogant and proud. It is only by His goodness, not ours, that one can be blessed to keep such a pattern of prayer.

Fr. Jerome Sanderson

It is popular these days to declare ourselves to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) , “blessed and highly favored” (from Luke 1:28), or something to build up or self-esteem, or as a sort of encouragement. However, to be one with Christ Jesus in prayer is to have the same mind as His. Our Lord’s mind was not to be puffed up with self-importance or take scripture out of context (In Luke 1:28, the Archangel Gabriel calls the Virgin Mary blessed and highly favored as he announces the Lord’s Conception). Jesus humbled Himself to be incarnate in human form with all of our warts and whims in every way except sin. He submits to the most vile mocking, cruelest torture, and ugliest means of death for the whole world to see. For us to pray to such a God as if we have any level of perfection is no different than that of a Pharisee who justifies himself (Luke 18:9-14).

My Ordination with Fr. James Purdie and Fr. Paul Abernathy

Rather than high esteem in self, the better approach in prayer is to have hope in God’s compassion. The Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner) is a tool that reminds us of who we are and the One we are reaching out to. Yes, I am a sinner. My wickedness is not seen or considered that bad by everyone. But, I know that I have constantly missed the mark of holiness. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He destroyed death and sin by His death and resurrection. With this belief, I can look for His mercy. Even without a “birthing,” “breakthrough,” “shift,” or while I’m still “waiting for my season,” I have faith that He will provide my daily bread and ultimate salvation.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

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