The Fragrance of Humility in Prayer

“There are two ways to attain high esteem. One is the world’s method: Take every opportunity to promote yourself before others, seize occasions for recognition and manipulate your way into the center of attention. The other way is God’s way: Humble yourself. Rather than striving for recognition and influential positions, seek to put others first. Cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you.” Henry Blackaby

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra was asked what was the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation he replied, “The second fiddle! I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm—that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.” This is the problem we as Christians face. We don’t easily want to play second fiddle because it’s too humbling a position. We want to be important. We want to be first, but how we can cultivate a humble heart in our prayer life.

In John 12 Mary of Bethany offered thanks humbly at the feet of Jesus. She freely gave her all with a grateful and abandoned heart. Clothing herself in humility, she poured a perfume on Jesus that he quickly recognized because of the sacrifice. It was costly.

Many of us are worried about our finances and are consumed with thinking about an uncertain future. We worry about our retirement or money for college. Mary gave her most valuable possession—worth $40,000 in our day—her entire inheritance and future. Take a moment to think about the reality of what Mary did in this one humble act. She freely gave her all to Jesus, and the fragrance of what she did filled the entire room. It seems in a world that is getting progressively dark, a fragrance of humility would make a marked difference. Mary had a humble heart.

As we evaluate our life, what is one of the best things we can give one another, and especially those in our own family? Perhaps we can offer a humble heart—a heart that looks out for the interests of others and is not self-seeking or proud, a heart that serves and loves unconditionally, and a heart that cultivates humility in prayer. Isn’t this what Jesus wants in our life? He hates pride and selfish ambition, but He loves the meek and lowly.

Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility, but he was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it? I think we can all identify with this preacher because we all need to grow in humility. It does not come naturally.

Perhaps we need to be more like the scientist George Washington Carver. He developed hundreds of useful products from the peanut! When he was young he asked God to tell him the mystery of the universe. But God answered: That knowledge is reserved for me alone. So he said, “God, tell me the mystery of the peanut.” Then God said, “Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.” And he told him.

A good example of both the proud and the humble is Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. The Tax Collector found favor with God. We read in Luke 18:13-14: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’”

Cultivating Humility in Prayer

Jesus is our daily example of humility. As you consider cultivating humility, ask God to develop humility in your prayer life. Meditate long and carefully on the humility of Jesus as you apply the following:

  • Have a worshipping heart – Jesus had a worshipful heart. Worship and praise open the heavens and bring heavens blessings onto the earth. It ushers in the giolory of God. Begin your prayer time with a worshipping heart. Enter God’s court with praise.

    “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

  • Have a grateful heart – Jesus was always grateful. Gratefulness ministers the fragrance of thanksgiving and kindness. It carries a heavenly fragrance. It moves our eyes off of our self and esteems God. It brings encouragement and victory. A grateful heart changes the atmosphere around us. Thank God for specific things He has done for you this past year.

    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

Have an abandoned heart – Jesus gave His all for us. He did not use His divine power for His own ends while on earth but lived dependent on the Holy Spirit and abandoned to God. Jesus emptied Himself completely. In prayer have you laid all your plans and desires at His feet?

    “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7).

  • Have an obedient heart – Jesus was obedient even to death on a cross. He embraced a type of death that involved indescribable emotional shame and physical pain. In God’s presence, evaluate your life in the area of obedience. Write a prayer asking God to help you in any areas where you struggle in obedience.

    “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).

  • Have a servant’s heart – Jesus was the servant of all. See John 13:3-17. He made Himself of no reputation. He embraced shame and disgrace as a servant. He hid his glory under the veil of humanity and did not insist on His own rights. Evaluate your heart, and repent of any lack of humility or servanthood in your life. Take time being still, and then specifically bring them before the Lord.

    “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45).

  • Have a considerate heart – Jesus considered others as more important than Himself. He was not self-absorbed or self-preoccupied, but He was absorbed in the good of others. As you pray, consider others. Don’t be preoccupied with praying only for yourself, but bring the needs of others before the Lord in prayer.

    “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).

Let’s ask God to teach us humility in our daily life and in our prayers.

Simple acts of humility will make a difference in a world that esteems getting ahead and self-promotion. Jesus is our greatest example. He is out to win our hearts for love. One so strong and tender stooped so low for each one of us. Can we not do the same for Him?

“That which brings the praying soul near to God is humility of heart. That which gives wings to prayer is lowliness of mind. Pride, self-esteem, and self-praise effectually shut the door of prayer. He who would come to God must approach the Lord with self hidden from his eyes. Humility is a rare Christian grace of great price in the courts of heaven, entering into and being an inseparable condition of effectual praying. It gives access to God when other qualities fail. Its full portrait is found only in the Lord Jesus. Our prayers must be set low before they can ever rise high.” E. M. Bounds

Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff

How Jesus Modeled Humility

“The revelation of His glory includes seeing One so high (transcendence) who went so low (condescension) to bring us so near (redemption) because we are so dear (Bride). The Most High God went so low because of such great desire to partner with us… We are awestruck by His power, overwhelmed by His humility, and made confident by His love.” Mike Bickle

If we want to be people of prayer we must learn to walk in the humility of Jesus. Jesus was humble. Perhaps this was His most outstanding characteristic. Imagine if you were God—equal with the Father, sharing glory with Him, having every privilege of being God—and then you became a man and laid aside all those privileges. “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Imagine becoming the servant of all and being God hidden in the obscurity of humanity.

His humility was expressed most when He became a man and died on the cross. He never insisted on His rights and privileges to be honored, understood or viewed rightly, but he emptied Himself of His reputation. He was content to be seen as ordinary and did not seek esteem. Think about embracing a life of weakness, poverty, shame, homelessness, rejection, and pain. We realize this when we study Isaiah 53 and see Jesus as the suffering servant. Jesus had lowliness of heart.

“We are by nature preoccupied with our image and being recognized for our good traits. Jesus embraces a position where everyone totally underestimated Him and His abilities. When they saw Him they saw nothing to distinguish Him. He was totally ordinary in every sense.” Mike Bickle

It’s easy for us to say we’re humble and broken until the real test comes, and we are put in a humbling position. We wonder, “Why aren’t we recognized?” It doesn’t feel good. We react and don’t like it. We want to be important and are often so proud. But Jesus became nothing during His life on earth, and He gives us His example so that we may follow in His steps. In fact, the only character trait that He proclaimed about himself was His humility. Jesus didn’t put on humility to just accomplish a task on earth. Humility is part of His eternal nature. As we understand His humility it should produce admiration, inspiration, and confidence in us. In His lowliness of heart we find rest for our souls (Matthew 11:29).

I remember one of my first experiences on the mission field. I joined a ship with 300 others, mainly young people, and we were going to change the world! The name of that ship was Doulos. The word in Greek means “servant” or “slave” and we were all learning to be servants for Jesus. I’m sure at that time it hadn’t sunk in just what that word would mean in actual experience. We all went on the mission field with ideas of grandeur—perhaps we would reach millions for Christ or start an orphanage or Bible college or become a great evangelist. But when we arrived, to our surprise we were assigned to “great” jobs—cleaning toilets, chipping paint, washing dishes—and other similar high-ranking services.

My first job on that ship was serving food in the dining room. I remember some of the initial struggles I went through as we served food again and again in South America without any apparent letup. We’d have to clean up as fast as we could and get ready for another group of up to 300 individuals hungrily coming to eat. It was quite tiring to say the least, and the problem with having a lowly job is that others actually treat you that way, and it didn’t feel very good at the time. The mission field wasn’t as glamorous as I had always imagined.

But working in the dining room made a big impression in my life.

Shortly after joining that old ship built in 1914, we sailed to my country and one of the students from my Bible college came on board to eat in our dining room. When he saw me he shockingly asked, “What in the world are you doing here?” After all, I was a Bible college graduate and should be doing something better than washing dishes and serving food. But by that time I had gotten a considerable victory in my heart, and I excitedly told him about how I was learning about humility and how to be a servant. I don’t think he was very impressed.

A couple of years later I was visiting our mission base in England. After eating the noon meal in their dining room, I carried my tray over to the place where all the dirty dishes were stacked. To my complete astonishment, there was my Bible school friend behind the counter washing dishes. I looked at him in surprise and said, “What in the world are you doing here?” He sheepishly looked at me. He was learning the important lesson of humility, and it’s a lesson we must learn again and again all throughout our life.

God gives grace to the humble—He hates pride. He can only use the humble. We must embrace this most important lesson and learn to cloth ourselves in this noble garment. Let’s learn to walk in humility and serve like Jesus did (Matthew 20:28). Jesus showed us His core identity when He took off His robe and girded Himself with a towel, and washed His disciple’s feet (John 13). Jesus declared that a servant is greatest of all (Matthew 23:11). We read in Matthew 20:26-28:

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In 1986, two ships collided off the coast of Russia in the Black Sea. Hundreds of passengers lost their lives as they were thrown into the icy waters. Through investigating the cause of this disaster, they found that it wasn’t a technology problem or even the thick fog. Human stubbornness and pride was the cause of the problem. Each captain could have steered clear of each other. They were aware of one another’s ship nearby, but neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield. So they collided and hundreds of passengers died as a result. Their lack of humility resulted in a disaster.

Intercession is not a recognized occupation. Prayer is usually unnoticed by the crowds. It’s hidden—nobody knows about our hours in the prayer room. It feel’s lowly—it’s humbling because right in the middle of the prayer room you are confronted with the example of the humility of Jesus. You begin to taste something very important about Jesus, and you see your own lack—your pride and sin. Self rises up when unnoticed. We all want to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Jesus became nothing for you and I so that we could be set free. We must do the same and learn to embrace the cross. He is our perfect model. He was obedient and God lifted Him high and honored Him. The nations will see Jesus’ humility in His victorious triumph at His second coming. Philippians 2:8-11 says:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

God puts a high price on humility of heart. He answers the prayers of the humble.

  • Are we willing to lay aside all our earthly fame, in order to gain the greatest prize—Jesus Himself?
  • Are we willing to be lowly in this life and simply pray unnoticed—no fanfare, no recognition, sometimes even being misunderstood?
  • Are we willing to walk humbly like Jesus in order to gain so much more in eternity?“

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Humility is at the foundation of what God is, does, and blesses forever. May we take a good look at what it really meant for the King of Kings to be born in a humble manger, live a humble life, and die a selfless death for us. He pursued meekness and stooped so low for each of us. May the reality of the humility of Jesus change our lives forever. Let’s learn to walk in humility and daily cloth ourselves with the beauty of lowliness. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

“The most humbling thing one can do is to look upon how Jesus responded to suffering and mistreatment. His whole life was ordered around the attribute of meekness. It was his greatest pursuit. From the moment He was born the Father was contemplating His own humility in the person of His Son. Love would be openly displayed as Jesus went lower and lower. Anyone who truly looks upon the man Christ Jesus and His meekness will be left staring at the great mystery. How can One so strong be so tender as He stoops so low? Looking upon Jesus is the great sanctifier to areas of pride and anger in the human heart.” Allen Hood

Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise International
International House of Prayer (IHOP) KC Staff

An Eternal Perspective Changes Everything

16864460_1646982905595667_4454300118292642359_n“We may ‘believe’ in eternity, but to what extent have we actually agreed with the world that eternity is not relevant until after this life? Eternity is not merely a time frame that is endless; it is profoundly and foremost a qualitative thing that is available now. When we begin to see all our moments set in the context of eternity, we will bring to those moments a seriousness that we would not otherwise have had.” Art Katz

What will I do this year or even this next month? How will my family survive? How will I make ends meet?

These are questions that vast amounts of people are asking. Is there a way to live above all of these temporary trials and truly thrive amid the stress and the strain of end time living? If the whole world is groaning and the birth pangs before the Lord’s return are getting closer, what can we do in order to survive? Is there a way to live victoriously?

Perhaps what we need is an eternal perspective that changes everything–how we view life, how we view our trials, and how we live life in the ordinary.

The truth is that we are being prepared for eternity. God is building character within us that will last forever. He is most concerned about our character and motives. The unique trials that each of us face on earth are designed by an eternal God who sees and knows all. They are not a mistake or by chance. Of course, we ourselves make mistakes, but God can turn them all into good (Romans 8:28). He knows our advantages and our disadvantages–our family backgrounds, our marriages, our education, and everything about us, even to the minutest detail. He sees the good and bad circumstances that we face. We must realize that God sees everything in the eternal context, but we live in a world that wants everything now.

The world system is built on immediate gratification and living for present pleasures. But if we lose the meaning of eternity and fail to see life from an eternal perspective, we lose everything important from God’s point of view. To apprehend eternity in this life is not only to anticipate a future enjoyment, but it is to appropriate a present reality.

The apostle Paul lived in the powerful reality of the eternal. It was a joyful reality, and it made a difference in everything he did. He saw beyond the things that he suffered on earth. He was hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecute, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). His trials (shipwreck, stoning, persecution, prison, and so much more) were merely light and momentary afflictions. Why? Paul had an eternal perspective and saw an eternal weight of glory that would be his reward. An eternal perspective changes everything. He said:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

If we look at our life at this moment, how do we see our trials? Are they burdensome, depressing, overwhelming, worthless, and to be avoided at all cost? Or can we rise up higher and see the eternal realm? Everything depends on seeing the unseen and the eternal. Are we living as if we were a citizen of heaven or a citizen of earth? Are we bringing the eternal dimension into our daily tasks and the ordinary?

It is possible to live as if everything is charged with eternity. We as believers have the calling to bring eternity into time, of bringing the reality of heaven down to earth. God wants us to lay up our treasures in heaven and live in the joy of being rewarded for everything we do for Jesus’ sake. Even giving a cold glass of water will not lose its reward when we do it for Jesus.

If we live as the world lives by seeking to find fulfillment now, then how are we different than those who do not know Christ? We are living like mere men who have not tasted of heaven and are blinded by the alluring traps of the enemy. We are trying to make the emptiness of this life our home. The whole world lies in massive deception. Many of us keep rearranging the furniture in our earthly life (endless buying, multiple divorces, countless addictions) without ever finding true fulfillment and joy. It just can’t be found without Jesus.

The Bible says that we are strangers on earth and are looking for a city whose maker and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10).

It’s time to live up to our true heavenly calling. True joy is found only in living for heaven, where the glitter of this world has lost its glamour and power. An eternal perspective changes everything. There is an unbelievable purity and simplicity in knowing Christ that is far greater than anything this world offers. But we can so easily be led astray (2 Corinthians 11:3).

As believers we must understand this message about the eternal. The urgency around us screams for our attention. We can no longer say that what is coming on the world is just a bad dream. This is the hour where the Lord is asking us to rise up to our true calling. He wants us to shake off the lies and be all that He intended for us to be at this hour. He wants us to set our minds and hearts on things above. Only then can He truly use us to the fullest extent for His glory. With an eternal perspective:

  • We can be truly joyful even when all around us is falling apart.
  • We can rise up with a new perspective that will make the lost world take notice.
  • Our life can burn with eternity and purpose.

This is an invitation for all of us to come into a new dimension of being. We need to evaluate all of our earthly activities from an eternal perspective. It’s time to live for heaven and narrow down our life to what will be eternally of value. Joy is found not in half-hearted commitment, but when we go all the way for God. I am evaluating everything I do. In light of the judgment seat of Christ at the end of the age, Mike Bickle has often said to our IHOPKC staff:

“Lord, shock me now! Show me what areas in my life that need change before that final day.”

Seven years ago my life dramatically changed in an instant. Running to answer my doorbell to get a new computer for writing, I slipped on my top step and fell all the way down the stairs, landing at the bottom in a heap. My husband quickly drove me to the emergency, and I ended up in the hospital with a broken wrist and heel. I was in a wheelchair for months with a cast on my foot and leg, and one on my arm. From a human viewpoint, it made no sense at all. There were months of recovery where I couldn’t do a thing!

During that time I had a lot of time to think. I thought about life. I thought about what was important. I thought about eternity. Through this unfortunate circumstance God turned personal tragedy and loss into blessing and joy, because He gave me an eternal perspective that changed everything.

It’s time for us to change our perspective and seek that which is above. It’s time that we live in light of eternity.

Every time we bless another, every time we don’t complain, every time we turn another cheek and stop our tongue from speaking evil, we are laying up our treasures in heaven and will be rewarded. God is conforming us to His image, and we will not be disappointed. Let’s see our eternal reward in every act of kindness and in every sacrifice we make, large or small. Everything on earth is preparation for the age to come. We have an eternal destiny. Let’s learn to live a joyful life in light of this reality.

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).

Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise/IHOPKC