I used to think this prayer was crazy, now I think it’s brilliant

When I first started devoting time to prayer as a young adult, I mostly asked God for what I wanted, when I wanted it. Fortunately, I was in a place of desiring good things like being healthy and happy, having lots of friends, a sense of adventure and an ability to positively impact others with my work-I was convinced God wanted those things for me too.

When I was first introduced to the Litany of Humility by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val in a charismatic prayer group of more seasoned prayer warriors including a Carmelite nun, I was a little shocked because it basically asked God not to desire some things I actually did desire and pray for, thinking they were good.

Here’s the prayer:

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

When I first heard it, I thought “What on earth is wrong with wanting to be loved, approved of and consulted? Why would I want to be set aside and go unnoticed? And especially why would I want others to be holier than me?”

I’m happy to report that I must be progressing spiritually (at least somewhat) because I get it now and think it’s a wonderful prayer.

If we’re free from a desire to be approved of, loved and consulted by people, we are more free to follow Christ, in spite of what people think. Christ Himself was a rebel and did what God asked, in spite of being completely rejected by people and appearing to fail in His ministry, when He died on the cross. If we are serious about following Him, shouldn’t we be willing to endure similar rejection if it’s necessary for the greater good?

Plus, as we see in the writings of many saints – as grow closer to God, we can expect to become increasingly aware of our own weakness and need for God’s strength. To receive praise for our works could tempt us to take pride in what God alone is really accomplishing through our yes to Him.  Or, praise could tempt us to please people with our works, rather than God-steering us off course entirely.

As St. Alphonsus Ligori said “He who trusts in himself is lost. He who trusts in God can do all things.” If we can truly receive the graces of humility this prayer requests, we will be more free to allow God to work through us in whatever way He knows is best, and obviously – He knows best. When we’re truly humble, no amount of praise will feed our egos. Even if we’re utterly rejected, we’ll stay the course, trusting in God for the strength we need.

For the record: I still think God wants the good things for us like health, friendships, adventure, and an an ability to positively impact others with our work. I just think He also wants us to have an even greater gift: total surrender to His will, even if it requires a little suffering along the way.

What do you think about this prayer for humility? Does it resonate with you or do you think it’s crazy like I used to? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

God, help us to live in total surrender to Your will. Protect us from unhealthy pride, and bless us with a true spirit of humility. Give us the inner freedom to follow You always, in spite of any criticism we may receive. Help us to fully appreciate all that you do for us, and inspire us to glorify You with our work always. In Jesus name, Amen. 

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