« Contemplative prayer is not something we can achieve; it is a gift God bestows. But before this is possible, we must work to prepare ourselves and dispose of ourselves to receive this gift.”
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22: 4)
” But he gives more grace; therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ » (James 4: 6).
If God gives grace, riches, honor, and life to the humble, we might want to understand what it means to be humble, at least in biblical terms.
In modern society, being humble gets a bad rap. It is often viewed as a weakness, something we want to avoid. We are all familiar with the phrase, » I will bow to no one.” This phrase makes it obvious we do not fully appreciate the biblical meaning of humility.
To gain deeper understanding of the Scriptural meaning of humility, we can turn to a famous fourteenth century work on contemplative prayer titled, The Cloud of Unknowing. Humility, as it turns out, is the foundation for contemplative prayer. The text is a step-by-step method for disposing of ourselves for contemplative prayer, which is the most intimate encounter with God we can experience in this life.
Contemplative prayer is not something we can achieve; it is a gift God bestows. But before this is possible, we must work to prepare ourselves and dispose of ourselves to receive this gift.
The Cloud of Unknowing offers a comprehensive series of helpful suggestions on how souls may prepare themselves for contemplation. These suggestions include both what people should do in prayer, as well as what they should not do. The first topic covered is humor.
The author The Cloud of Unknowing is an unidentified fourteenth century monk who lived in a monastery. With remarkable clarity, he explains that humility occurs in both a perfect and an imperfect manner. In addition, in both the perfect and imperfect experiences of humility, there is a role we must play, and then a role God plays. God’s role is when he takes over and helps us fully experience both the perfect and imperfect phases.
It is our responsibility to show that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility, and that we have a good sense of responsibility. This is never something that should discourse us, for indeed even,” a righteous man falls seven times a day » (Psalm 24:16).
The main point, stressed by the author of The Cloud of Unknowing it is our duty to understand how we may have failed to respond to God’s call in our lives, and how we should modify our behavior, our thoughts, and our words to better conform to God’s will.
The next phase experienced in imperfect humility is when God, at our request, steps in to show us what we might not be able to see about ourselves. We often need to ask God for this help in prayer. But if we ask, with humility, God will send us the Holy Spirit to discover the truth about ourselves, for, “when the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13).
This can be a difficult and painful process; we must have previously developed some humility for God to reveal our still deeper need for healing. As we are aware, these revelations about our deepest selves quite often come through our interactions with other people, wounded individuals who are often working through their own healing process.
All of this is still what the author of The Cloud of Unknowing refer to as imperfect. This is because more understanding where we have fallen short of God’s plan for our life is only a temporary thing. Our fallen condition will end when we pass on to Glory. Second, and more importantly, more than anything else, coming to an understanding of our faults is only half the story. We need to consider the other experience of humility—perfect humility.
We have a perfect sense of humility, according to our monk, when we come to a full understanding and experience of God’s love for us. This is something very few people ever really come to full knowledge of. Many people know the bible verse, » For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But very few fully grasp what this sacrifice means in terms of God’s love for us.
Again, each of us has a role to play in coming to this understanding. We should read the bible, we should pray, and we should ask God to reveal to us those instances where his love played out in the circumstances of our life, especially where we might not have seen it ourselves.
At the same time, even few receive the gift of actually experiencing this love during their earthly life. This is true because God’s love is beyond our human reason and understanding. Think of this in your own life, do we really truly, continuously experience God’s love in the circumstances of our life, most especially the most difficult and confusing ones? We can, after all, this is the promise Paul offers us in his letter to the Ephesians.
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and” the Lord is the Lord of all things, the Lord of all things » (Ephesians 3:14-19).
But God must manifest His love for us in a deep interior way; this will allow us to know, beyond even human reasoning, that we are beloved children of God Our Father.
“See what the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him « (1 John 3: 1).
When we come to experience God’s love in deep interior way, something only God can give us, we are humbled, not by our faults and failures, but by the fact that we have not previously comprehended the magnitude of his love. And, most especially, we are humbled that we are still unable to return such love to Him. This is perfect.
” We love, because he first loved us » (I John 4: 19).
Perfect humility is to understand that we were created in love, by love and for love, and to desire, beyond any other human aspiration, to conform ourselves to the picture of the person in whose image we were created. We are God’s children, and God is love.Please pray this week that we might all dispose of ourselves to experience, in true humility, just how much we are loved by our God.
Image: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash