When we are thankful, we praise our great God that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). We recognize that there is no reason to boast about anything because everything we have is a gift (1 Cor. 4:8), that He is the One who supplies our every need (Phil. 4:19). Whether we are talking about prayer, repentance, or thanksgiving, we are saying in every instance that we are children and that we are dependent on our kind Father for everything, and that is the heart and soul of humility.
C.S. Lewis famously said, “If you don’t think you are conceited, you are very conceited indeed.” Certainly that applies to humility: if you think you are humble, you are probably suffused with pride. In this article, we will consider briefly how prayer, repentance, and thanksgiving are related to humility.
How does prayer relate to humility? We can answer that question by considering the nature of prayer. When we pray, we express our complete dependence on God. Prayer acknowledges what Jesus said in John 15:5: “You can do nothing without me” (CSB translation throughout).
When we pray and ask God for help, we are admitting that we are not “competent in ourselves to claim anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). Prayer testifies that we are “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), that we are not strong but weak, and that, as the hymn says, we “need thee every hour.” One of the most humble prayers in the world is “Help me, Lord.” We remember the simple prayer of the Canaanite woman when everything seemed to be against her. She cried out to Jesus, “Help me” (Matt. 15:25). Prayer is humble because when we pray, we are saying that God is merciful and mighty, that He is wise and sovereign, and that He knows far better than we do what is best for us.
Repentance and Humility
It isn’t difficult to understand that repentance—admitting that we were wrong and promising to live a new way—isn’t possible without humility. Pride rears its ugly head when we refuse to admit we are wrong, when we refuse to say we are sorry, when we refuse to repent. The best exemplar of this truth is the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector (Luke 18:9–14).