study guide, everyday conversations

Prayer of Humility

Newbreak’s Sermon Study Guide is an in-house resource that serves sermon-based Life Groups and/or individuals who want to reflect further on how the message contributes to their spiritual formation. In this week’s study, we begin a new teaching series talking through various kinds of prayer that ought to be part of our “everyday conversations” with God. This week, we focus on prayers of humility as we explore why humility should be part of our everyday conversations with God.

Icebreakers for Life Groups

  • What is your favorite thing to eat at a BBQ? Do you have a special recipe for it?
  • What is one area of your prayer life that you want to develop this summer? Do you have any plans to help you?

Read Luke 18:9–14

Why should humility be part of my everyday conversations with God?

Point 1 – My prayers reveal my heart.

Luke 18:9–14 is a memorable parable of Jesus. Not always, but often–and in this case as well–Jesus will introduce the reason why he is telling the parable. This parable is being told to those who had great confidence in their own righteousness and looked down on others (verse 9).

The problem with “self-righteousness” is twofold:

  1. First, self-righteousness reveals an inaccurate view of oneself. No place in Scripture is God asking for us to muster up enough righteousness to prove ourselves worthy. On the contrary, in both the Old and the New Testament, true “righteousness” is a gift of God that comes by trusting him and allowing him to transform us in the process.
    • I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10, NLT). Who dresses us in righteousness? Ourselves? Nope. According to Isaiah 61 “He [God] draped me in a robe of righteousness.”
    • I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith (Philippians 3:9, NLT).
  2. Second, self-righteousness thrives on comparing one’s “goodness” to others whose struggles are more visible. If you have to make a case for how “good” you are based on how “bad” someone else is, then you are doing it wrong. Why? Because God is not interested in the comparison game. All it does is provide a smoke screen for you to hide behind while your true issues–your secret sins–continue though concealed by pointing the finger to draw attention elsewhere. “I’m not as bad as them.” It misses the point. God wants to work on you, and so your attention only needs to be on yourself and the ways in which God is mercifully making you new.

This provides the starting point for exploring what Jesus will say about humility.

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • How does your view of “righteousness” change by seeing it as something received by faith instead of achieved by your own actions?
  • When has “self-righteousness” been a vice in your own life? Did you notice it creeping in or did someone help you see it?
  • Why is the comparison game missing the point when it comes to the discussion of righteousness?

Continue looking at Luke 18:9–14

Why should humility be part of my everyday conversations with God?

Point 2 – Affirm their value constantly.

As you read Luke 18:9–14, pay attention to the differences between the posture and prayer of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee is fixated on what he does for God. In fact, the original Greek Luke was written in has a cheeky detail in verse 11. The Pharisee was praying πρὸς ἑαυτὸν (pros eauton), literally “to himself.” Yes, it is possible that our times of “prayer” are not even conversations with God but are just affirmations to ourselves, further blinding ourselves from how self-centered we have become. Harsh? Yes, but true! That’s why we need these reminders. These aren’t just times for us to read the text about the Pharisee and then become a Pharisee in the process as we judge the Pharisee! After all, the Pharisee wasn’t a bad guy, he was actually a good one. He practiced spiritual disciplines, like fasting. He tithed and gave beyond his tithe. Heck, he would have been the guy that would have sponsored your mission trip!

The Pharisee was a good guy who had lost his way when his religious routine lost its relational heart and became a scorecard of what he did for God.

Let’s be abundantly clear. Doing good things is good! Pray, tithe, serve, etc. Do these things, but do them with the right spirit that these things do not make you right with God, but they are an outworking of your faith. If your heart's not in it, then your actions are just empty religion.
Humility is central to the Christian life. Because...

Point 3 – Humble prayers put me in right standing before God.

“I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:14, NLT).

Something forever shifted in the status of the “tax collector.” He descended the temple “justified;” “declared righteous;” or in other words– “in right standing with God.” What was the catalyst of this seismic spiritual shift? Simply this–his humility. One humble prayer changed his trajectory moving forward. Could the same happen for you and me? Perhaps it already has. And if it has, then living out of a place of humility becomes the new norm. Why? Because humility is not just a one-time prayer. Yes, it might take the shape of a prayer in our everyday lives with God. But humility is a heart posture where we recognize that we are at our best when we actively believe God to be our source of righteousness.

The high and lofty one [God] who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts (Isaiah 57:15, NLT).

God’s heart will always be drawn to the humble. Choose to posture yourself humbly before God. Bow before him with reverence and–often–with repentance, and watch how he will lift you up (Luke 8:14) and even “revive your courage” (Isaiah 57:15).

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • What details of the parable (Luke 18:9–14) stick out to you? Why those?
  • The Pharisee was doing all the right things. So, what was so wrong with him and why does Jesus use him as an example of someone who “exalts themselves”?
  • How is God speaking to you about humility in light of this discussion? What are you learning about your own heart posture before God?

Continue looking at Luke 18:9–14

Why should humility be part of my everyday conversations with God?

Point 4 – Humble prayers open my eyes to opportunities to serve people daily.

Having a shifted status, being “justified” by God, we become people who model the definition of humility famously said by C.S. Lewis: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

It’s amazing how much freedom there is in letting God exalt you, to let Him lift you up. When you focus on who He is and all He has done for you, you naturally fall to your knees in worship of Him. It’s here, before His throne, that He can reach down and pick you up and set you on your way to do His will by caring for others here in this life. We don’t need to spend time trying to earn our status in the world because the only status that matters to us when we have a humble spirit is our right standing before God. The more we humble ourselves in prayer, the more open we are to hear God telling us where to go and what to do for others. Because He will surely take care of us, we are free to then take care of others.

Questions for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection

  • How do you posture yourself before God when you come to Him in prayer? Do you consider who He is and who you are to Him? What does this do for your prayer life?
  • What feelings, positive or negative, do you have about the terms “being humble” and “having humility?” Why is this? Take some time to think about what God says about humility and the blessings He gives to those who are willing to humble themselves before Him. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6, NIV).
  • Why do you think God wants humble people to go and serve and care for others? Have you ever had someone do something for you when they were prideful about themselves? How did that make you feel?

Memory Verse: Luke 18:14 (NLT) For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Final Challenge Questions

  • How are you going to think or live differently in light of what you have read, heard, and discussed this week?
  • How does this week’s message shape or nurture your relationship with God?
  • BONUS: For those of you with kids or around kids: What is one truth from this message that you can share with your kids in a way that they would relate to or understand?

About Our Current Series

“What do I say?” It’s not just a question that is asked when seeking advice on how to interact with someone–anyone. It is also a question that is common for people to wonder when it comes to talking to God. Prayer is a way of being with God, and often it is conversational. You could say that prayer is an “everday conversation” that we all are invited to have with God. And while many of the things that come up in the conversation will be spontaneous felt needs, this sermon series is meant to challenge you to consider four topics that will benefit your life if they become part of your everyday conversations with God.

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