The poet Rudyard Kipling wrote the following words in 1897, as an admonition to the British Empire against pride: “The tumult and the shouting dies; the captains and the kings depart. Still stands thine ancient sacrifice, a humble and a contrite heart.”
When Kipling spoke of a contrite heart as an “ancient sacrifice,” he was thinking of King David’s prayer in Psalm 51: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (v. 17). Broken spirits and contrite hearts are those in which the obstinacy of pride has been replaced by the humility of repentance.
Note what our Lord promises to those who humble themselves: “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15)
Let us pray that the Lord would grace us with this most ancient of sacrifices. We do so not to earn His favor but because we already enjoy His favor in Jesus! It will tenderize our hearts, bring joy to our lives, and a peacefulness to our relationships.
Prayer of Confession of Sin
Gracious and holy Father, You dwell in a high and holy place,
but also with those who are repentant and lowly in spirit.
Yet our hearts are proud and our eyes are haughty.
We look down on others and are absorbed with ourselves.
Level, O Lord, the mountains of our pride and self-sufficiency.
Forgive us and free us from our selfishness so that we imitate
the One who was gentle and humble of heart.
We confess also how often we wallow in the valleys
of condemnation, guilt, shame and despair.
Bring us up into the freedom and gladness
that belong to those who rest and trust in your gospel grace.
For we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.