Why The ‘Best Mom Ever’ Is In Need of Mercy

“Thanks, Mom.  You’re the best mom ever.”

It was a casual minivan conversation.  She climbed up into her seat after preschool.  I promised to make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with strawberries and pretzels for lunch.

She bestowed on me the title of “Best Mom Ever,” clicked her seatbelt, and then asked if she could play on my Kindle.

But two days later, I am still thinking about the mercy of this.

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Photo by Viktor Hanacek

I may be a good mom, a making-an-effort-mom, an intentional mom, an organized mom, a take-this-seriously mom….

…but I am not the “Best Mom Ever.”

I have those days.  (Don’t we all?)

I grow weary.  I snap.  I grumble over dirty dishes and toilets.  I push too hard.  I hold on to things when I need to let go.  I feel distracted or selfish.  I forget.

This girl, though, this tiny encourager in the minivan seat behind me, doesn’t give me what I deserve or merit or earn.  She overlooks the faults and failures.

That’s what mercy does.

Mercy says, “You deserve judgment, discipline, and second-class status….but I choose not to give you what you deserve.”

And this is how I’ve learned to pray.

Lord, have mercy.

That Pharisee stood all bold and confident in the synagogue, booming out those prayers.  “God, I’m so righteous.  God I’m so worthy.  I’m not like those other people, the riff-raff and the sinners.”

But that tax collector dropped his eyes low:

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 8:13 NIV).

Have mercy on me, Lord.

And that blind man begging by the side of the road heard that Jesus was passing by and what could he cry out?  That he deserved healing?  That somehow he had suffered long enough and had earned a miracle?

No, he screamed it out so Jesus could hear this one desperate cry over the noisy chaos of the mob:

“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!  (Luke 18:38 NIV).

This mercy prayer is what Jesus loved, the one that caught His attention and made Him pause, turn aside, and deliver.  Lord, have mercy.

Even Daniel, this man so righteous in the Baylonian world of unrighteousness, knew he couldn’t pray because of his own merit.

We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy (Daniel 9:18 NIV).

So I pray this also about situations for others and situations for me: Lord, have mercy on me!

This is no manipulative mantra, no magic incantation.  It’s not the words themselves that matter.

It’s the attitude of my heart.  God delights in the humble.  He shows compassion to the needy.

And it’s right here where I recognize my utter dependence on Him that He shows His glory most clearly.

God, I know what I’ve already been given—mercy and grace, so much grace. You have been good to me.

And I know I can’t come here asking for Your help because I’ve worked this hard or because I am this good.  Not because I’ve tried to obey or because I’m righteous.  Not because I’ve spent this much time in Your Word today or got down on my knees when I prayed instead of praying with my eyes open while I’m driving.

There’s no holy act that could earn me the right to ask this….

No amount of “good” that makes me “good enough” to request Your favor or Your blessing.

And yet, I pray simply because You are merciful.

Scripture says God hears my prayers, but the answers don’t seem to come and it feels like He’s not even hearing me.

Am I being too bold?  Am I asking for too much?  Are there far more important things on His agenda?

Am I complaining too much and should I just settle for less and be grateful for what I get?  Am I too needy?  Too demanding or spoiled?

But then this.

I open up my daily Bible reading and start to run right through that Psalm for the day and at that first verse I sit stunned.  I read it over and over again:

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
    he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
    I will call on him as long as I live (Psalm 116:1-2 NIV).

He blows this fresh wind of mercy over me and He fills my hyperventilating lungs with His very own breath of hope and life.

I still can’t see the answer to my prayer.  I don’t see the solution or the end.

But I know this—He hears my cry for mercy.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King

 

Does prayer really have to be that complicated?

I don’t remember the first time I talked to God, but I remember the moment I decided prayer was personal.

It’s funny how you don’t recall most of life when you’re three or four years old, but you can have these few vivid memories that play back like a well-worn movie.

I don’t remember how I knew my father had left us.  I don’t remember how I felt about the whole ordeal of divorce.

But I sat on a swing-set in my backyard one day when I was about four and I said this,

“God, You’ll have to be my Daddy now.”

That I remember.

And prayer’s always been that for me, not some awkward attempt to wax poetic before a stern God.  I’ve never felt like my prayers have to ‘measure up’ or ‘sound holy.’DSCF2151

Because it’s always just been me, a simple girl talking to Dad about life on a swing-set, about making tough decisions, about life as a mom, about life….

I found a prayer journal years ago with categories and lists, a calendar of prayer planning, verses and notes, bookmarks, quotes, all spiral bound for easy writing.

I’m a little surprised that it didn’t light up or play music.

But the thing about that super-duper-deluxe journal is that I never could use it.  All those bells and whistles complicated prayer, made it so cumbersome and bulky.

I’d been chatting with God all day, every day for decades, and I couldn’t cram all that intimacy into a multi-step method in this how-to of prayer.

Maybe formulas and fancy systems work for you.

Or perhaps you’re like me, who simply wants prayer to be communion with God, the recognition of His presence here in this place.

Samuel Chadwick wrote:

“The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying.  He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion.  He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray” Samuel Chadwick

There’s such power in this prayer, and yet too often we avoid it and neglect it because we over-complicate it.

We act as if we’re not really praying unless we pray for two hours straight, on our knees, in a prayer closet, with a prayer journal, and maintain an adequate ratio of praise-to-petition.

And, since we can’t do all that, we simply don’t pray at all.

But God doesn’t regulate prayer with some hierarchical system of holiness.

That’s Satan, complicating things so that we give it all up all-together, feeding us the lies:

Prayer is too hard.
Prayer is for the holy.
I get bored.
If only I could pray like her.  I guess I’m just a failure.
Surely God hears her prayers, but not mine because I don’t know how to start or what words to say and what if I get it all wrong?
I don’t have anything to say that’s important enough for God to hear.

Perhaps that’s how the disciples felt, when they overheard the Pharisees praying Shakespeare-quality performances every time they bowed their heads in the synagogue.

So, they asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray….”

Maybe they expected a formula or a long lecture about the process of prayer or a complicated prayer  cataloging system.

But Jesus did the opposite.  The Lord’s Prayer fits into five simple verses, which Jesus prefaced with this:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:5-8 NIV).

Don’t pray to show off. 

Don’t feel like you need to pray for a long time.

Keep it simple.  Pray what’s on your heart, because God already knows what you’re thinking and feeling.

Over the years, I’ve kept prayers on Index cards, prayers in beautiful journals, prayers on my fridge, prayers in a Word Processor on my computer.

And you know what?  All of them were prayer.  All of them helped me rest in the presence of God, learning to trust Him with my needs and learning to listen to His voice.

As I continue this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, I choose this month to linger here:

In the end, what matters about prayer isn’t how we pray, it’s that we actually do it.

That’s what I’m thinking….Now it’s your turn:

Has prayer ever seemed complicated or difficult to you?  What do you want to learn most about prayer?  What’s the best advice about prayer you’ve ever been given?   What have you found that works?

To read more about this 12-month journey of pursuing the presence of Christ, you can follow the links below!  Won’t you join me next month as I focus on Praying Simply?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2014 Heather King