“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.
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