One of my favorite songs is “Lord Have Mercy” by Sovereign Grace. The first verse is: “O God, we come before your throne and confess in our weakness.” The singer begs “O Lord, have mercy on us.” The song is a humble prayer. David explains at Psalm 51: 1, “Have mercy on me, O God.” Why is Lord Have Mercy such a powerful prayer after 3,000 years?
The meaning of “Lord have mercy” in the Bible
Dawn Wilson wrote: “In the Bible, God’s mercy means his compassion, compassion and kindness to people. […] Mercy triumphs over judgment, but denial of God’s mercy is catastrophic. “(From“ What is mercy ”) The Greek for mercy,“ eleos ”, means“ withholding the punishment deserved, ”said Philip Wijaya in“ What is the difference between grace and mercy? ”.
When David asked God for mercy, he was essentially saying, I am a sinner who deserves punishment; Please, have patience and pity on me, a weak and bad man, and do not judge me. Although the people of the Old Testament were saved by faith just as we were, Jesus was not fully known as the ultimate mediator and atonement for our sin. Previous mediators like Moses, Noah, and Abraham had asked the Lord for their people’s sake, and while God saved, He also punished heavily.
Noah and his family were saved, but the world was flooded. Abraham pleaded in the name of Sodom and Gomorrah, but couldn’t find ten good men, so the Lord sent fire. At Deuteronomy 13: 7, Moses stood up for Israel and prayed that the Lord would “turn away from the severity of his anger and show you mercy.” Jarrett tells us in his article “What is the biblical understanding of God’s wrath?” that “God’s anger is not evil retribution against those who have offended God”, but “His righteous judgment against those who do evil”. We are sinful, disobedient to God. He is too holy to get close to our sin.
David rightly feared God, who is terrifying and loving at the same time. David’s request required courage, awe, and humility.
What does it mean to pray “Lord have mercy”?
1. It means we know we have sinned and deserve punishment. There are consequences to sin. Although Jesus paid for our sin, we discount grace when we pretend we can do what we want. When we pray “Lord have mercy” it is a sign for God that we are seeing our sinfulness and repentance.
2. We accept his grace. The only way to receive God’s mercy is to accept the grace of Christ’s sacrifice and believe in his resurrection.
3. We remember that Christ removed the wrath we deserved. The price had to be paid even though our Father is compassionate. He cannot ignore sin. Let’s be clear: praying “Lord have mercy” doesn’t mean that we believe God can change His mind and condemn authentic believers, or that Jesus must come back and die for us again, but we cannot the agony of the cross skip to the happy end of his resurrection. To repent is to remember the cost of sin.
4. We recognize our need for God. We want others to respond compassionately when we ask for forgiveness, but we NEED God’s mercy. “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they will never perish and no one will take them out of my hands. “(John 10: 27-28)
5. We must approach our Father with awe and tenderness. God welcomes the prayers of his people and the psalms are a model of personal prayer. But David doesn’t ask for anything; he honestly admits “against you, only you, I have sinned.” (Psalm 51: 4) David humbly asks: “Do not throw me away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” (V.11) God loves us, but we are not in control, it is he, and he Lord “does what he wants”. (Psalm 115: 3)
6. Mercy is painful. “Clean me with hyssop,” David called. (Psalm 51: 7) The Lord heals His people through a refinement process that is sometimes violent and sudden. It is the spiritual equivalent of having your stomach pumped to remove poison. Do not be surprised if, as you are praying for the mercy you have already received through Jesus, the joy of forgiveness comes with a time of suffering as you face the fire of the refiner.
Why is it important to ask God for mercy?
1. Mercy is not automatic. Universalists believe that everyone is saved by the love of God; that crucifixion alone was enough and no one has to ask for salvation. However, Christians who believe in the Bible know better. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10: 9)
2. Only God can give it. We cannot judge ourselves or others, so we cannot judge or offer grace. We are not good enough – good karma is a mistake. Even the most selfless person does not realize how corrupt they are without Christ. We must rely on the character of God; on his “abundant mercy”. (v.1)
3. We must repent. Psalm 51 doesn’t stop with a request; David exposes his sin so the Lord can deal with it. It is not good to say, “Lord have mercy” and then go back to our old ways. Our desperate wish must be that God “washes me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanses me from my sin!” (V.2)
4. We want to please God. David’s prayer was to “restore me to the joy of your salvation” and “make me hear joy and joy; Let the bones you broke rejoice. “(Verse 12, 8) David was a singing, dancing, joyful king who wrote:” Joy in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. “- Psalm 37: 4
5. It pleases God to be merciful. Which father will give his child a stone if he is asked for bread? (Matthew 7: 9) God loves to show us mercy so that we can renew and be close to a “right spirit” (verse 10). Think of the prodigal father in Luke 15 who, seeing his younger son return home, “ran and hugged and kissed him”. (v.15) David trusts the promise that with “a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart ”(Psalm 51:17) he is also embraced by the Father.
A prayer to ask for God’s mercy
Father we are sinners. We cannot repay our own sin, but we ask you to forgive us for our specific transgressions, whatever they are – pride, greed, indifference, or anger. We repent humbly and gratefully, assured of your forgiveness and tenderness that Christ bought on the cross. Thank you so much that your mercy goes further and deeper: that we are not only forgiven, but that we are raised to new life by Christ. Thank you so much for not leaving us in a pit of our own in your mercy but for raising us from the dead with Jesus. In his name and for your glory we pray, amen.
When asking for God’s mercy, it is important to remember that we do not have to wait for an answer. If we believe that we are separated from God by our sin, we have not believed that Christ is enough. Are you going to be your own judge and judge yourself? In truth you cannot be because only God can judge. For those covered in the blood of the Lamb, he looks down and sees his faithful Son, Jesus. That is his grace. Rejection will not undo or honor Christ’s suffering on the cross. Take the gift already provided and stick with the one who looks forward to giving us many good gifts “more than we can ever ask or imagine”. (Ephesians 3:20)
Photo credit: © GettyImages / thekopmylife
Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. You can find out more about them here.
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