Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Importance of Asking for God's Mercy

I’m an Eastern Orthodox Christian. In our Sunday service, we pray repeatedly “Lord have mercy.” We pray this over and over again after the priest petitions God on a number of matters. 

As an example, the priest prays, for the peace of the whole world, for the well being of the churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the lord. But our response is not, lord hear our prayer. It is, Lord have mercy. 

Why should we ask God’s mercy so much. In this video I will explore this topic. 

The word mercy  translates the Hebrew word  (raḥamim) The word itself is plural, though usually rendered by the singular English word “mercy.” But I like to translate this word  as the plural “mercies.”, 

It is derived from the common Semitic root that conveys the concept of “compassion” and “gentleness.” The Hebrew word for womb (reḥem) is from this same root. 

Our first instinct is usually that the word “mercy” is primarily associated with the forgiveness of sin. We have done something wrong, for which we deserve punishment. And so we ask for “mercy,” meaning that we pray not to receive so harsh a response as we deserve. 

And that meaning of “mercy” is indeed found in the Old Testament. For instance, we read in Psalm 79:8: 

Do not remember the iniquities of the forefathers against us; may your mercies (raḥameka) come quickly to meet us. 

But “mercy” in the Bible goes way beyond just asking for forgiveness of sin. Many verses point to the idea that, when you seek mercy, you can also be asking for some protection, blessing, or guidance. 

Mercies for Blessings 

The Bible describes “mercy” (raḥamim) as being the source of blessings: 

According to all that the LORD has granted us, and His great goodness to the house of Israel, which He has granted them, according to His mercies (raḥamav). (Isaiah 63:7) 

Notice also the following, from Psalm 199:77: 

And may your mercies come to me, that I may live.” 

Mercies for Guidance 

We also read in the Old Testament that, when the king of Babylon had troubling dreams, he was about to kill all the wise men who could not interpret these dreams to him. Daniel asked his three friends: 

...to seek mercies of the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 
Then to Daniel, in a vision of the night, the mystery was revealed. (Daniel 2:18-19) 

Two very important things happen in this passage from the Book of Daniel. Notice that Daniel and his friends “seek mercy” about a mystery. And then the answer comes from God. So this is an example of seeking mercy meaning the same thing as praying for guidance on an important matter. 

But notice also that the prophet Daniel here does not consider just praying on his own to be enough. He asks three friends to also “seek mercy” from God. When it comes to prayer, there is apparently strength in numbers. 

And so, asking for God’s mercy is a way to simply ask Him to grace us with whatever he knows we need. 

We can and should ask for mercy when we have sinned. We can ask for mercy when we need guidance. We can ask of God petitions for blessings in our lives and then ask him to grant us those things, by his mercy. 

And we can sum up all groanings within our hearts with the simple prayer, Lord have mercy. Kyrie eleison. doamne miluieste, ya rabb raHam, hospodi pamoluiste, Lord have mercy,  Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy...

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