A Prayer To Develop Mercy Towards Others
What Is the Mercy Prayer?
What if the mercy prayer, “Lord, have mercy,” was not only the most prayed prayer in the Bible but in your life as well? Many Christians through the ages believed that this should be the case.
We have so much to learn from Christians who are different than us.
I grew up as a Southern Baptist. Then I spent eight wonderful years in a Presbyterian church. Today, I’m the pastor of an independent, interdenominational church.
We aren’t officially associated with any particular denomination not because we believe the denominations are bad; rather, we desire to look back over the last two thousand years and see what we have to learn from all the different groups of people that have followed Christ.
The different labels – Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, and the list goes on – simply represent the variety of ways and approaches others have taken in following Jesus.
One denomination has majored on the mercy of God: the Eastern Orthodox church. For almost two thousand years this segment of Christianity has made the mercy of God central to their understanding of the meaning of following Jesus – especially when it comes to prayer. They recognize that Daniel was right when he prayed,We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. – Daniel 9:18
The Eastern Orthodox church is rather unknown to most Western Christians. These followers of Jesus are mostly located in Russia, Greece, the Middle East, and Africa. When it comes to understanding the most prayed prayer, we would do well to learn from them.
The Mercy Prayer in the Psalms
Their theologians first recognized our tendency to pray for God’s mercy. They were the ones to remark on how common it was for the people of God to cry out to Him for mercy in the Psalms:
Answer me when I call to You,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
– Psalm 4:1
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
– Psalm 6:2
O Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!
Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death.
– Psalm 9:13
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to You for help,
as I lift up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place.
– Psalm 28:2
To You, O Lord, I called;
to the Lord I cried for mercy.
– Psalm 30:8
It was also the Orthodox that noticed that the one sentence spoken to Jesus more than any other was, “Kyrieeleison.” This branch of Christianity pointed out that all of us are in a line leading to God’s courtroom, and we all have one hope in that setting: that God is merciful.They even began to ask, could it be that the closer you get to God the more you pray the mercy prayer? What if our closeness to Christ actually increases the frequency of our requests for His mercy?
We normally think the opposite – something this: I was living a really bad life and was in need of mercy. But once I embraced Jesus and asked Him into my heart, He took the burden of sin off of me. Now I can leave behind the consequences of my sin, move on, and grow closer to God.
Our Mercy Prayer Intensifies the Closer We Get to God
Eastern Orthodox believers say the opposite is true. Our recognition of our need for mercy only intensifies the closer we get to God. It’s as if the cross awakens our appetite for His compassion. We actually desire God’s mercy more the closer we get to Him, not only because we see our shortcomings in light of His perfection but also because knowing God is knowing that He is merciful.
This is a lesson we can see illustrated in the tabernacle found in the Old Testament.
The architecture of this ancient worship space communicated the spiritual life in tangible reality. As worshippers walked into the tabernacle, they saw a large courtyard with a number of furnishings signifying different aspects of knowing God.
The large basin of water represented cleansing. Burning incense signified the prayers of God’s people. Furthest away from the entrance, deepest within the tabernacle, was the Holy of Holies. To enter that space was to enter the presence of God.
The closer one was to this most holy place, the closer one was to God’s glory. Very few people were actually allowed to enter this sacred room. But if you were to go in beyond the veil and enter, you would see the ark of the covenant – the throne of God.
What was the name given to the throne? The mercy seat!
Watch The Mercy Prayer Video
Excerpted from The Mercy Prayer: The One Prayer Jesus Always Answers by Robert Gelinas, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2013.
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How has your understanding for your need for mercy changed as you’ve grown closer to God? As you’ve sought His face has it intensified? Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you!
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Prophet Muhammad: A Mercy For All Creation
– إِنَّ فِي هَذَا لَبَلَاغًا لِّقَوْمٍ عَابِدِينَ
– وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
“Indeed, in this [Quran] is notification for a worshiping people. And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Quran: 21:106-107)
God's Messenger was the kindest of men in the same way as he excelled all others in courage and valor. Being extremely kind-hearted, his eyes brimmed with tears at the slightest sign of inhumanity.
Aishah the wife of the Prophet narrates that the Messenger of God said:
God is Kind and He loves kindness, and confers upon kindness which He does not confer upon severity, and does not confer upon any thing besides it (kindness). -Muslim
A Mercy for the Believers
The Messenger's compassion towards the believers was of the utmost degree. The Quran describes his compassion in the following verse, which means:
– لَقَدْ جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“There has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you [i.e., your guidance] and to the believers is kind and merciful.” (Quran: 9:128)
Sa'd bin 'Ubaadah once became ill, so Allah's Messenger visited him in his house. On seeing his faithful Companion in a pitiful state, he was moved to tears. Then, he said: “Allah does not punish because of tears, nor because of grief, but he punishes because of this.”- and he pointed to his tongue. (Al-Bukhari)
A Mercy Towards his Enemies
The prisoners of war taken captive at the battle of Badr were amongst his bitterest enemies. Nevertheless, he made sure that they were given the best of treatment. Among them was Suhayl bin 'Amr who was a fiery speaker and was denouncing the Prophet.
'Umar one the Prophet's closest companions, suggested that two of his lower teeth be pulled out so that he might not be so vile in his speeches.
The Prophet replied: “Were I to do this, Allah would disfigure me on the Day of Judgment, despite the fact that I am His messenger.” (Hadith)In Makkah, his people inflicted him with every kind of suffering, eventually forcing him to emigrate to Madinah, and then waged war on him for five years.
However, when he conquered Makkah without bloodshed in the twenty-first year of his Prophethood, he asked the Makkan unbelievers who were awaiting his decision about them: “How do you expect me to treat you?” They responded unanimously: “You are a noble one, the son of a noble one.” He announced to them his decision: “You may go free! No reproach this day shall be on you; may God forgive you.”
A Mercy for Women
Prophet Muhammad was also very kind and affectionate towards women. Women were very badly treated in those times. The Noble Prophet gave them honor and dignity at par with men in the community.
'Umar reported: “We did not have much regard for women while we were at Makkah, but they were better treated in Madinah.
Allah's Messenger established women's rights through his sayings and commandments, which improved their position and status.”
A Mercy for Children
Allah's Messenger was particularly compassionate towards children. When he saw a child crying, he sat beside him or her and shared his or her feelings.
He felt the pain of a mother for her child more than the mother herself. Once he said: “I stand in prayer and wish to prolong it.
However, I hear the cry of a child and cut the prayer short for the anxiety which the mother is feeling.” (Al-Bukhari)
He would take children in his arms and embrace them. He was once hugging his beloved grandsons, Hasan and Hussain, when Aqrah bin Haabis told him, 'I have got ten children. So far, I have not kissed any of them.
' Allah's Messenger responded: “The one with no pity for others is not pitied.
” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim) According to another version, he said: “What can I do for you if Allah has removed from you the feeling of compassion?” (At-Tirmidhi)
A Mercy for Animals
His compassion encompassed not only human beings, but also animals.
The Prophet forbade his companions to keep the unintelligent creatures hungry or thirsty, to disturb or to overburden them. He commended that kindness and putting them at ease were meritorious acts tending to bring man nearer to Allah.
Abu Hurairah reports the Prophet as saying: “A traveler who was thirsty saw a well in the way. He got inside the well and when he came out he saw a dog licking mud due to thirst.
The man realized that the dog was as thirsty as him, so he got into the well again, filled his leather sock with water and carried it out holding it with his teeth. Thus, he quenched the thirst of the dog. Allah was pleased with this act of kindness and pardoned his sins.
” The Companions asked: “O Messenger of Allah is there recompense in the matter of beasts and wild animals also?” The Prophet replied: “There is recompense in regard to every creature that has a living heart.”'Abdullah bin 'Umar related that the Prophet said: “A woman was cast away to hell only because she had withheld food and water from her cat and refused to set it free so that the cat might satisfy its hunger by eating worms and insects.”
Once on return from a military campaign, a few Companions took away the chicks of a bird from their nest to stroke them. The mother bird came back and when it could not find its chicks in the nest, it began to fly around screeching. When informed of the matter, Allah's Messenger became angry and ordered the chicks to be put back in the nest. (Abu Dawood)
The love and compassion of Allah's Messenger for all kinds of creatures was not of the kind claimed by today's 'humanists'. He was sincere and balanced in his love and compassion. He was more compassionate than any other person.
He was a Prophet raised by Allah, the Creator and Sustainer of all beings, for the guidance and happiness of conscious beings – mankind and jinn – and the harmony of existence.
Therefore, he lived not for himself but for others; he is a mercy for all the worlds.
Adapted from the article “The Prophet Muhammad: A Mercy for all Creation” by IslamWeb.
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