“Oh, Lord GOD! You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!Jeremiah 32:17
There are times in our lives when things don’t go as we thought they would. The unexpected always has a way of popping up, unannounced, interrupting our preconceived notions, testing us, putting us through trials for which we are totally unprepared. Life is messy, and when things get so out of control that they are basically a dumpster fire, prayer suddenly becomes our BFF. We instinctively know it can help turn things around.
But prayer without repentance is merely a hollow recitation of words. Repentance is what gives prayer power, because its prerequisite is humility. A humble attitude is the polar opposite of pride and arrogance. It’s the one thing that makes us stop and realize the situation is beyond our purview, beyond our ability to control. It forces us to recognize just how imperfect we are, that we aren’t as smart or wonderful as we’d like to think.
Humility is, in fact, the key that unlocks the door of repentance. Without it, we cannot turn or perspective in another direction, away from who we are and toward whom we are meant to become, which is what repentance does for us. Even king David realized the importance of humility and repentance as a primmer to prayer when he wrote:
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;Psalm 51:1-4
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.”
Sometimes the most powerful prayer we can pray is simply: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s saying, I’m not in control, and I’m at a loss for what to do, only You can do this, Lord. That’s why the tax collector’s prayer was so powerful; he knew that there was nothing he could do to help himself – not a lot of pretty words, or creative justifications, or a laundry listing of the many things that he thought he had done right or better than anyone else. He knew that he didn’t know, that when he measured himself against the precepts of the Almighty, he was found lacking – only God’s mercy could save him from the abyss, nothing less.
So, today I say, Lord have mercy. Have mercy on me, for I am a sinner. Have mercy on this stiff-necked nation, for it has lost its way. The great city on a hill that You raised up has lost its light, those who You set up as salt for the world have lost our saltiness. We are not worthy to even raise our eyes heavenward, for we have failed You in so many ways. But with You, there is forgiveness, there is mercy, so I also say:
“Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Do not cast us from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from us. Restore to us the joy of your salvation and grant us a willing spirit, to sustain us.” Amen.Psalm 51:10-12