*Praying for Mercy
It does not…depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
Romans 9:16 NIV
Salvation by faith is an uncomfortable doctrine to the self-righteous. The devil speaks like himself (without either truth or shame) when he declares its discomfort, for salvation by faith is the only comfortable doctrine, very full of comfort, to all self-destroyed, self-condemned sinners. Whoever believes on Him will not be ashamed: And the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. Here is comfort, high as heaven, stronger than death!
What! Mercy for all? For Zacchaeus, a public robber? For Mary Magdalene, a common harlot? The one may say, “Then I, even I, may hope for mercy!” And so you may, afflicted one, whom no one has comforted! God will not cast out your prayer. Perhaps He may say the very next hour, “Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.” So forgiven that they shall reign over you no more. Yes, and the Holy Spirit will bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God.
O glad tidings of great joy, sent unto all people! To everyone who thirsts, come to the waters: And you who have no money, come, buy, and eat (see Isaiah 55:1). Though your sins be like red crimson, though more than the hairs of your head, return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon you; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.
*From How to Pray: The Best of John Wesley on Prayer, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.
In this twenty-third lesson on prayer, Wesley pinpoints the Lord’s great mercy toward us who believe. We can be assured that when the world has beaten us down, when our flesh has had its way with us, and when the devil has heaped shame upon us, that God’s rich mercy is ours for the asking! This is what Wesley refers to in this teaching as a comfortable doctrine to those who are humble and know their need of it. It is only uncomfortable to the self-righteous; those who rely on their good works to gain favor with God.
But mercy is not only needed when we seek salvation, but at every station of life we find ourselves. Psalm 6 shows us a great example of King David crying out for mercy in time of trouble and an inward witness that God has indeed heard his prayer, and will answer his request.
“O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away; Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed. 3 And my soul is greatly dismayed; But You, O LORD– how long? 4Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. 5 For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks? 6 I am weary with my sighing; Every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears. 7My eye has wasted away with grief; It has become old because of all my adversaries. 8Depart from me, all you who do iniquity, For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my supplication, The LORD receives my prayer. 10All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed” (NASB).
Let us look at verse 4b where is says, “Save me because of Your lovingkindness.” The Hebrew word “hesed” is translated in English as lovingkindness. Hesed denotes a love promised in a covenant relationship. God’s hesed is His persistent, unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy, a relationship in which God seeks after man with love and mercy.
Is it any wonder that King David calls for God’s salvation from his enemies based on God’s hesed, without any merit of his own? This hesed is why Wesley so boldly states, “What! Mercy for all? For Zacchaeus, a public robber? For Mary Magdalene, a common harlot? Then one may say, ‘Then I, even I, may hope for mercy!’ And so you may, afflicted one, whom no one has comforted! God will not cast out your prayer.”