About a year ago, I was feeling a little dry and stuck and bored with my spiritual growth. So, I talked with a few people, and several of them suggested I strengthen my prayer life. There were a lot of suggestions, but one stuck in my mind. I hear it preached and taught often enough that I thought I would give it a try. It was simple. When you find you mind wandering or you find you have time, make this prayer: “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Say it over and over again, letting each word speak to you.
This one little prayer turned out to be a very annoying and frustrating little mantra. As I adopted it, it quickly seemed to me to be a contradiction. “Lord Jesus,” yes! Absolutely! Jesus is king. Lord. No question about that. “Have mercy on me,” became a stumbling block. When Jesus was on the cross, he says, “It is finished.” The work on the cross was 100% done. So, having mercy on me, after I had already confessed him as Lord, seemed odd. How can he have more mercy on me when he has already given me all the mercy there is? “A sinner,” also frustrated me. Yes, I do still sin, but God sees that all of my sins – past, present and future – are covered by Jesus’ work on the cross. Ephesians 2:6 says, “And God raised us up with Christ, and seated us with him in the heavenly realms…” That’s right, seated with Christ. You’re not a sinner if your seated with Jesus. You can’t be in God’s Holy presence if you have a stain of sin on you.
It actually felt right to say that prayer, by the way, but each time I did, I felt like I wasn’t allowing God’s love of me to show through. I was beating myself up. I was believing that I was still a sinner, and that Jesus needed to show me some more mercy. What more could I be asking him for? Another cross?
In reality, I admit I have lived a lot of my life as a pessimist . That glass over there? Even though it is half empty/full, well, it might as well be empty because by the time I get to it, it will be gone.
As I started to mull over and chew on this prayer in the last year, something happened that changed me deeply. I really did dwell on those words, and as I did, I prayed them, and I asked God to show me if they were true. And God answered me. He transformed my mind. He showed me a way to think differently about His world and about His grace.
He made me an optimist.