When we pray for God to give us an increase of faith, hope and love, we are admitting that we fail in faith; that our hopes are often wrong-headed; and that our love is self-serving. Our prayer admits that we too often take matters into our own hands without patiently trusting the Lord to be our defense; that our hopes and desires are set on gratifying our passions and what we believe is fair; that love for others—especially those who hurt us or hate us—often gives way to anger and hatred.
And so we pray precisely because we do not love what He commands; because we confess that, apart from His endless mercy, we will not obtain the inheritance, the kingdom, the life He promises. And we pray because, by fulfilling our flesh, we have sinned against the Spirit. And we pray because we give into hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, and envy; and because we sincerely desire to partake of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Our prayer must always be, “Lord, have mercy.” For if the Lord does not have mercy, then faith, hope and love vanish. For who will want to believe in a God who treats us like we treat each other? Who wants to hope for God’s justice to be as strict and quick as ours? And who can love a God whose love is as self-centered as ours?
So it is the Lord’s mercy we seek when we pray—a mercy that does not deal with us as we deserve; a mercy that overrides His anger and ours; a mercy that squelches our meanness and gives birth to true brotherly love; a mercy that betters us; and most of all, a mercy that gives us an increase of faith, hope and love.
But our ingratitude and even our abuse of the Lord’s costly mercy does not stop His mercy; it does not turn Him against us. He does not undo what He in mercy has done. The lack of thankfulness of the nine lepers who did not return did not bring back their leprosy; they were still healed. They tasted the Lord’s mercy, although they did not savor it.
But to those who return in praise and thanksgiving; to those who sacrifice their notions, passions and ambitions; to those who offer the Lord all they are and all they have in appreciation for the mercy they have received—they receive from the Lord not only mercy but also His blessing; not just the things that make for this life, but also the things that usher us safely into the Kingdom of heaven. This leper who returns, this Samaritan, cares less about being certified “clean” than he does about worshiping the Lord Jesus who healed him. So he returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. There, by that humble act, you see the Holy Spirit at work. There you see a man who confesses that he is undeserving of any gift from God and who begins to live from the mercy he has received. For living in the Lord’s mercy begins not by doing for others, but by receiving more and more from the Lord’s hand, to partake in the love, the forgiveness, the compassion, the strength, and the mercy that Our Lord Jesus is and gives.
And then the Spirit works again—so that you are merciful, just as your heavenly Father has been merciful to you; so that you lay aside all grudges, all notions of revenge, all hatred, all ill-speaking; so that you live not to gratify your lusts and desires, but to walk in the Spirit with the saints toward the kingdom which is your ultimate goal. Toward this end, may the Lord continue His mercy to us, within us, and among us. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.