Have you ever been offended? Ever feel as though someone wronged you, misunderstood you, didn’t treat you with the respect you thought you deserved, looked at you funny, ignored you or responded to you in a way you didn’t like?
Every one of us should be nodding yes right now.
What do you do when that happens? Maybe you respond by ignoring it as though it never happened, just smile and walk away. Or perhaps you retaliate with a zinger of your own. Maybe you seethe over it throughout the day and into the night, reliving the event in your mind’s eye and wishing you had said this or that to defend yourself. Maybe you cry.
In this post I want to give you something better to do. I want to teach you a prayer that changed my life and the way I respond to almost everything, including being offended. It’s called the Mercy Prayer.
I’m teaching through the book of James at my church and this past Sunday we were in James 2:1-13. Here James calls out those of us who would show favoritism to others based on their wealth or status and calls such favoritism sin. The scene has two parties: the ones doing the offending (those showing favoritism) and the ones being offended (the ones being told “sit over there“). In both cases, judgment happens, does it not? The easy one to point out is the one looking at how someone is dressed or how much money they have is judging by appearance. Most of us will intuitively hear that as wrong on some level. The other case where judgment happens, the one we are less likely to see (or not want to see), is the one perpetrated by the offended. This is the judgment we cast upon those who wrong us in some way or another, where we secretly revile them in our heart of hearts while we are being told to go “sit over there.” It’s the easiest sort of judgment to justify because we feel an injustice has been done to us, and if we don’t execute some sort of judgment (even if it is in the scenarios we live out in our thoughts) then who will?
James levels all of us in this passage by calling all of the judgment we cast upon others as sin and reminds us that judgment is without mercy to those who show no mercy. Mercy, he says, wins over judgment (James 2:13).
So how do we do that? How can we start winning with mercy rather than losing in judgment when we find ourselves being judged unfairly by others or offended by everyone else?
What has worked for me and many others is learning and praying this prayer by Rex Andrews called The Mercy Prayer. Over time I have learned to say this prayer, in whole or in part (one or two lines of it), over myself and over others, almost without ceasing. Here is the prayer in it’s entirety:
Lord, I thank you for _____________
I thank You for saving him. Thank you for what You have done and are doing in his life
Make __________ to know Jesus (more)
Help him to increase in knowledge of God. Destroy speculation and every lofty thing raised
up against the knowledge of God, and help him to gbring every thought captive to the
obedience of Christ
Make __________ poor in spirit
Bring him down Lord; but please do it gently. Help him to see his neediness. Help him to
see himself in light of You. Put him in his rightful place Lord.
Fill ____________with Your Holy Spirit
Immerse him in Your Spirit Lord. Come to him in power and in might. Baptize him in fire Lord.
Life him according to Thy loving-kindness. Pour out Your life giving mercies into his soul.
Bless __________ Lord, bless him in everything he touches
Bless him spiritually, physically, and financially. Bless his loved ones.
Do for him Lord, instead of me
Flood him with need-filling mercies. Pour them out in super abundance.
Find and meet every need in his life as You see it Lord.
I encourage you to print it off and memorize all or at least part of it. I pray this prayer when I don’t know what else to pray (if you ask me to pray for an unspoken request, or for someone you name). I also pray it when I feel wronged or offended or hurt. I pray it over others instead of (on my good days!) thinking evil about them (Matt. 9:4).
I admit that it does not come easy at first. As I told my congregation on Sunday, you have permission to pray mercy over somebody through gritted teeth! The battle for our heart is not one that is so easily won without some perseverance, where we learn to wage war against our flesh. I have prayed “Lord, bless him or her” or “Lord, have mercy on him or her” hundreds of times in a row until my feelings began to line up with my faith. I have been in the grips of temptation before and prayed this mercy prayer till I was exhausted, but the joy that comes from hearing “well done, my good and faithful servant” at the end of a long fight is well worth it.
How will you respond the next time you are offended or wronged by someone? How will you respond to your spouse, your boss, your children, your fellow church members, your neighbor, your enemy? Will it be with judgment or mercy? Don’t forget….