This prayer is deceptively simple–or, seemingly simplistic–but actually it is a profound prayer. “Lord, have mercy” is a plea for God to intervene in the consequences of unwise or even destructive choices I’ve made.
Sometimes “Lord, have mercy” is the only prayer I can offer on behalf of someone who is deep in pain–soulful, emotional, and/or physical pain. I pray with an image of God’s mercy as warm oil spreading over the dry, parched, chapped areas of our hearts and restoring healing suppleness to those pained places.
I also find this prayer helpful in times of crises, especially in a global crises. “Lord, have mercy on the people in Afghanistan, or Congo, or Syria, or Palestine.” Or, “Lord, have mercy on the soldiers and their families.” Or, “Lord, have mercy on the president and his advisors,” are the easiest prayers I can offer at this time.
The prayer is easy because I don’t have a solution to these crises but I can ask God to pay attention to them and to surround them with mercy.
Additionally, asking for God’s mercy frees me from trying to control God and telling (dictating) God what to do. Holding the situation up to God and asking for mercy frees God to be and to act as God desires. I can trust God’s mercy will be for the good of an individual and for the world.
I can trust God to extend mercy to me and to others because I have seen it happen and I know it to be good. And because I trust God’s mercy, I can continue praying, “Lord, have mercy.”