The Mercy and Grace of Prayer

By Mary E. Stephens
August 2014

Hebrews 4:15-16 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

There are many blessings that we have in Christ, among them is the mercy and grace of prayer. Do you know the difference between mercy and grace? Grace is unmerited favor - the blessing and kindness and love of God given to us even though we don't deserve it. Grace tends to get most of the publicity these days. I think it's because grace tells us we're loved in spite of ourselves while mercy reminds us we're sinners who deserve judgment. Mercy is the withholding of deserved judgment - although we deserve the wrath and justice of God for our sin, He passes over us because we are in Christ Jesus, who is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).

One of the miracles of prayer in the New Testament is that we have direct access to the throne of grace, where we obtain both mercy and grace. In the Lord Jesus, God has made us kings and priests, Revelation 1:6, and a royal priesthood, 1 Peter 2:9. Because of that we have access to the very throne of God, to the mercy seat in heaven, through our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Old Testament times only the earthy high priest had access to the mercy seat, but now every believer can go directly before the Lord with his or her requests. Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Compared to Old Testament believers we have added freedoms of prayer that they didn't experience.  

John 4:21-23 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

We do not have to make a sacrifice to ask special and urgent requests before God as many O.T. believers did. Our sacrifice is made and complete! We do not have to go to the tabernacle or temple to make special supplications as Hannah (I Sam. 1:9-11) and others did, nor do we have to make vows in hopes of getting our request. 

1 Kings 8:29-30 That thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, even toward the place of which thou hast said, My name shall be there: that thou mayest hearken unto the prayer which thy servant shall make toward this place. And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive.

We do not have to pray facing Jerusalem or the temple. I don't know if we realize what a blessing it is that we don't have to pray toward a certain point on the compass. Not only is it more fussy in that they had to always know which direction the temple was, but it also got them into trouble at times as Daniel found, Dan 6:10. It is a bit of grace that we can now pray anywhere, facing any direction, and at any time.

Compared with how other religions are told to pray, we are peculiarly and particularly blessed.

Matthew 6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

We don't have to go to some holy place to be "sure" we're heard by our God. We don't have to go to Mecca, or the shrine of the great Buddha, or some especially "sacred" temple to ask special requests or gain special merits. We don't have to travel to Mexico or Portugal or any other place and bruise or bloody our knees crawling to a shrine in order to get the special attention of Mary so that she will entreat Jesus who will then take our request to God.   

Which reminds us that we do not have to pray to saints or Mary or priests or any other human. We don't have to pay anyone to say special prayers for us. God tells us to make our requests known unto Him personally at His throne of grace! What a blessing! What freedom from fear!

Matthew 6:7-8 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

We do not have to put flags on some "sacred" mountain to flap in the breeze and convince ourselves that those flappings are making our prayers heard. We don't have to spin prayer wheels and imagine that each revolution of the wheel sends up a prayer to some god on our behalf. We don't have to keep a candle burning or incense burning so that our prayers will supposedly be heard.

We do not have to rely on vain repetition to get our God's attention. We don't have to pray with beads. We don't have to go to some special place and pray repeatedly at certain points to make our requests heard. We don't have to do the stations of the cross nor circle some great temple in a remote place. 

1 John 1:7,9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin...If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 15:3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

We do not have to do any special cleansings or ablutions to make God hear us as some religions require. The outward dirt of the flesh is not a hindrance to prayer. Our only concern is that we walk with Him and confess our sins to Him, because they are already paid for and washed away in the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are clean through His word that He has spoken unto us. 

1 Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

We may pray anywhere at any time - while we're driving, while we're walking, while we're doing the dishes or hanging the laundry, while we're working, while we're playing. We may pray kneeling or standing or sitting or laying down. We are not limited by form or ritual. We do not need a prayer book or special language to address God, other than the respect due to a father. We don't even have to close our eyes. (Are you surprised?)

When we consider all the traditions, superstitions and abuses that accompany the many manners of prayer in the world, we have great cause to praise God for the simplicity that He has given us through Jesus. The grace of it is that we have the undeserved blessing and privilege of praying in such a simple manner in such a bold way before God's very throne. The mercy is that we, as sinners deserving condemnation, yet saved by grace, and though still in the body of this death (Romans 7:24); are permitted to speak directly to God in Jesus name (John 16:23). The miracle of it is that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. I think we can hardly appreciate the enormity of the great privilege and blessing of prayer as it is given to us in Christ. Truly we are blessed in Him!

John 16:23-27 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.



graphics and background by Mary E. Stephens
Art work unknown source
Aug. 2014; updated 2022; CA