Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions. Psalm 51:1
We naturally think, “I’m frightened by the sight of God, so I can’t look to heaven for help. I know that I’m a sinner and that God hates sin. How can I pray?” With these thoughts, an intense battle begins inside us. Because we know we are sinners, we may think we have to postpone praying until we feel worthy. Or we look for other people to assure us that we have done enough good works to have confidence in our own worthiness. Only then do we pray, “God, have mercy on me.” But we were born in sin. If we h t wait until we felt pure and free from all sin before we prayed, we would never pray.
We must shake off these kinds of unchristian thoughts. When surrounded by our own sinfulness – even while drowning in our sins – we should cry out to God, just as David did in this psalm. Then we won’t have to postpone our prayer. What purpose do the words “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” serve if the only people who pray them are pure and don’t need any mercy? No matter how sinful we feel, we must encourage ourselves to cry out to God, “Have mercy!”
I have learned from my own experience that praying is often the most difficult thing to do. I don’t hold myself up as a master of prayer. In fact, I admit that I have often said these words coldly: “God, have mercy on me.” I prayed that way because I was worried about my own unworthiness. Yet ultimately the Holy Spirit convinced me, “No matter how you feel, you must pray!” God wants us to pray, and he wants to hear our prayers – not because we are worthy, but because he is merciful.
Edited by James C. Galvin
Timeless insights from one of the most important people in church history. Resounding across the centuries, Martin Luther’s prolific writings as a pastor, theologian, scholar, Bible translator, father, and more, remain powerful and richly relevant. Faith Alone is a treasury of accessible devotionals taken from Luther’s best writings and sermons from the years 1513 through 1546. This carefully updated translation retains the meaning, tone, and imagery of Luther’s works such as this gem:
Some people value good works so much that they overlook faith in Christ. Faith should be first. It is faith—without good works and prior to good works—that takes us to heaven. We come to God through faith alone. —Martin Luther
Through daily readings, Luther’s straightforward approach challenges you to a more thoughtful faith. Read one brief section a day or explore themes using the subject index in the back of the book. Faith Alone will deepen your understanding of Scripture and help you more fully appreciate the mystery of faith.