God, be Merciful to Me!
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is when Christians throughout the world acknowledge their sins and ask for the forgiveness of God. Jesus tells a parable which contrasts two men in prayer. The one is super-religious who prays an arrogant prayer which points a condescending finger at a tax collector who feels shame for the life he leads. The tax collector’s prayer simply says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”
You and I should take a spiritual clue from the prayer of the tax collector – we should always ask God for mercy. Why? Because none of us is perfect. Why? Because God is the creator and we are that which has been created. Why should we ask God for mercy? Because we cannot save ourselves. We need the help of God to run the race of life. This is what Ash Wednesday is all about.
Luke 18: 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.” 
Questions for Reflection:
- What are your thoughts about the prayer of the tax collector?
- What does it take to say, “Lord have mercy on me?”
- Why does Jesus value the prayer of the tax collector more than the Pharisee?
Lord, have mercy on me. Have mercy upon my sins. Have mercy on my arrogance. Have mercy on my pride. Have mercy on my laziness. Have mercy on my over indulgence. Lord, I eat too much. Lord, I drink too much. Lord, sometimes I have ignored the poor and taken what does not belong to me. Have mercy on my desire to shuck, jive and fake like I am something more than the reality of what I am. Forgive my sins. Forgive my mistakes. Bring me back to a right spirit, a right attitude, a right faith. Bring me closer to thee. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and savior I pray. Amen.
Written by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III
Photo by Nicholas Hood III – “Cupcakes” made by Sydney Turner for the 2016 Confirmation of Faith Class of the Plymouth United Church of Christ
Additional Prayers Photos and Meditations from Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood III at https://nicholashoodiiiministries.wordpress.com/
More about the ministry of Nicholas Hood III at www.nicholashoodiiiministries.org
 The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Lk 18:9–14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.