Prayers of Mercy

by Courtney Jacob

Praying for enemies

What we’ve traditionally regarded as Jesus’ first words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34), is actually a prayer. Renowned author and preacher, Fleming Rutledge, astutely reminds us what is happening as Jesus offers this prayer.

It is our shame that we see Jesus taking upon himself. In the mocking of Jesus, in his death by torture, we see all of the absolute worst that people can do. And here is what we need to remember. In this first word from the cross, Jesus does not pray for the good and the innocent. He prays for people doing terrible things. He prays for men who are committing sadistic acts, offering them to his Father’s mercy. It is for his enemies that he prays, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (The Seven Last Words from the Cross, p. 11).

Praying for Grace

When we pray for others we often hear about brokenness and the guilt of humanity. It can feel arduous to pray for some of these heartbreaking, painful, and unjust situations over and over again. If we aren’t careful, it can lead us down paths of judgment or despair. But in the hour of his greatest need, Jesus prays for his tormentors and for us. Through his prayer, I am reminded that prayer is not about what we deserve; it’s about the Father’s mercy.

When you reflect on Christ and his suffering, I pray you will find yourself again at the foot of the cross and the threshold of the Father’s mercy. May your prayers seek mercy on behalf of all God’s people.