Have you ever cried out – “Oh God, be gracious to me.”?
Perhaps in intercession you have groaned – “Oh God, be gracious to them.”?
Maybe a heartfelt prayer like – “God, be merciful, God be gracious, God forgive us.”?
Is that scriptural?
Well some psalmists certainly prayed that way. Thus, we should too. Right?
But were those psalmists right in their request? Did they really know God?
Misguided Scripture praying
Some Christians believe you must pray scripture in order to be more effective. So they comb the Bible to find key verses that God will answer. Been there, done that.
Is that how it works? Did God give us the scriptures so we can maneuver Him and then expect Him to answer our formulaic request?
Hey, what if you totally misunderstood the meaning of a verse and dogmatically prayed your ‘gospel truth’? I confess.
What if the scripture you are praying is not even true about God? Have you ever considered that the Bible also consists of some expressing things that are inaccurate, misunderstandings, even lies about who God really is?
Here’s an example. Ever prayed from the book of Job? Maybe you never noticed towards the end of the book what God said about Job’s friends’ eloquent comments about who God was? God Himself said that what they had spoken of Him was not right, not accurate, not the truth! (Job 42:7)
Scripture Cannot Make Up Its Mind
I found ten verses in the Old Testament where the cry was ‘be merciful/be gracious to me.’
Now why is that a big deal? Because, it illustrates our confusion of who God really is. It also reinforces the dynamic of many Christians’ identity crisis.
Did not God describe Himself as “gracious” to Moses?! (Ex 34:6) If He is gracious, then why do we ask Him to be?
But, some got it. There are also ten verses where the Psalmist, Jeremiah, Joel, and Jonah said God was gracious! Of course Moses would know that too. There is hope for us.
The Confused Psalmist
Here’s a blatant example of identity crisis of God and of self – right in the Bible.
The Psalmist cries out –
“You, O Lord, are a God full of compassion, and gracious (chanan), longsuffering and abundant in mercy and truth. Oh, turn to me, and have mercy (chanan) on me! (Ps 86:15,16)
Yee gads! Make up your mind!
Now how many of us can say “Uh, that’d be me.”?
Meaning of Gracious
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for gracious is:
chanan (khaw-nan’) – to show favor, be gracious. In late Hebrew Aramaic chanan also means – yearn towards, long for, be merciful, compassionate, favorable, inclined towards
What a beautiful description of God! And it also implies how God feels about you.
So when the Psalmist is crying out ‘Have mercy on me!’ – just figure God is trying to get him to hear – “Hey, I already do yearn towards you, long for you, am inclined towards you, am favorable to you, am compassionate towards you.”
FYI – chanan is often translated ‘be merciful’ in the Old Testament. Please realize the fullness of chanan!
Remember Moses Glory Goodness Gracious
When Moses wanted to see God’s glory, God told him I will make all My goodness pass over/upon you. (Ex 33:18,19) When this goodness passed over Moses, then God proclaimed “The Lord God, merciful (rachum – compassionate) and gracious (chanan), longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.”
Just think about this glory, goodness, and graciousness coming upon you – just like it did Moses. No longer be confused about identity. You can be certain. Experience fullness!
- There is no ‘I might be gracious’ or ‘I will be gracious’ (future tense). Like, “Let Me think about it, let Me see how you behave first, let Me hear you say the right things – then I will be gracious to you.” No! Never is God like that!
- When all this glory, goodness, and graciousness was passing over and upon Moses – it was a prophetic picture of Jesus – the One who came to make clear the fullness of our gracious God. We must look for Jesus when reading the Old Testament.
- If you cry out for God to be gracious to you – stop it! 🙂 Instead shout out “Oh God, thank you for being so gracious to me, for longing for me, for being inclined towards me, for yearning for me, for showing me favor. Hey, You really like me and enjoy me!”
P.S. Grace (‘chen’) comes from gracious (‘chanan’). More to explore in the Old Testament about grace – next post!