Friday, January 18, 2013

Mercy for Mamas

In the book of Luke, chapter 8 verses 9-14, we read the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  In those days a tax collector was viewed sort of how we view the IRS.  They skimmed from the top and were not trustworthy persons.  The story tells us that these two men went to the temple to pray.  The Pharisee prayed and thanked God that he was not like sinners, even (or maybe especially) the Tax Collector.  He proudly gave his credentials about how much he fasted and  how much he gave.  The Tax Collector, on the other hand, humbly cried out to God, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"

In the Orthodox tradition we say the Jesus Prayer, taken from this parable.  We seek the Lord's mercy on our lives by praying "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."  I think of the long bearded kind eyed monks with their 300 knot prayer ropes praying this prayer throughout the day and night.  I think of the nuns I was able to meet at St. Paisius Monastery who used this prayer to "pray without ceasing" as they went about their work.  The words just part of their breathing out and breathing in. 

As a mama my breathing out and breathing in consists of lots of directions, affirmations (at least I try), redirection and correction.  Some days it's hard to find a moment to pray and others it's hard to find the will to pray.  Just being honest.  But there is always "Lord have mercy".  When my children do something frustrating or my day feels overwhelming I can pray "Lord have mercy on me a sinner."  It is both a request for His mercy and a reminder to me of WHY I need His mercy...I am a sinner.  On good days I'm a sinner and on challenging days I'm a sinner.  His mercy is ever needed!

I've been working on doing this for a little while now.  If I am not praying for mercy for myself I can pray for mercy for my children or husband or friends. Do you know what I'm finding?  It is giving me that moment I am always looking for.  That moment to stop and turn my focus to the Lord and ask for His help instead of reacting to a situation.  Can you imagine how many emotional bumps and bruises might be avoided by praying that short prayer?  I pray the positive impact is great! 

The lives we lead as mothers and the asceticism we are practicing (or endeavoring to practice) in our own homes shows us our need for the Lord's mercy as we raise up the next generation for Him.  It reminds us to be honest about our lowly state and humble ourselves so we can accept His gracious and loving help.  His mercy is there for us right when we need it.  It was there for the humble Tax Collector.  It was available to the proud Pharisee.  And it is there for a mama like me.  Praise God!

O Holy Trinity, I come before you as the Publican (tax collector), acknowledging how unworthy I am of Your grace and mercy.  And while I know my shortcomings are great, I thank you that You love even me. I humble myself before Your throne and dare to ask that You bestow Your grace and Your mercy and grant me the courage to walk in Your ways.  For You are my God and to You I ascribe glory and honor in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.


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