Confessions of a Pastor

Written by Gary Taylor

Confession: I often don't know what to pray.  I sorta psyche myself out and can grow discouraged while searching for "just the right words."  I know God does not require eloquence, but for some reason I feel that I should be better at stringing together the kind of prayer that is really gonna get God's attention.  Crazy that I'd think that way, right? 

The Psalms are the original "manual on prayer."  For centuries, God's people have prayed (and sung) the psalms.  I find myself turning to the psalms more and more, especially when I'm not sure exactly what to pray.

A couple days ago I felt prompted to pray for several people.  But, again, I was struggling to find the words.

Earlier that morning I had read Psalm 123.  (You have also read Psalm 123 if you are following our Bible Reading Plan.)  Verse 3 is a brief, straightforward, and earnest plea:

"Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us."

As I said, I wasn't sure how to pray for the people who were on my heart.  But this verse resonated with me (perhaps because I am keenly aware that I need mercy!) 

Here's what I did, and I encourage you to do something similar:  In place of the pronoun "us," I inserted the name of the person I felt led to pray for.  I began with my family.  One by one, I held them in the Lord's merciful presence. 

Have mercy upon Beth, O Lord, have mercy upon Beth.

Have mercy upon Jack, O Lord, have mercy upon Jack.

Have mercy upon Calleigh, O Lord, have mercy upon Calleigh.

Not that the number of people matters, but I probably prayed that verse for about 30 friends and family.  Slowly, meditatively, calling on the Lord to show mercy to people I love.

If you struggle with what to pray, know that you are not alone.  Would you consider using Psalm 123:3 as a template for intercessory prayer? 

Not sure who to pray for?  Begin here: Have mercy upon Gary, O Lord, have mercy upon Gary.