Receiving Grace as Prayer For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 Prayer is receiving mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. This text reminds us that God, in Jesus, knows what it is like to live with human limits and weaknesses. God, in Jesus, knows and sympathizes with us when we struggle, when we are tempted, when we fail. Because of this, we can trust that when we pray in the midst of our temptations and failings, we will be met with compassion, mercy and grace. Our temptations are many. We are tempted by fear, by despair, by self-reliance and self-serving. We are tempted by pride and greed. We are tempted by self loathing and self harm. We are tempted by the drive to control what is beyond our control. We are tempted to go our own way. We are tempted by all of these and many other forms of closing our hearts to the love of God and to loving our neighbor as ourselves. When we are struggling and failing it is easy to think that we need to hide from God. Maybe we need to sort things out and get ourselves back on track before we pray. The reason we find this reaction almost instinctive is that we imagine that God responds to less than perfect people with anger, disappointment and condemnation. We forget that God sympathizes with us in our weakness. We forget that God has promised to receive our prayers with mercy and with grace. What does it mean to find mercy and grace? It means that when we pray in our struggles, our brokenness, our sin and failings God will welcome us, embrace us, and offer us understanding and kindness. It means that God’s love for us is unfailing. It means that God’s love for us and valuing of us does not waver or change, no matter what we have done or not done. God is a good and loving parent whose patience and kindness and delight in us far exceeds that of the most loving biological parent. God responds to us with a tender heart and an eagerness to help. There is no need for shame about our weaknesses with God. God knows. God, in Jesus, understands what it is to be human. God welcomes us and all our weaknesses with open arms. The amazing gift of prayer is that when we share the reality of our weaknesses with God it becomes an opportunity for greater intimacy, affection and joy between us. Go to God with any need, any weakness, any temptation, any failing. You will find mercy. You will find help. You will find grace. I am tempted every day with greed and pride and self-serving, with fear and despair and self-reliance. I am weak. I need your help. I am in awe that when I come to you with my weakness and temptations and failings you greet me with such tenderness, such kindness, such patience, such empathy. You are merciful and full of grace. Your mercy and grace heal me and help me. Thank you. Prayer suggestion: Talk with God about your weaknesses and temptations. Let yourself know God’s empathy and understanding. Allow yourself to receive God’s mercy, help and grace. Listen. God may have something to say.