He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Prayer is more than our conversations with God. It is our life with God. Prayer is the life we live, the daily choices we make, the justice and mercy we show. These words from the prophet Micah are God’s response to a series of questions Micah had thrown out at God. What does it mean to live in relationship with you, God? What is it that you ask of us? Micah then continued with what seems like an outburst of frustration with God, as if God were impossible to please. “Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil?”, Micah asked. Micah was asking if God wants us to be extreme in our worship and extreme in our sacrifice. What is required? What is enough? Is anything ever enough?
God’s answer to this question is startlingly simple and clear. “What I am calling you to do is to walk humbly with me. Rely on me. Learn from me. Let me guide you in all of life. The outcome will be that I will teach you to love. I will teach you to love as I love. I will teach you act justly and to love mercy.”
To act justly is to act in fairness. It means that we will repent of our greed and self centeredness. It means that we will care for the poor. It means that we will be a voice for those whose voices are not heard–the homeless, the refugee, the mentally ill, the marginalized, the young, the old, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed.
To love mercy is to be compassionate, forgiving, tender hearted, kind. It is to repent of our judgmental ways, our lack of forgiveness, our hardheartedness. It means that we will see the value of each person even if they do not see our value–or their own.
Acting justly and loving mercy are descriptions of God. It is God who reveals to us over and over again in Scripture, and in Jesus, that God sees and cares for the poor, the homeless, the orphan, the widow. It is God who declares over and over again in Scripture, and in Jesus, that God is compassionate, forgiving and tender hearted toward all.
This text in Micah is echoed throughout Scripture. When we live in relationship with God, when we walk humbly with God, God transforms us. We become more and more like God. God creates in us the vision, the desire, the capability to live in love. We will grow in our care for those who are outcast or have no voice, because God’s life is in us, moving through us. We will grow in our capacity to be compassionate, forgiving and tender hearted, because God’s light is shining in us and through us.
This transformed and transforming life is a life of prayer. It is prayer in motion. It is prayer moving out into the world around us, in kindness, compassion and fairness toward all.
Prayer is not about religious performance, is it?
It’s not about jumping through religious hoops.
Prayer is about walking hand-in-hand with you
like the child I am.
You ask me to give myself to you.
You ask me to live
in humility before you,
seeking your wisdom, your will, your way,
which is always the way of love.
Teach me to pray for justice
Teach me to do justice.
Teach me to pray for mercy.
Teach me to do mercy.
Teach me to pray for compassion and tender heartedness.
Teach me to live in compassion and tender heartedness.
Teach me to pray with my life
Make my life a prayer.
In a time of quiet see yourself, hand-in-hand with God, walking in the trust and humility of a much loved child. Ask for wisdom about the areas of your life in which God is specifically inviting you to act justly and to love tenderly today. Pray for the knowledge of God’s will for you today and for the strength to carry it out.