Dear Lord, Have Mercy!

By Mark D. Roberts

April 5, 2019

I cry aloud to the LORD;
I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.

Psalm 142:1


The phrase “Dear Lord, have mercy” reminds me of a grandmother remarking on a situation that is both desperate and humorous. Perhaps she has just heard that her grandson got his driver’s license: “Dear Lord, have mercy!” means “Oh, my! Help him! Help me! Help us all!”

A tall tree surrounded by pine trees.Ironically, the phrase “Lord, have mercy!” has now made its entrance into pop culture via the Internet, though in abbreviated form. LHM appears regularly on Facebook, Twitter, and in text messages. For example, a recent tweet from someone reads, “It’s Superhot today! LHM” As one who once lived in Texas, I can understand this cry for help. Lord, have mercy, indeed!

David begins his prayer in Psalm 142 with a version of LHM: “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy” (142:1). David is not just crying out to the Lord. He is seeking mercy, pity, and grace. By implication, David understands that God does not owe him. God is not obligated because of David’s position or exemplary behavior. Rather, David recognizes that he is utterly dependent on God’s goodness, on God’s choice to show kindness.

The good news for David, and for us, is that God does show mercy. In fact, mercy is central to God’s character. When he reveals himself to Moses, God identifies himself as “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious” (Exodus 34:6). According to Ephesians 2:4, God is “rich in mercy.” Hebrews 4:16 offers the following invitation: “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

So, when like David we are in a desperate situation, we can cry out to God for help, putting confidence in our richly merciful God. In a sense, though, every one of our prayers is a cry for mercy, whether we are in a crisis or not. We do not approach God on the basis of our own worthiness. Rather, we come before him because he is gracious, because he has invited us, because he will give us not what we deserve, but much, much more—and much, much better than we deserve.

Something to Think About:

Can you think of times in your life when you have cried out to God for mercy? What happened when you did?

Why do you think we are so often inclined to think that our prayers are based on our own worthiness rather than God’s mercy?

If you really believed that God was rich in mercy, how might you pray today?

Something to Do:

Find a few minutes in this day to jot down your thoughts. Make a list of times and ways that God has been merciful to you. Then, going down your list, thank that Lord for his very tangible, specific mercy.


Gracious God, how thankful I am that you are indeed merciful . . . full of mercy. How thankful I am that I can approach you, not on the basis of my worthiness, but on the basis of your grace. How grateful I am that you invite me to approach your throne with confidence, even boldness, because I can count on your mercy. Amazing!

Help me, dear Lord, to trust in your mercy. Help me to rely on you and your grace. Help me to live today in light of your mercy. And may I therefore be merciful to others. Amen.


Explore more at the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
All I Really Want in Life

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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