The Promise of Mercy and Grace

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Mercy is what gets us out of trouble.
Grace gives us what we don’t deserve.

A friend gave me a tape of a speech Gary Olson made to a group of Christian coaches. Gary was a former elder of our church in Oak Park, IL and for many years was the head football coach at Oak Park-River Forest High School. He talked to the coaches about how to handle the hard times of life. He told how he collapsed during football practice and was taken to the hospital where the doctors discovered he had an enlarged heart. A few days later he had surgery to replace a defective heart valve. Not long after that his mother suddenly died of a brain hemorrhage. It seemed almost too much to bear. He said he called his pastor and asked, “How should I pray?” His pastor told him to pray “Lord, have mercy. God, have mercy. Jesus, have mercy.” I was his pastor and a very good friend. I smiled when I heard him tell the story because I had forgotten that phone call. Then it all came back to me. My answer was off the top of my head, but it was perfectly biblical.

There are many times in life when the only thing we can do is to cry out, “God, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Jesus, have mercy.” When we pray like that, we will find the mercy we need from God.

Verse 16 ends with the good news that we can find “grace to help in our time of need.” One translation says we can find “grace to help in the nick of time.” I like that. The last phrase literally means “at the right moment." God’s answers are always perfectly timed. Not too soon and not too late. Often they do seem to come “in the nick of time.” God gives us the grace we need, but not until we truly need it.

Do you need mercy? You can have it.
Do you need grace? Ask for it.

When you come in Jesus’ name, the Father will not turn you away.

Lord Jesus, thank you for mercy and grace that always arrives in the nick of time. Amen.

Musical bonus: Charles Wesley wrote today’s hymn in 1739. Over the years other writers (most notably George Whitefield) changed some of the lyrics. We know it as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Let’s enjoy this beautiful rendition by Celtic Woman.

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Originally published December 16, 2018.

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