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Praying for Mercy

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By posting this I am not suggesting that anyone pray. We all have our own belief systems and sometimes stumble on something that helps. I am merely expressing my experiences with prayer as I journey through grief. 

Praying for Mercy

As John’s health was failing just a few days before he died, my prayers changed from pleas for physical healing to pleas for peace. It felt so very wrong and awful to pray for this kind of mercy. My husband had suffered and the physicians had given us no hope. NO. HOPE. I was so very weary and all I wanted for him, for us, was peace. If we could not have him well, he had to be at peace. Of course, I prayed for a miracle. How could I not? But, my prayer became a litany of asking for mercy for John, that if he could not live, for God to hold him and us in the palm of the hand of the Creator, the only One who could grant this kind of relief and grace.

I know now that those prayers were not wrong. No prayer is, really, but it felt both unsettling and terrible to pray that prayer. It felt like giving up. We say things like, “Lord have Mercy. Christ have Mercy. Have Mercy on us.” People pray for mercy all the time.

Mercy is defined as, “compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone.” Yes, I prayed for compassion and I prayed for forgiveness for feeling like giving up. I pleaded with God, made deals with God, said all those things people say and did all those things people do out of desperation.  

Prayers turned to appeals for acceptance and I implored God, begging for strength for John, for Weston, for me, for all of us to know what to do when there wasn’t anything that could be done. I asked God to allow Weston and I to be with John as he passed. I thanked God when we were able to. I pleaded with God if John had to die, that our son and I be spared of his passing on the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. I felt guilty when I prayed that prayer because, again, it felt selfish and it felt like giving up. Thanksgiving Day, you see, is the day my childhood abuser died and I did not want John's last breath to be on a day that was tainted for me.

Prayers change. People pray for all kinds of things. For me, it went something like this: Healing when it is impossible, hope when there is none to be found, mercy when there is suffering beyond imagination. Perhaps this is a simplistic synopsis of the expansion of my prayers, but it is an accurate description of the “prayer makeover” that occurred. The pain of watching John agonize and endure tortuous procedure after procedure and ICU delirium was too horrific to bear. So, I prayed. I prayed and I prayed and I prayed for my sweet husband. Wes (our son) and I prayed in thanksgiving for his life and what he had been to and for and with us. We prayed for love and comfort and for the ability to get on a plane and return home without him.

Prayers morphed into hopes that all of this was a nightmare and that I would wake up with him next to me. Prayers became appeals that a fantasy of him walking through the door would be reality. Prayers transformed into requests for mercy once again, but this time, it was mercy for my soul and for my tormented mind that remembered the horrors of those weeks in ICU. I prayed for a reprieve from decline of my mental and physical health.

I prayed for an end to grief, another impossible thought for grief does not end. It just becomes altered. I have even prayed for that to be untrue.

I stopped praying somewhere along the way long enough to be angry with God. I still go there sometimes, but opening communication and merely expressing whatever I feel through prayer is somehow healing in and of itself. So, I find myself praying again.

Yes, prayer changes.  We amend how we pray and what we pray for. The contexts in which we contemplate with God vary and are modified over time and with different circumstances. Even prayers for mercy hold new meanings depending on the reason for which they are breathed.

Today, I pray for mercy for those who are plagued with a grief-stricken life. Today I pray for mercy for those who suffer. Today, I pray for my own spirit which is haunted by past trauma and present trauma. Today, I pray, very simply, for mercy. I pray and I hold hope that it is not in vain that I inhale and exhale into and with the Spirit.

Mary Beth



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I remember praying in the hospital for Lori to live. I prayed harder than I suppose I ever had. Then a peace came over me and I prayed for Gods will. I knew that meant that His will could be for Lori to go. I was scared of His answer. I battled with this realization but at the same time knew that Gods will was better and greater than anything I could want. His answer that day was no but I have felt at peace with what I asked for even though it meant that she is gone. 

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I'm not a praying man as I don't "believe" but I cannot fail to be moved by that post. The night before Jo died I did go to sleep saying to myself "please don't die", though I don't entirely know why as I pretty much knew [partly due to a premonition a few nights before] that it would happen.

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I see this as a piece about transformation of one's self as they go through this experience.  Our prayers often change, it's part of the transforming power of it.  Thank you for sharing this, Mary Beth.  

Sean, I also was praying for George when he died.  I felt bitter afterwards that my pleas had not been heeded, but it was not to be.  I think as Mary Beth discovered the prayer for peace is apt and applicable.

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