Rend your heart

and not your garments.

Return to the Lord your God,

For he is gracious and compassionate,

Slow to anger and abounding in love,

And he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:13

Jonah knew these words well. We can find them in many places all over the Old Testament, often word for word. David writes them in Psalm 103, they are found in Exodus 34, and Nehemiah 9 has almost the same language, as does Numbers 14. Anytime phrases appear frequently in the Bible, we should pay attention, decipher their meaning, and let these phrases sink into our minds, hearts and souls.

When we pray, first we need to acknowledge our dependence on God. Joel says “rend your heart…return to the Lord your God,” (Joel 2:13) David prays, “Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.” (Psalm 86:1) Both are humble expressions of our need for God. When I am trying to solve a problem on my own, I need to be reminded of this truth. I will pray, “I return to you God, forgive me for trying to do all this by myself, help me to rely on your strength.”

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s character displayed is compassionate and gracious. “…he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities,” (Psalm 103:10). Recognizing God’s grace and mercy puts us in the right position for praising him for his forgiveness of our sin. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:2-4) Thanking and praising God for giving me strength and being my refuge in my difficult days, is an incredible way to worship God.

Micah shows us another way to pray, by posing a question only God’s character can answer. “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depth of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19). When you pray today, thank God that he is slow to anger and delights to show us mercy; this is a truth we can all rejoice in and praise God for. Finally, put your security in God’s everlasting love, “May your (God’s) unfailing love be my comfort according to your promise to your servant.” (Psalm 119:76)

By Grace Hunter

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