Gifts of tender mercy

Let us pray the collect for the First Monday in Lent

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully increase in us your gifts of holy discipline, in almsgiving, prayer, and fasting; that our lives may be directed to the fulfilling of your most gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

By now another theme is coming into focus: mercy. Throughout the Scriptures, particularly the Old Testament, the mercy of God is frequently declared. God is a God of compassion who understands the vast gulf between an all-powerful Divine Being and we frail humans and does not wish to overwhelm us with that power and divinity, and so God treats us with mercy. So also God has known since the Noah event that humans have a lot of trouble being good, and so God, who wants to be in relationship with us, continues to forgive us long past reasonable limits. God extends us mercy. This is an important quality of God.

In this collect the mercy is bid to aid us in doing the things we are supposed to do during this season of Lent, a season calling for disciplines. Traditional Lenten disciplines, as we have mentioned before, include prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Perhaps another way to say this prayer is this:

O God, it is Lent, and we know that we are called in this season to be intentional about praying, and to engage in periods of fasting to bring our attention to you, and to give away some of our money to better the lives of our neighbors. And we know it is your will that we love our neighbors as ourselves. But we are distracted by daily life and tempted often to skip over these disciplines even though they are meant to help us love you and love neighbor. So we ask you to help us by making us better at these disciplines, to give us more focus and strength to engage in them in the hope that we will spend our lives following you - doing your will - instead of spending our lives on lesser pursuits. We ask you knowing full well that we are more often tempted to veer off course than we are to follow you, and knowing that you know that about us as well and keep loving us anyway. And so we know that anything you do for us is nothing less than a tender reaching out with mercy and grace. Amen.