Lord, have mercy—Book review of “The Mercy Prayer”

What’s the most common prayer in the Bible?

Lord, have mercy.

What’s the most answered prayer in the Bible?

Lord, have mercy.

So why don’t we ask for his mercy more often?
Maybe because we don’t really believe he’ll answer us.

The-Mercy-Prayer-by-Robert-GelinasRobert Gelinas wrote The Mercy Prayer (to be released July 30, 2013) to provide more evidence that God has and will continue to answer that prayer every time we ask. Because of who God is—one whose loving-kindness endures forever.

God’s mercy explains why good things happen to bad people (a concept that Gelinas says troubles him more than why bad things happen to good people).

If not for a merciful God, how can any of us explain why we experience the abundant life?

But if I were to come up with an argument against God’s existence it would be this: There is an incredible lack of justice in this world. All too often evil—at all levels—goes unpunished.

. . . So many people do bad things and are not punished—me included! So if I make this more personal, either God doesn’t exist or God is merciful—otherwise, how do I explain all the wrong I have done that has gone seemingly unnoticed?

Gelinas reaches back to stories collected in the Old and New Testaments to give examples of God’s mercy.

In the courtroom of the Scriptures, I have seen his mercy in action as murderers, adulterers, slanderers, and outcasts stand before him all with one simple request: Lord, have mercy—the most prayed prayer in the Bible.

He also reminds us that when we accept the Lord’s mercy, we are transformed by it. Mercy changes us. It changes how we view God.

True change occurs as we bask in the warmth and comfort of God’s compassion and grace. True transformation is brought about not by making commitments that begin with “I am going to . . .  or “I will try harder to . . . .”

No, any strategy for change that begins with “I” is doomed to fail. True change begins with God.

Ultimately, the alteration of our hearts takes place in the hands of a God who is slow to anger and abounding in love. His kindness leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). God’s mercy is for sinners.

And mercy changes how we treat each other. Once we know his mercy for ourselves, we’re better able to point others toward it. Gelinas shares a story in the book about a man sitting on a curb, weeping uncontrollably.

All I knew to do was to sit next to him, wrap my arms around his shoulders and whisper, “God is merciful and desires to lessen your pain. Pray with me: Lord, have mercy . . . Lord, have mercy . . . Lord, have mercy.”

Sometimes just the act of praying the prayer is transformative. Just the recognition of the compassion, grace, and loving-kindness of God is enough to soothe a wounded soul. Just the anticipation of God’s mercy is transformation in and of itself.

His mercy on us doesn’t mean we always get what we want (I’m glad I haven’t gotten everything I once thought I wanted!). Sometimes the very situations we want to be released from are actually God’s mercy already in action, and we just can’t see it yet.

Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve. But before we can receive what we don’t deserve, God must first refrain from giving us what we do deserve. Mercy carves a path for God’s grace.

I loved being reminded over and over in this book about the great mercy of our God, and about my own need to ask more for it so that I can give him glory when I receive it.

Praying often for mercy and making the most answered prayer a way of life is to choose to put God on display in all his glory.

. . . It’s about letting the world see our God for who he really is. It’s not about us; it’s about God.

Near the end of the book, Gelinas tells the story of Jesus having mercy even on the demons when they requested to be sent into pigs instead of being sent out of the country (Mark 5:12-13). And then encourages us:

If Jesus will say yes to an unclean spirit’s request for mercy, then what is stopping us? Let us all get in line. Let us all make our requests. Let us all recognize that God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Yes, let us all make our requests for God’s mercy. Ask for it often. And believe he will give it.

Lord, have mercy.

* * *

10 thoughts on “Lord, have mercy—Book review of “The Mercy Prayer”

  1. floyd

    What a great prayer! It’s interesting, all the years hearing that prayer I always associated it with music. Many of the blues artists would say that phrase. Thanks for the tip and the amazing post, you’ve added greatly to my thoughts and heart.

    1. Lisa notes...

      Interesting because I haven’t associated that prayer at all with music, but sure would love to! I agree it’s a great prayer and really places us in dependence on the Father, which is the best place to be.

  2. christina

    What a refreshing perspective on that prayer! “Lord, have mercy,” is one of my husband’s favorite ways to pray. The quotes you offer here intrigue me to investigate the book further. Thank you.

    1. Lisa notes...

      What a blessing that your husband prays that way. I do recommend the book; it will come out next month. It was an easy read but covered a lot of territory on this one prayer. I didn’t realize there could be so much to say about it or that there were so many examples in the Bible of it.

  3. Mia

    Dear Lisa
    Yes, His mercy, grace and compassion is truly a mystery for not one of us has done a single thing to deserve this great Love! I have answered this question to my mind by the fact that the whole world lies in the evil one and that man is a spiritual derivative creature. We either derive our spirituality from our Pappa or the evil one. Paul explained that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against all the invisible nasties! So, I am convinced that without his knowing, man is misused by the evil one to spread his hatred and destruction. After all, he is called the father of all lies and the murderer!
    Much love XX

    1. Lisa notes...

      You’re so right that none of us deserve his love. How grateful we need to be that he loves us anyway.

      I smiled at your phrase “against all the invisible nasties.” 🙂 A great phrase. So glad we have supernatural spiritual protection against those! Love you Mia.

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