Robert Gelinas’ first book, Finding the Groove, was a paradigm-shifter for me. Not only did its “jazz theology” help unlock my faith in a new way, but its sense of creativity was a heavy influence especially on my own Growing Others. And you didn’t have to be a jazz fan to appreciate it. (However: As another side-effect, I now have a stack of Ellington, Armstrong, Davis, Monk, and Brubeck CDs to go with my Coltrane collection. :))
His new book, too, is a paradigm-shifter. But this time, instead of going out of the box, the approach here is simple and single-minded. And no less profound for that.
Robert Gelinas. The Mercy Prayer: The One Prayer Jesus Always Answers. 192p., $15.99, Thomas Nelson.
That said, if you think the book is just about the Mercy Prayer itself (i.e., “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner”), you’d be dead wrong. It’s the centerpiece, to be sure, but this is really a book-long contemplation on the reality of God’s mercy, and the implications of that for each of us. (And once again, it’s unlocked some creativity at my end; stay tuned for a follow-up post to this in the next day or two.)
The opening chapters establish the reality of a merciful God—something we claim to believe but don’t nearly as often act upon as if it were true. Before we can believe in the power of the Mercy Prayer, we must first believe in the power (and the existence) of a merciful God.
The shift in focus comes near the end of the chapter “Echoes from Eternity”: “As Christians, we have decide to fight sin,” he says. “What most of us didn’t know is that to seek victory over sin is to choose to suffer.” We all need to see God’s mercy in our lives, and all around us. When we arrive eternally in God’s presence we will be eternally reminded of that mercy, but in the meantime we need to remind ourselves. Robert gets us started down that path here.
It’s then that we’re formally introduced to the prayer itself. Robert not only walks us through it, but shows us how to incorporate it into every part of our lives, so it literally becomes like breathing. (And that’s not bad English; I literally mean “literally”—you’ll have to read the book to find out why.)
From that basis of God’s mercy toward us, and our desire to seek it, comes a third direction: the desire to extend God’s mercy to others. We are all called to get involved in others’ suffering—not always to relieve it but to always bring Christ into the midst of it. Much time is spent breaking down the implications of Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:13: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.'” It’s here that the vision-casting takes place, of what a mercy-filled world might look like:
As we walk with God, we gain vision for how we can do great things with God. We begin to see the world not as it is but as it should be. We begin to ask God, “If you could change one thing in the world through me, what would it be?” God responds, and with him we begin to do justice. We roll up sleeves and start cleaning up polluted streams. We get involved in our local school to curb the low graduation rates. We start petitions that draw attention to the extremely high abortion rate of Down Syndrome babies….
[M]ercy [also] reminds us, as we teach a man to fish, we shouldn’t forget that he’s hungry. So give him a fish for today, and then get on with the lesson.
Interested? Begin seeking mercy for yourself first. The book will certainly help you through every step of that path.