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Lord, Have Mercy: Praying for Justice with Conviction and Humility

Jossey-Bass, 2006.
Practices of Faith Series, Dorothy C. Bass, Series Editor.

This book is refreshing in its attention to integrating our prayer with the contemporary dilemmas and issues we face. From praying in the context of discerning a wise choice in an election, to looking at various stances and ways to pray on issues of injustice that are about seeking political freedoms and social justice for the oppressed. This is seen in the stories of linking prayer with faith practises in the situation of faithful leaders and people experiencing apartheid in South Africa and in the Farm Workers movement in South America under Cesar Chavez, in our relatively recent past.

Wolfteich effectively uses ancient faith practices, personal experience, and narrative examples to pose dilemmas, enunciate differences and the struggle to authentically pray via the guiding motif of the ancient prayer of Christian tradition “Lord have mercy”.  She incorporates the different ways of praying within the descriptions of stances like prophetic, the acknowledging of divisions within the community and the contemplative stance of communities like Taize that call us to the prayer of our hearts; to pray as we are able with conviction and humility.

I really enjoyed the call to acknowledge the honest tensions within our prayer and experience, and the way Wolfteich was able to explore contemporary issues like abortion, in a way that suspended much bias and told of some of the reasons and underlying motives as to why people pray as they do. I believe this is a very useful book as are others in the Practising our faith series to encourage anew Christian practises that energise the people of God.

This book would be particularly helpful for clergy who are ministering within the diversity and brokenness of community life, (especially our faith communities) with all our divisions and struggles.  The title Lord have mercy is one of the treasures of the living Christian tradition and to pray it authentically in the context of our lived experience is to find a “a way of life that is in accordance with the purposes for which God has created us.”

Reviewed by Rev Lynette Dungan