A Prayer for Owen Meany

Tabitha Wheelwright’s ex-lover and John’s biological father. The popular pastor at the Congregational Church, Merrill has a degree in English from Princeton and speaks eloquently. His congregation loves him because he shares their doubt and reassures them that skepticism is normal and can be conquered by faith. He tries to help Owen Meany when Owen is troubled by his visions of the future and his parents’ claim that he is the product of a virgin birth, but Merrill does not believe that Owen was truly an instrument of God. He memorably leads Gravesend Academy in a prayer for Owen Meany after Owen’s unjust persecution by the headmaster, Randolph White. However, Owen believes Merrill to be a hypocrite and a coward after he discovers that Merrill had an extramarital affair with Tabitha Wheelwright. Merrill believes he caused Tabitha’s death when, overcome with guilt regarding their affair, he prayed to God that she would drop dead; moments later, Owen accidentally killed her with a foul ball, and Tabitha really did drop dead. Merrill thinks God has turned away from him after such evil thoughts. John finds this idea preposterous, and is disgusted with his father’s selfish imagination. Merrill’s faith in God is soundly restored when John plants his mother’s armless mannequin outside the church window to make him believe that Tabitha has descended from heaven to give him a message.

Rev. Lewis Merrill Quotes in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The A Prayer for Owen Meany quotes below are all either spoken by Rev. Lewis Merrill or refer to Rev. Lewis Merrill. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Collins edition of A Prayer for Owen Meany published in 1989.
Chapter 6 Quotes

In both classes, Pastor Merrill preached his doubt-is-the-essence-of-and-not-the-opposite-of-faith philosophy; it was a point of view that interested Owen more than it had once interested him. The apparent secret was “belief without miracles”; a faith that needed a miracle was not a faith at all. Don’t ask for proof—that was Mr. Merrill’s routine message.

“BUT EVERYONE NEEDS A LITTLE PROOF,” said Owen Meany.

“Faith itself is a miracle, Owen,” said Pastor Merrill. “The first miracle that I believe in is my own faith itself.”

Related Characters: Owen Meany (speaker), Rev. Lewis Merrill (speaker)
Page Number: 314
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Chapter 7 Quotes

I remember the independent study that Owen Meany was conducting with the Rev. Lewis Merrill in the winter term of l962. I wonder if those cheeseburgers in the Reagan administration are familiar with Isaiah 5:20. As The Voice would say: “WOE UNTO THOSE THAT CALL EVIL GOOD AND GOOD EVIL.”

Related Characters: John Wheelwright (speaker), Owen Meany (speaker), Rev. Lewis Merrill
Related Symbols: The Voice
Page Number: 402
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 9 Quotes

Because he’d wished my mother dead, my father said, God had punished him; God had taught Pastor Merrill not to trifle with prayer. And I suppose that was why it had been so difficult for Mr. Merrill to pray for Owen Meany—and why he had invited us all to offer up our silent prayers to Owen, instead of speaking out himself. And he called Mr. and Mrs. Meany “superstitious”! Look at the world: look at how many of our peerless leaders presume to tell us that they know what God wants! It’s not God who’s fucked up, it’s the screamers who say they believe in Him and who claim to pursue their ends in His holy name!

Related Symbols: The Baseball
Page Number: 554
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rev. Lewis Merrill Character Timeline in A Prayer for Owen Meany

The timeline below shows where the character Rev. Lewis Merrill appears in A Prayer for Owen Meany. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Foul Ball
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...distracted by her father’s illness, and the leader of her church choir, the Rev. Lewis Merrill, vouched for her talent, so she was allowed to skip the college degree her older... (full context)
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...Episcopalian, John’s stepfather—whom she also met on the train. The Congregational pastor, the Rev. Lewis Merrill, was unhappy to lose John’s mother, who sang so beautifully in his choir and whom... (full context)
Chapter 2: The Armadillo
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...everyone called her Tabby. Only her mother refused to call her Tabby, although Rev. Lewis Merrill once called her Tabitha when he was trying to convince her not to leave his... (full context)
Chapter 3: The Angel
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...and the reverend of the Congregational Church to those of the Episcopal Church. Rev. Lewis Merrill was the pastor of the Congregational Church, while Rev. Dudley Wiggin was the rector of... (full context)
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Wiggin had a pilot’s cocky confidence and lack of doubt in his preaching, while Merrill was “full of doubt” in a relatable way that endeared him to his congregation. Merrill... (full context)
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Owen disapproved of what he considered to be Merrill’s overly intellectual approach to faith, arguing, “IF HE’S GOT SO MUCH DOUBT, HE’S IN THE... (full context)
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...their kids were great, bulky athletes. John didn’t really understand why they had to leave Merrill’s church for Wiggin’s, but Tabitha implied that Dan cared more about which church they went... (full context)
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...whole funeral, suspecting him of possessing the ball. Just like at the wedding, Wiggin and Merrill shared the service. When it came time for the ending hymn, a song about resurrection,... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Little Lord Jesus 
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...neighborhood children, Tabitha, and even Harriet. Owen wanted the mourners to hold candles, and Rev. Merrill and his wife noticed the candles when they walked by. Mr. Fish asked Merrill to... (full context)
Chapter 5: The Ghost of the Future 
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From backstage, John looks out into the audience. Mr. Morrison is there, as is Rev. Merrill and his family. It occurs to John that many of the same people in the... (full context)
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...stage. Dan and John find him sobbing over his makeup table, burning with fever. Rev. Merrill comes backstage to try and help, and Owen tells him he saw his own name... (full context)
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Merrill drives Owen home and drops John off at Harriet’s house. He seems to believe that... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Voice 
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...and searching their memories for who was at the baseball game. They decide that Mrs. Merrill never would have gone to a game, not being a fan of baseball, and Rev.... (full context)
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...Academy suffered a bad head injury on the icy steps of the church and Rev. Merrill was hired as his temporary replacement. Merrill had to teach the school’s religion classes, where... (full context)
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...Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Sartre, and Camus rather than with Tolstoy, Graham Greene, Joyce, or Dostoevski. Merrill counters the boys with Kierkegaard, who said that faith “is the greatest and most difficult... (full context)
Chapter 7: The Dream 
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...answers all of Dolder’s questions truthfully, without humor. Dolder told him to talk to Rev. Merrill, so he has two more sessions every week. Owen is already doing an independent course... (full context)
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...church in a month, too preoccupied with the news. He remembers what Owen and Rev. Merrill used to say: “WOE UNTO THEM THAT CALL EVIL GOOD AND GOOD EVIL.” (full context)
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Merrill was the first person after John to ask Owen if he had been involved with... (full context)
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...acceptances, and how the head of St. Michael’s will react. They go to see Rev. Merrill to ask him to talk to the head of St. Michael’s on Owen’s behalf. They... (full context)
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Merrill tells Dan that the head of St. Michael’s Church and School is Father Findley. He... (full context)
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When Rev. Merrill enters The Great Hall, he is struck with horror at the sight of the decapitated... (full context)
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White eventually says, “That’s enough,” but Merrill quietly replies, “I’ll say when it’s ‘enough.’” The students pray in silence until White has... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Finger 
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...follows five years later. Hester says, “Television gives good disaster.” Owen goes to see Rev. Merrill more after Kennedy’s death. He still won’t tell John about his dream, and Hester won’t... (full context)
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...Owen is talking about his “dream,” surely it’s only a dream. Owen says that Rev. Merrill and Father Findley have told him the same thing. He tells John again that John... (full context)
Chapter 9: The Shot
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...In Owen’s case, there really was a reason. John tried to tell Dan and Rev. Merrill about that reason, but they didn’t fully believe him. “I believe you,” Dan said neutrally.... (full context)
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Merrill insists that it’s harder for him to believe in a supposed miracle as someone who... (full context)
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...church, but John convinced the Meanys to hold the service in Hurd’s Church, with Rev. Merrill. Mr. Meany was still mad at Gravesend Academy for kicking Owen out, but John said... (full context)
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Rev. Merrill agrees with John that Mr. Meany is a “monster of superstition” and Mrs. Meany is... (full context)
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...that everything that happened to him had a purpose, that he was picked by God. Merrill only believes that Owen was gifted with some “precognitive powers.” John is angry that Merrill... (full context)
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John thinks that Merrill treats religion like a career, preaching without believing or opening his heart to a new... (full context)
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...his father was, and John isn’t surprised that God spoke to him in Owen’s voice. Merrill denies that God was working through him; he suggests that he had finally found the... (full context)
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Merrill then confesses that he has no faith at all—he lost it when Tabitha died. He... (full context)
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Tabitha and Merrill had an affair after she asked him to come to The Orange Grove and confirm... (full context)
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John finds his father to be an utter failure. He says sarcastically to Merrill, “How I wish I could help you restore your faith.” He feels “moved to do... (full context)
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After John learns about Merrill, he doesn’t know what to tell Dan. He asks Dan why he insisted that Tabitha... (full context)
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...went with Tabitha to Buster’s funeral. John decides that Dan doesn’t need to know about Merrill being John’s real father. He also thinks of a plan to restore Merrill’s faith with... (full context)
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Merrill comes outside, spots Tabitha’s dummy, and falls to his knees, clutching the baseball to his... (full context)
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...that he mounted the statue on the stage of The Great Hall, and sat behind Merrill’s desk. He knew then who John’s father was, but he knew that God would tell... (full context)
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Rev. Merrill starts to speak with a newly firm and forceful voice; now that he has regained... (full context)
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When Merrill is done, the honor guard folds Owen’s flag and hands it to Mr. Meany and... (full context)
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...down to learn that John’s mysterious father was merely “an insipid soup of a man.” Merrill was so forgettable that John and Owen never remembered seeing him at their baseball game,... (full context)
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John doesn’t hate Merrill, but he doesn’t care about him much. He hasn’t seen him since Owen’s funeral. Dan... (full context)
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...also wrote about returning to Gravesend for Harriet’s funeral at the Congregational Church, performed by Merrill’s replacement. At Harriet’s old house, he was shocked to see Mr. Meany in the garden,... (full context)