Help. Thanks. Wow!

“I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the last twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple. Help. Thanks. Wow.” With these words Anne Lamont opens her short book on what she defines as the three essential prayers. If you are one who contemplates the deeper things of life, at some point you will find yourself in prayer or meditation and will wonder if those prayers are being answered. This short book will help you work through your own questions as you read the detailed explanations of LaMotte’s experiences with prayer. LaMotte comments on prayer in her introduction: “Prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light…Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light. Light warms, and in most cases it draws us to itself.” 

Anne LaMotte divides her book like some would divide their prayers with an introduction, a discourse on the three types of prayer, help, thanks, and wow, and then a conclusion, you guessed it, a hearty “Amen.” I want to share with you some of the insight I gleaned from LaMotte’s observations. 

About the prayer “Help” LaMotte writes, “There’s freedom in hitting bottom, in seeing that you won’t be able to save or rescue your daughter, her spouse, his parents, or your career, relief in admitting you’ve reached the place of great unknowing. This is where restoration can begin, because when you’re still in the state of trying to fix the unfixable, everything bad is engaged…it’s exhausting, crazy. Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.” All of us can relate to this feeling of desperation, when we feel like that we are hopeless. With a tapestry of adjectives woven into a blanket of comfort LaMotte lays the foundation for everyone seeking help through prayer. 

When we receive the help that we need the inclination of our hearts should be to express gratitude. LaMotte calls this prayer “Thanks.” She writes, “Thanks is the short form of the original prayer used to express gratitude for any unexpected grace in my life, Thankyouthankyouthankyou, as I grew spiritually, the prayer became more formal Thank you, and now, from the wrinkly peaks of maturity, it is simply “thanks.”

Being genuinely thankful is sometimes a difficult task. What are you thankful for? What if you awoke tomorrow with only the things and people you thanked God for today? How would thanksgiving change your perspective? 

Finally, LaMotte writes about, perhaps the most profound prayer of all, “Wow.” “The words of wow and awe are the same height and width, all w’s and short vowels. They could dance together. Even when, maybe especially when, we don’t cooperate, this energy the breath, the glory, the goodness of God -is given.” 

It is my observation that many have lost the ability to express wonder, when was the last time you were amazed at the world around you? The cry of a newborn baby, the last breath of a loved one, a sun rise, a sun set, a thunderstorm in the spring, children playing on the lawn. Love, justice. Forgiveness, grace. Wow! 

May we not lose sight of the power of these three essential prayers in Anne LaMotte’s book Help, Thanks, Wow. I hope that as you reflect on your prayer life and reexamine what that looks like, that you will consider reading this book and by doing so rediscover the simplicity and wonder of prayer. LaMotte beautifully writes as a catalyst for a new level of intensity in our spiritual journeys: “If we stay where we are, where we’re stuck, where we’re comfortable and safe, we die there. We become like mushrooms, living in the dark, with poop up to our chins. If you want to know only what you already know, you’re dying. You’re saying: Leave me alone; I don’t really mind this little rathole. It’s warm and dry. Really, its fine. When nothing can get in, that’s death. But new is scary, and new can be disappointing and confusing-we had all this figured out, and now we don’t. New is life.”

New is life indeed. And the desire for new is something that increasingly populates my prayers.

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