my favorite author, anne lamott, has a new book out, which i shamefacedly have not read yet, about the three essential prayers: help, thanks and wow.
she says this, in a recent interview:
“Well, I’ve heard people say that God is the gift of desperation, and there’s a lot to be said for having really reached a bottom where you’ve run out of anymore good ideas, or plans for everybody else’s behavior; or how to save and fix and rescue; or just get out of a huge mess, possibly of your own creation.
“And when you’re done, you may take a long, quavering breath and say, ‘Help.’ People say ‘help’ without actually believing anything hears that. But it is the great prayer, and it is the hardest prayer, because you have to admit defeat — you have to surrender, which is the hardest thing any of us do, ever.”
and i agree that help is a hard prayer because, like i told a friend the other day, it hurts to be so dry, so empty, that your skin wrinkles. we have a big canning pot that we fill with water and set on our woodstove everyday to humidify the air but when it gets bone dry, and sometimes it does, you can hear the pot cracking for the heat.
but like i also told that friend, it’s only when we’re empty that we CAN be filled, and sometimes, i think God lets us get that desperate so we’ll be wowed when the joy begins to surface, when the water soothes those cracking places.
it’s then that we can pray these prayers:
“Thanks is the prayer of relief that help was on the way. … It can be [the] pettiest, dumbest thing, but it could also be that you get the phone call that the diagnosis was much, much, much better than you had been fearing. … The full prayer, and its entirety, is: Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. But for reasons of brevity, I just refer to it as Thanks.”
“Wow is the praise prayer. The prayer where we’re finally speechless — which in my case is saying something. … When I don’t know what else to do I go outside, and I see the sky and the trees and a bird flies by, and my mouth drops open again with wonder at the just sheer beauty of creation. And I say, ‘Wow.’ … You say it when you see the fjords for the first time at dawn, or you say it when you first see the new baby, and you say, ‘Wow. This is great.’ Wow is the prayer of wonder.”
but i have become convicted lately about how much i ask of God. he knows my needs. he died for me–and doesn’t that cover everything? how often am i asking him what i can do for him? i know, we can’t do anything to earn our salvation, and i get that. i embrace that. but we can do things to WALK in our salvation, and to minister to others.
so i’m wondering if the greatest prayer we can pray is not about us, at all, but rather, about him:
glorify yourself in me today, Lord. show me how i can serve you today. fill up this cracked earthen vessel only so i can bring refreshment to others. only so i might be emptied, again, and again. only so i might bring your kingdom, come.