By Terri Schlichenmeyer
---- — Today, there was food on your table. Before you ate it, you woke up in a warm bed with a roof over your head and clean clothes to wear. A hot shower awaited you in a room with running water. There’s money in your wallet, gas in the tank, and your home is secure.
All of this makes you luckier than a good portion of the world’s citizens.
So how do you acknowledge all that you have? In the new book “Help Thanks Wow” by Anne Lamott, you’ll get some ideas.
You already know that a proper prayer is something that comes from the heart. Lamott says prayer isn’t “for display purposes.” It’s communication and seeking union, it can be motion or stillness, and there’s “something to be said” about keeping it simple.
“Help” is the one succinct word to utter when everything seems utterly hopeless. It’s a humble prayer for when you can’t stand more heartbreak, death, frustration, problems. It’s the best prayer you can offer someone who needs comfort because it asks to be held in God’s light. It’s a prayer that He won’t mind if you say several times a day.
“Thanks” is meant to be whispered, shouted, or said with a “heaving exhalation of breath.” It’s short and to-the-point in big situations and small ones, when dinner or a doctor appointment turns out well. “Thanks” is used to express gratitude “for any unexpected grace.” It’s best used often: “Oh my God, thankyouthankyouthankyou. Thank you. Thanks.”
“Wow” often comes at the end of a gasp, barely a syllable in upper or lower case. It “means we are not dulled to wonder” and can appreciate the goodness and beauty that surrounds us, or it means wow, that’s over. It’s no coincidence that “wow” and “awe” have the same height and width filled with reverberation. Best if all, we say that one simple word and, wow, God gives us more.
Then we say “Amen.” It’s the usual end to most prayers but, says Lamott, sometimes a quiet, deep breath is all that’s needed.
So you’ve known how to pray since you were small. You and your Lord are already good friends, but “Help Thanks Wow” offers another look at the conversations you have with Him.
Obviously assuming that God has a sense of humor, Lamott is delightfully saucy in her three “essential prayers.” She writes as if God was a friend at work or someone she saw last night, and she shares her lively talks with Him.
But don’t worry, there’s no horrible irreverence here. Even in its wise, gentle humor, this book is a good spiritual reminder to practice humility, notice the goodness we’re granted, be grateful for every bit of it, and respectfully communicate that we’ve done so.
As a guidebook, an instructional manual, or just something to put you in a better frame of mind, this is a smart, wonderful book to have, tote, and tuck away close. For anyone who needs it, “Help Thanks Wow” is food for your soul.
"Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers," by Anne Lamott, read by the author c.2012, Brilliance Audio $19.99 U.S. & Canada 2 CDs / 1h 47m