My devotional from last night's prayer service:
There are some books I read only for information and others I read a quick escape into a fictional world. For those books, an electronic reading device works fine. But, there are some books I don’t want to simply read. I want to absorb them – as much into my body and being as into my mind. These books I want to hold in my hand – savoring them as if holding an exquisite bite of food in my mouth so that the taste can linger.
Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The ThreeEssential Prayers is one of those books. I’m reading it slowly – bit by bit. Reading and re-reading, soaking up the beauty of the language and the richness of the content. Anne (her writing style is so honest and personal, it feels as if we have a first name acquaintance) puts forward the idea that great prayers can be found in these three little words: help, thanks, wow. There is wisdom in this.
What follows is my own meditation on these three prayers. Perhaps you can devise your own meditation around them, too.
HELP. I have cried for help from the bottom of the pit. Like Jeremiah (Jeremiah 38) thrown into the cistern – in the dark – alone – nothing and no one left to call on but God. The walls of the well are straight and slick. Climbing out on my own is not an option. I cry out – “GOD HELP ME!”
I have cried, “help” before I enter a hospital room or to pray with a grieving family and many other times when I know I am wholly inadequate for the task at hand.
Then I think of the many times I didn’t cry, “help” – when I pulled on my own boot straps, gathered my own courage and tried to proceed on my own strength. And, I ask myself, “How’s that been working for you?”
I cry, “help” when I need guidance or more information or a broader view of the situation. I cry, “help” when I don’t understand the suffering of those I love or strangers half way around the world. I cry help.
And when the suffering is relieved, I cry, “THANKS!” Sometimes the gratitude is deep and explosive – like the teenager after I performed the Heimlich Maneuver on him – “THANK YOU! THANK YOU! YOU SAVED MY LIFE!”
At other times the gratitude is soft and gentle. Thanking God for my many blessings – daily joys often overlooked. People in my life, a place to live, food to eat.
And then I think of all the thanks not offered – blessings unacknowledged, life taken for granted. I think of the times when I was of the nine who did not return in thanks rather than the one who did (Luke 17: 12 – 19), and in my mind I fall to my knees uttering simultaneously, “forgive me and thank you.”
When I open my eyes again, I see the world anew – full of beauty and wonder. I see the beauty of creation in a tiny flower with intricate design, and in the majesty of the sunset as I cross the bridge over the lake. I am in awe of the one who creates and I simply proclaim, “WOW!”
I see God at work in the world around me – changing lives in both subtle and spectacular ways. I feel God changing me in ways I never thought possible, and I am once again amazed by God’s grace.