By Jackina Stark
A few years ago, Anne Lamott wrote a little book on prayer titled Help, Thanks, Wow. Many of our prayers can fit those informal labels.
It is not surprising that Help is first in the list. News outlets remind us the world is full of need.
Help, Father. Children all over the world are being sold as labor and sex slaves. Help, Lord. Hurricanes and fires and earthquakes and mudslides and tornadoes and floods are taking homes; they’re taking lives. Help. Maniacs are shooting people at concerts and in churches. Help. Corruption and greed are ravaging the masses.
The world’s needs go on and on.
And then there are personal appeals.
Help—my husband lost his job. Help—my wife has left me. Help—my addiction is killing me. Help—my doctor says I can’t have children. Help—my little girl has leukemia.
But there are prayers of Thanks and Wow too.
Thanks for giving me a job I love. Thanks for a warm home. Thanks for people to love. Thanks for the donor who provided the kidney. Thanks for letting me see Monet’s gardens and Canterbury Cathedral. Thanks for restoring that relationship. Thanks for a doctor with answers. Thanks for teaching me “great and unsearchable things [I] do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
We have endless reasons to give thanks.
And Wows, too, are limitless.
Lamott writes: “Wow . . . is often offered with a gasp, a sharp intake of breath, when we can’t think of another way to capture the sight of shocking beauty . . . or an unexpected flash of grace. . . . ‘Wow’ is about having one’s mind blown by the mesmerizing or the miraculous.”
Wow! The view of Lake Geneva is spectacular, Lord, and also our views of the Grand Canyon, the ocean, the rain forest, the mountaintop, and the field of wildflowers. Wow! Your creatures are incredible, Lord, like a certain albatross with a 12-foot wingspan. Wow! How could someone create music this beautiful, poetry so moving? Wow! Look at this 7-pound, 6-ounce baby finally resting in my arms! Wow, Lord. You are so good to me.
As we approach this time of Communion, it seems appropriate to bring all three prayers to him.
Help. We are a broken and needy people.
Thanks for being willing to die a shameful, excruciating death on the cross to take away our sin and reconcile us to our Father in Heaven. Thanks for the victory and joy and hope of the empty tomb.
Wow! How can you love us so much?
Jackina Stark is a retired Ozark Christian College English professor who lives in Branson, Missouri.