Help Thanks Wow

By Anne Lamott

Prayer for the rest of us! That's how I feel about Anne Lamott's Help Thanks Wow. Sure, I want to push back on her "nothing matters what you call it" concept of God, but do I love her definition:

"Communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding. Let's say it is communication from one's heart to God."

Lamott's insight is like the holy earthiness of Eugene Peterson. Her humor and subtle -- and at times not-so-subtle -- "irreverence" is like a divine whack on the side of the head, especially for heady types who live among prayer books, can explain with theological precision every prayer mystery, or who see conversations with the Almighty as Sunday affairs best delivered by the Reverend.

There is a little to criticize, but so much to commend: Honest. Insightful. Witty. Learned (she draws on a lot of others). Holy. Earthy. Here are a few of my favorite lines:

1. God can handle honesty, and prayer begins an honest conversation.
2. There's freedom in hitting bottom . . . . This where restoration can begin.
3. Help: I try not to finagle God. Some days go better than others, especially during election years. I ask that God's will be done, and I mostly sort of mean it.
4. Help: And as it turns out, if one person is praying for you, buckle up. Things can happen.
5. Help: If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.
6. Thanks: Domestic pain can be searing, and it is usually what does us in. . . . But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.
7. Thanks: To have been so lost that you felt abducted, to feeling found, returned, and set back onto your feet: Oh my God, thankyouthankyouthankyou. Thank you. Thanks.
8. Thanks: My pastor Veronica says that God always makes a way out of no way.
9. Wow: "Wow" means we are not dulled to wonder.
10. Wow: When we are stunned to the place beyond words, we're finally starting to get somewhere.
11. Wow: Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath. That's why they call it breathtaking.

Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers is a quick read, but don't read it quickly. Let Anne help you learn to pray. Why? As she quotes Lewis:

I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God. It changes me.

Yes, read the book. I suspect you'll find God using it to change you.