Help. Thanks. Wow.

“I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the past twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple. Help. Thanks. Wow.”

With these words Anne Lamott opens her book on prayer, showing us the reason for the title: Help Thanks Wow. Over the next three Sundays we will be using this as a guide to learn about the essentials of prayer.

Prayers is this beautiful and simple thing that we, the church, have often made scary and complicated. When you think of prayer you might think of some truly eloquent prayers like the ones your Elders share at the Table every Sunday, and think “Wow, that’s really nice. I could never do that.” Not too long ago, I had someone (who has gone to church his whole life) approach me and say, “I don’t know how to pray.” I was not startled or shocked. Prayer in church is something we often take for granted without ever teaching or sharing. Prayer often feels like a competition for who can make the most profound statements with the most elaborate vocabulary in front of the biggest group of people.

That kind of prayer is not what we need to focus on.

Picture closing the door to your room or whatever safe space you have. Picture a morning or a night when you are weary, when out of desperation for some peace or some rest or some healing, all notion of pretending to have it all together has just disappeared. There’s no one in the room to observe you or judge you. And in that moment, you feel this urge from deep within to reach out to the force of love and good in the universe. And then your soul starts to let the words just pour out. The honest words. The vulnerable words that you wouldn’t say in front of your boss or your minister or even your family.

Now that’s prayer.

That’s the kind of simple, essential prayer that I want us to focus on. That’s the type of prayer we need to learn first (and maybe the only type of prayer we ever need to learn – praying in front of people is not a requirement). I find Anne Lamott’s book to be so helpful because it strips all the ceremony off of prayer and reminds me why it is so vital to living a full life. So that’s what I want to share with you in the next few weeks. Help. Thanks. Wow. That’s how we pray.

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