Anne Lamott wrote that there are three essential prayers: Help, Thanks, and Wow.
I often find myself saying these three prayers seemingly one after the other: for example we put out the call for cereal (HELP!) and soon folks are calling asking when and where they can come by to deliver cereal and other needed items. And I sigh a breath prayer of THANKS. Then…..WOW…. when I look at the shelves and the pantry and see what God has done through so many generous people.
I don’t like drama, including the downs and ups of empty and full shelves. I’m a steady plugger. I would just as soon the shelves stay half full, and we could forego the cries of HELP! However, I realize that too often we take the “half-full” shelves for granted, and we forget to say thanks and wow.
I am pleased that I am a prayer-plugger. Every Monday morning for the past three and a half years I have prayed at 10:00 a.m. for “all who touch and are touched by Meeting Ground and the Cecil County Men’s Shelter.” I am certain that those prayers have sustained the organization and me during the three and a half years. Those prayers are the foundation for the many miracles that God has wrought during that time. Some of my prayers have been for very specific basic needs such as cereal and coffee, bedding, and food, and so many things that so many of us overlook as mundane rather than miraculous.
Many of my prayers have been for things that are much less tangible: wisdom for the Board of Directors to lead the organization into the future; grace and guidance for our staff as they provide case management services; cooperation and collaboration among local agencies so that together we can address the myriad needs presented by our guests and our residents. I pray that we have the time, energy, strength, and grace to greet the next sojourner. I pray for the removal of the stranglehold of addictions, and I pray that volunteers find meaningful ways to engage with our guests and residents.
On Monday mornings, as I pray over the prayer cards written by our guests and residents, I am struck by how often their prayers are for others rather than for themselves. Occasionally there is a card which contains the hope of housing or the plea for material well-being. Most often the cards contain prayers requesting healing for family members, safety for children, and for peace among nations.
Yes, Anne Lamott is correct that three essential prayers are help, thanks, and wow, however prayer extends far beyond those three words–sometimes into space where there are no words or the times when we are able to praise God even when the shelves are empty and the drama of everyday survival seems to overshadow the grace and provision that has brought us this far. In those moments it is not so much “help, thanks, and wow”; it is the deep seated–often silent–prayer which says “I trust you LORD”.