I do not generally enjoy books on prayer.
Oh believe me, I've read my fair share – for small groups, class, and work.
But there tends to be something about these books that rub me the wrong way. Perhaps that's why even though I received Anne Lamott's Help, Thanks, Wow , for Christmas last year, it sat on my shelf until last week, when I finally devoured it. This book is short – making it perfectly reasonable to read it in one sitting. Yet, this book's content is worth savoring.
Throughout this book, Anne examines the three prayers she finds essential: Help, Thanks, and Wow. She does so with her customary vulnerability, which is, I think, what differentiates this book from others on prayer. Anne's honesty makes this book more authentic and accessible than others, especially as she reminds readers that prayer is “our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth.” To this end, Anne confesses that even “I hate you, God” is a prayer because “it is real, it is truth.”
As she explores each of the three essential prayers, Anne reminds readers of the relational nature of prayer, stressing that “prayer means that we believe we're invited into a relationship with someone who hears us when we speak in silence”; That “prayer is taking a chance that against all odds and past history, we are loved and chosen and do not have to get it together before we show up”; And that through prayer, “we take ourselves off the hook and put God on the hook, where God belongs.”
Make no mistake. Anne's book is not a how-to treatise on prayer. Though it breaks prayer into three essential ones, it's not formulaic which is, I suspect, precisely why I liked it.
Rather than leave me feeling racked with guilt over all I've failed to do during prayer, this book left me feeling hopeful, inspired to pursue a deeper, richer prayer life while marveling at the fact that through prayer, someone as small and insignificant as me can communicate with the God of the universe.