A seminary professor of mine, whenever asked to offer a “word of prayer,” would respond “HELP!”
It was, he said, a word of prayer that was relevant to almost any situation.
He was, of course, poking fun at conventional turns of phrase that, when taken at face value, become silly, if not meaningless. Yet, like all good humor, there was an element of truth in his joke.
It’s what we need from our merciful God in most, if not all, situations.
The title of writer Anne Lamott’s small book on prayer adds two other “words of prayer” for our consideration: “THANKS” and “WOW.”
People who love Lamott’s writing rave about her fresh, unpretentious and insightful analysis of the way prayer works in human life. Others find her approach unsatisfying, too short, and too shallow. What can’t be denied is the memorable usefulness of her triad. These three words of prayer — “Help!” “Thanks!” and “Wow!” — not only cover every circumstance over which we might pray, but they also provide a fruitful outline for us when we long to pray yet struggle to organize our own thoughts.
Help! Thanks! Wow!
Ten men who suffer from a chronic and contagious skin disease known as leprosy see Jesus and cry out to him, “Lord, have mercy!” “Help!” They are looking to Jesus to supply something for their lives that they have been unable to find on their own: healing.
Jesus sends them off ahead of him to the Temple in Jerusalem with the instructions that they “Go and show themselves to the priests.” Such a showing would both provide the confirmation of healing that was required for these men to rejoin society and it would give them the opportunity to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God at the Temple, the place where God had promised to meet humanity. “Thanks!”
Luke tells us that one of the ten, when he saw that he was healed, turned around and fell down at the feet of Jesus, giving praise to God. This unexpected man somehow recognizes that Jesus is the source of his healing, that Jesus brings, in his person, the life-giving presence of God. “Wow!”
Each of us has sentences at the ready to follow the prompts, “help,” “thanks,” “wow.”
Maybe, by the end of the day, you’re too exhausted to think. I know that, frequently, I am.
“Help. Thanks. Wow” might just be the ticket to your end-of-the-day reflection.
Maybe the morning starts with hurried preparation and anxiety for what lies ahead. Some days are more rushed. “Help. Thanks. Wow” might be a way of framing the day on your way to your first class or appointment.
Maybe, when you’re alone with your own thoughts, there’s a sadness about failure and loss of opportunity that seems like it has the power to define who you are. “Help. Thanks. Wow” can re-frame your reality in light of God’s abundant graciousness.
Sept. 18, 2019
University Pastor James A. Wetzstein and Deaconess Kristin Lewis, Interim Campus Minister, take turns writing weekly devotions for the Chapel of the Resurrection. You can contact Deaconess Kristin here and Pastor Jim here
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future