One Book, One Diocese: Help, Thanks, Wow–Week 1

Bishop Lee’s online Lenten book discussion begins today with a video blog post about the prelude of Help, Thanks, Wow:  The Three Essential Prayers, by Anne Lamott.

For Lamott, he says, “Prayer is simply a matter of being ruthlessly honest with God.”

“I hope you find this book interesting, bracing. I hope it shakes up your own thoughts, contemplation of what prayer is or is not in your life,” says Bishop Lee. Watch the video and leave your comments below.


21 thoughts on “One Book, One Diocese: Help, Thanks, Wow–Week 1

  1. Jeff, you are talking about integrity and openness to our Lord…but as you say that is for our benefit. God already knows what is in our hearts. A blessed Ash Wednesday and Holy Lent…John

    • Yes God may know what’s in our hearts, but we often do not as we can act on autopilot without truly accessing our thoughts and actions, or their consequences. That’s why it’s good for us to be open and brutally honest in all things —

  2. I downloaded this book to my Nook and read it in the time it took to get into the city and back on the train. Now, I look forward to re-reading it more gradually and intentionally. It seems we are so often concerned with getting our prayers “right”, when it fact it is the honest response of the heart toward God that is true prayer. My first impression of HTW was that I would give it to someone who might be struggling to reach God in prayer but uncertain how to do that, or perhaps fearful that his or her own interior language might be deficient somehow. I suppose Lamott’s gritty, earthy and yes, sometimes irreverent approach is not for everyone, but in her words I find an authenticity that is both helpful and instructive.

  3. Just started reading this book. I love the approach–so accessible and down to earth! Great reading for the many who struggle with prayer.

  4. Okay, you talked me into it, Jeff. As soon as I’m done voting for Lent Madness I’ll download the book. You ARE voting in Lent Madness, aren’t you? 🙂

    I am looking forward to re-exploring prayer, especially if there is some irreverence involved! I’m sort of expecting to find out that I’m struggling with this more than I realize.

  5. I find Lamont’s “Help, Thanks, Wow” captures the jest of my communication to God. I have not yet finished the book, but hope that she might, or we might in the blog, also address prayer as God’s talk with us.

    My spiritual director once drew me a picture of prayer – it was the circle of communion of God within the person and God beyond the person, the prayer never ended it just kept flowing round and round. I love that image of prayer.

  6. On a recent video clip from the brothers at the Society of St. John the Evangelist Brother Goeffrey reminded me of an old French story that describes prayer like this: He looks at me and I look at Him.

  7. Happy that the diocese chose this book during lent. I am still in chapter one but it is already starting to change some of the way that I view prayer. On page 7 Lamott described prayer as “our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the real.” I admit to “editing” my prayer language on too many occasions and I find that it is just not as authentic! i crumble under the pressure of the beautiful language of the collects and the psalms…but like Jeff says above, god already sees what’s in our hearts. renewing prayer with honesty is a nice takeaway from this book! really looking forward to reading the rest.

    • Thanks for the reminder to watch the SSJE videos. I watched a few tonight, and was inspired by the one about spending time in God’s loving presence, e.g. with a cup of coffee at the beginning of the day, as with a friend. A small, simple and effective way to be in mutual loving communion with God. I can do that. Excited to read “HTW.” Just finished “Life of Pi” which has some profound thoughts and observations on prayer and spiritual/religious life ….many of Pi’s inimitable prayers fit into categories of “Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow.” May have echoes of Pi while reading HTW. Excited to read more Anne Lamott; love her.

    • That is a good question. Did they not ask for help? That would be an easy out. How about all those who have prayed from the depth of their souls, especially about recovery from illness? Jesus healed many. Why not now? Or maybe he did answer but the answer was not the one they wanted. Maybe those dying and praying for recovery were given recovery through death.

      • That’s a reason why I cringe whenever I hear someone say “There but for the grace of God go I”, as if someone who doesn’t appear to be helped, doesn’t have the grace of God. We cannot make that claim. I like it when Lamott says “In prayer, I see the suffering bathed in light.”

      • Chris and Nancy, thanks for bringing up these difficult questions. Below, Katy raises the point that Lamott distills prayer in three words that are fairly easy to understand. She simplifies prayer. I agree with this in the sense that the words seem to embody basic concepts, but I have to also admit that when I prayed (help!) as I’ve felt encouraged to do during reading this chapter, my prayers are loaded. I’m not really asking for God to come in and take over; deep in my heart I’m asking for something to shift in way that I’ve already outlined. And Lamott’s “help” anecdotes demonstrate that she finds herself in these situations as well. my prayer is loaded and complex because of the exact sort of struggle that Lamott delineates in chap 2 that takes place when we’re at the end of our road. I’m trying to be in control because this is the fabric social paradigm that I grew up in…it feels like second nature. and then i face the pain of knowing i am not in full control when things don’t go my way and i try to let go; and there I find the pain of watching myself struggle with letting go of something i wanted to be in control of in the first place. Lamott discusses this most poignantly on the bottom of page 36 after her discussion of the “godbox” (yes, I am making one). i wonder if she’s trying to make the point that the prayer help is not a way of being in commune with god (in some sort of call and response model?) but being in touch with god’s will for us to be dependent on him (captured by the final page where she talks about how “”help” releases us from the craziness of trying to be our own higher power).

        I have no. clue.

  8. I love the simplicity of the author’s title – encouragement for those of us who fear the complicated and detailed approach and relish the simple, easy to understand words for difficult concepts. I have written these three little words on index cards and taped them to the mirror in each of my kids’ bathrooms…we are all making a Lenten effort of saying Help, Thanks, Wow while we brush our teeth.

  9. Contrast this with the ACTS approach to prayer I learned a long time ago: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Some assembly required, I guess, might be one key difference.

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