As Anne Lamott’s book shows, hope is in prayer

Published 9:51 am Friday, March 8, 2013

Across the Pastor’s Desk, by the Rev. Henry Doyle
Christ Episcopal Church in Albert Lea

In her book, “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers,” Anne Lamott writes:

“Help. Help us walk through this. Help us come through. It is the first great prayer.” (P. 15)

Although I might say that I have done something myself, I know that I haven’t really and completely done it on my own. Constantly, I need help from someone. First and foremost, God is the One from whom I need help, for it is God, who gives me breath, who gives me life. Like Anne Lamott, I turn to God, whom I ask for help for this and that, for so-and-so and myself. Our help is in the name of the Lord (Psalm 124:8). God give me strength, courage, the right words, confidence, and tactfulness to confront someone with whom I having difficulty or with whom I am one of several people affected by the difficulty. God, help me stay awake as I drive between Faribault and Albert Lea. From the least thing to the greatest thing, I need God’s help.

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Sometimes, people who question the existence of God ask for prayer often for someone quite close in their life. Lamott writes:

“Help. A lifelong friend, a staunch agnostic, has asked me to pray for her daughter, Angie, who has young children and a diagnosis of aggressive lung cancer, the kind that continues to grow tumors in the midst of the chemotherapy. I close my eyes and say in silence, ‘I hold this family in your light. I pray for them to get their miracle, and to have stamina, for them to be okay today, for their love and amazing senses of humor to help them come through, although if You have a minute, I’d like to know: What on earth could You be thinking?’

“That prayer and my friendship are pretty much all I’ve got to offer.” (P. 21-22)

Some people — young and old — say that they do not know how to pray. There are many prayers, some better known than others, which one can pray: The Lord’s Prayer, The Serenity Prayer, and The Psalms, the hymnbook and prayer book of the Bible. There are our own very words and thoughts that we can express to our helper.

We human beings aim to control our own life, own destiny. Far too many people do all that they can to control other people’s lives. Really and truly, we are not in the control that we perceive. When it comes down to it, God is in control.

Lamott writes:

“Most good, honest prayers remind me that I am not in charge, that I cannot fix anything, and that I open myself to being helped by something, some force, some friends, some something. These prayers say, “Dear Some Something, I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t see where I’m going. I’m getting more lost, more afraid, more clenched. Help.

“These prayers acknowledge that I am clueless; but something else isn’t. While I’m not going to limp, I am asking for the willingness to step into truth. It’s like the old riddle: What’s the difference between you and God? God never thinks he’s you.” (P. 35-36)

God knows that we need help, and God does send us help through others. God has sent people, known and unknown to me, to come to my aid, to my rescue. They are the messengers and helpers, without whom I could not exist.

Lamott says it very well:

“When we think we can do it all ourselves — fix, save, buy or date a solution — it’s hopeless. We’re going to screw things up. We’re going to get our tentacles wrapped around things and squirt our squiddy ink all over, so that there is even less visibility, and then we’re going to squeeze the very life out of everything.” (P. 37)

Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:8). It is God to whom we can turn, on whom we can rely, who will make all things turn out the way in which they are meant. God helps us constantly.