Monday, 7 January 2013
Over at the Revgals blogsite on Monday, there was a book review featuring the title 'Help, thanks, wow' by Ann Lamott.
The book focuses upon the matter of prayer and, happily, takes less of a didactic 'follow these 87 steps to an effective prayer life' and more like a 'so, gang, what the heck are we doing and let's just keep it real, yeah?' approach.
Looks good, and I shall probably acquire it as a handy resource.
Lamott breaks [honest] attempts at prayer into three categories, as per the title of the book...help, thanks, and wow... essentially intercessions on behalf of self and others; thanksgiving for God's good gifts, answered prayer; wow - adoration.
It's a nice and simple approach to what is so often overly-complicated... although saying that... I'd mix it a little and add a couple more:
oops [sorry, stuffed up]
aaaand...breathe [space for silence to listen for the still, small voice of God]
Whether 3, or 5, it's a handy in a nutshell essential guide to what we're basically doing when we pray.
It comes without the baggage of how often, how long, what time of day/night, or where.
Without the time-wasting displacement involved in making sure you pick just the right place, time, or even words.
Without the pointless guilt when you get these bits and pieces somehow 'wrong' or don't follow it in the 'correct' way.
Without that odd competitive spiritual testosterone that can give rise to nonsense conversations such as:
'so, I get up at 6.30am and pray in my bed for an hour before breakfast'
'6.30? Man, that's late. I get up at 4am, pray through until 7.30 - on my knees with hands raised to heaven, and spend time crafting specially chosen holy words.'
'Dude? Seriously? My day is just a total loss if I don't wake for prayer at 2am, and stand in a cross-shaped position through until breakfast at 8. Often I choose to fast until lunch.'
Truly, I have heard conversations a little along those lines...scary biscuits.
What makes for effective prayer?
That it is ... done.
It is so easy to get tangled up in the methodology and actually spend more time sorting that out, rather than actually just getting on with it. Well, maybe that's just me....
I suspect it has at least got to be honest - which is what Lamott is trying to point out very gently.
The honest gasp of amazement at the beauty of God's creation, or the small, heartfelt sigh that acknowledges you hurt someone and that you are so utterly sorry for it is authentic prayer as much as long rambling discourses...sometimes, more so. Although there are those times the long rambles are the way of processing and working through to that 'aha' moment of insight.
Prayer, boiled down, is as simple as breathing...and simultaneously the most profound activity we can do.
Point is: just do it.