Book Review:
Help Thanks Wow

Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott is a little book with a lot packed into it. At 102 pages, the book is a quick read, but it has quite a bit of substance. Subtitled The Three Essential Prayers, this volume contains three major sections, one for each word in the main title. Lamott describes prayer as “communication from the heart to that which surpasses understanding.” So our prayers can be directed to a traditional concept of God, or to the entire universe, or to various other versions of that which is beyond comprehension.

According to Lamott, Help is “the first great prayer.” That seems to be because, when many of us think of prayer, what comes to mind is asking for something, especially for some kind of assistance. Thanks, of course, is an expression of gratitude. Lamott writes: “Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides.” When you appreciate what you have been given, you can feel in a position to give freely to others. Wow can be a reaction to something marvelous or something terrible. In either case, you’re “almost speechless.”

There are limits to the categories of prayers that Lamott uses. For example, many Wow prayers have an element of Thanks to them. Also, Wow prayers can have an element of Help, when a terrible event has occurred. But those limitations are rather minor, and I am happy to send a “Thank You” to the universe for having provided the opportunity to read Anne Lamott’s book of prayers.

See more features from the March 2014 issue