Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Review: Help, Thanks, Wow

I'm a big fan of Anne Lamott's writing.  I especially love her book, Bird by Bird, about the craft of writing.  But I can't say I was as thrilled with this book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.

It is a simple book about the simplicity of prayer.  Her take is that "there's something to be said about keeping prayer simple."  I guess, for me, there wasn't much substance to the book.  It felt like a rambling, stream-of-consciousness diatribe. Plus, I take great exception to her generalities that prayer can just be applied to whatever force you want to address, even calling your higher power "Howard" or "Phil."

I suppose part of my complaint stems from the fact that we are reading through Genesis and Exodus with the little boys right now.  When I read those early books of the Bible, I get a tremendous sense of the magnitude and power of God.  It seems wrong to address God in such common terms and it feels like a minimizing of His worth to declare that He can be addressed in any way you choose.  If we're going to allow generalities, then really people could pray to a higher power and call it "Satan," for that matter.

Jody Collins, an Amazon reviewer, nailed my sentiments when she wrote: "To mention a casual God of whom she is not really sure is no help to me, nor is it reassuring or encouraging. Why would I pray to a God who fits such a small description--hers, her friend's or anyone else's? Why would I say, 'thanks!' or 'wow!' if I'm not sure of where these prayers are going?"

Moreover, she seems to take on Christians several times and berate them for their beliefs about God.  She writes, "Certain Christians... will happily tell you they have a monopoly on truth..."  I know there are Christians who are in-your-face about their beliefs, but not all Christians approach you with a desire to cram their beliefs down your throat.  Indeed, in writing this book, isn't she declaring that she has her own understanding of truth, when it comes to prayer.

I agree with the three components being useful ways to approach prayer.  We ask God for help, we express our gratitude for his provision, and we stand in awe of His majesty and His works.  I agree with her assessment that we are all a mess and need His assistance in our lives.  I agree that we could benefit from implementing more gratitude into our lives and serving others as an expression of that gratitude.  And, often when I think of God, I do think "Wow!"  So, in more ways than one, we are in agreement.  I just have a more particular focus for my prayers and perhaps feel the need for a bit more reverence.


Sheila said...

I've been thinking about reading this because it's Anne Lamott, but I have been concerned that it'll seem obnoxiously irreverent. So far it's still on my list, but not that close to the top. It may never get all the way to the top to actually be read. :)

And off topic, but I hadn't realized you're outside of Indianapolis! I've been here 10 1/2 years, although I still don't really think of myself as a Hoosier.

Wendy said...

Sheila - Yes, the author name alone pulled me in. She's great for writing advice.

I always love to find another Indianapolis area blogger! We've been here 6-1/2 years and, I'm with you, I'm still not a Hoosier.