But here I go violating one of my core writing principles: I’m making something very simple into something complicated. And simple words are best most of the time. If you want to go on a Word Vacation where you loiter a while and when the readers have lots of time to listen to the sounds then you may be more willing to write in a complicated way. But if you just want to say something clearly then simple is best.
But that is not what I want to talk about today. Not at all.
I’ve noticed that sometimes when it comes time to pray, some people will avoid like the plague any opportunity to talk to God. Even I avoid the opportunity sometimes. And I do it because I’m not sure I have the words. Funny, isn’t it? I who have words flowing out of my mouth even when the occasion calls for me to just shut up and be still--- Sometimes even I don’t think I have the right words.
Public prayer is a challenge all its own. You are taking something extremely personal, and becoming vulnerable-- all while telling everyone in the whole room about it. You leave yourself open to having your words heard, examined, judged and found lacking. I think sometimes people avoid public prayer because the word “public”, after all, means that other people can hear you. So you get to thinking that you have to have more words than are available to you at the time. You want to make sure you have the right words.
And that’s assuming you even have words at all. Even when I pray in solitude, sometimes I have a feeling fluttering around my heart but no words to express them. Sometimes the feeling within me is so new I haven’t had time to meet it, to introduce myself and find its name. Maybe its name is Help. Or Please. Or sometimes its name is Thank You.
Please…Thank You. …Help... The most basic of words. It’s probably the first set of words you were taught beyond Mama and Daddy. Of all the words you have learned since that time, they are still the most important ones.
And each of these words is a prayer.
I think that all prayer boils down to those two words and no more. All prayer is some form of either “Please” or “Thank You.” Anne Lamott has been saying this for years. She finally wrote a book on that idea but even then she didn't think it was enough so she added a third word, "Wow." Personally, I think Wow is a Thank You prayer. Even Anne Lamott didn't think she had enough words. Maybe she was getting paid by the word. If so,then bless her heart because it's a slim book wven with the addition of Wow. And the title is "Help, Thanks, Wow."
I am trying an experiment within my family at holiday meals and at our weekly prayer time at the Mansion. The new rule is that you have to say something. If you think you don’t have the right words or don’t even know what it is you want to say, you can simply say “Thank You” or “Please.” You could even use both of them. You could get really eloquent and say “Help me, please.”
Thanksgiving is coming. It's my favorite holiday. It's also the only holiday where we get to talk. Easter and Christmas is all about God talking to us. But Thanksgiving is our turn to talk. And, if no other words come to mind, a simple Thank You is enough.
God already knows what you are praying. God knows the secrets you won’t tell anyone. God even knows the secrets you won’t admit to yourself. And God already knows that you are either very thankful for something or still waiting and want God to hurry, please.
And even though God already knows these things that are sitting in your heart, it is still nice to speak them aloud to acknowledge, to yourself if no one else, how dependent and how thankful you are.
Today’s essay is shorter than most. I think I’ve said it all. It turned out that it didn’t take many words to say it.
Thank You, God, for giving me some words.
Came back next week when I will have a whole lot of words. I’ve already started putting them in order.
ps: Punctuation is another subject altogether. I think the devil invented punctuation. God had nothing to do with it.