The missing prayer

June 4, 2013 — 2 Comments

Here’s what talking with God often looks like for me, teenager-style:
“Hi Dad, you know, I think you’re great. And hey, thanks for everything you did for me yesterday, it was awesome. Oh, and by the way, can I borrow the car—and some cash?”

That’s right in line with Anne Lamott’s new book, “Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.” I haven’t read it yet but the publisher’s description says these three simple prayers are “essential to coming through tough times, difficult days and the hardships of daily life.” To which I say, “Amen.”

But then I realized that Lamott had forgotten one essential prayer: “Sorry.” And this missing prayer may be the most important of all, because it admits a fundamental reality about my relationship with God and this world: I have done something wrong and I need redemption.

I don’t know why Lamott didn’t include this prayer in her book, but I do know that I have a hard time with confession. It’s never been my strong suit. I love giving thanks. I don’t mind asking for help–sometimes. And I truly enjoyed giving praise to God. But facing the all-holy God and telling Him how I’ve broken His laws? Well, that’s something I have generally tried to avoid.

I smudge out God’s boundary lines, echoing the serpent question: “Did God really say…?”

I throw up my hands, feeling helpless. “I am a sinner, that’s just who I am.”

I whine, “It’s such a downer to think about sin. My life is hard enough as it is.”

annies pix june 1 028

When I talk with my Heavenly Father, I rarely say, “Oh, there’s one more thing. I knocked over the Ming Dynasty vase yesterday.”
I often forget to tell Him that I kicked my little brother (metaphorically speaking).
And I’m always hoping He won’t bring up the house rule I broke–again. Ten simple rules, and I manage to break them more that I would like, especially given that I am His beloved daughter.

This has created real problems in my life. It has made me lopsided spiritually-speaking.

  • Good stuff from God: great!
  • Asking something from God: great!
  • Telling him how wonderful He is: great!
  • Mentioning that I messed up and need forgiveness: …silence.

Perhaps one reason I struggle to say “I’m sorry” is because I’m afraid of what might come next. Once I admit I’ve done wrong, I can lapse into accusing myself that I’m not worthy of being loved. [A stance Satan likes to keep me in.]

Other times, I shy away from confession because when Jesus talked to the woman caught in adultery, and said, “Neither do I accuse you” that wasn’t the end of it. He followed this with the imperative: “Go and sin no more.” He didn’t say, “That’s okay, you can do whatever you want.” Or “That’s okay, we’ll lower the bar because it’s painful and hard and difficult.”

How can I receive God’s grace into my life if I won’t face how I have failed Him? When I stay silent, there’s no way forward.

Don’t misunderstand me.
“You are awesome” is a wonderful reminder of who God is. But praising with my lips doesn’t guarantee that my heart is clean.

“Help” and “Thank you” are great prayers too. But I can easily twist them so that I am focusing only on my unhealthy desires.

But “Sorry” is the first step in being forgiven and freed by God. I’m not talking about how I am broken, or what I need. I’m just admitting that I failed and haven’t done what I am supposed to do. And I’m committing myself to follow His ways. I am saying that I want to please Him, that I’m in His family, and I accept the family rules.

Maybe confession comes easily to some people. But for me it’s a discipline I need to practice, a discipline that comes with some great benefits. Because when I pay attention to how I have fallen short of the glory of God, I’m humbled.

When I say. “Sorry,” I find myself in a better place:

*I can see more clearly how wonderful God is, how He redeems and saves.
*I am more thankful for what He has done for me.
*And I’m ready to ask for His help as I follow His ways.

Four essential prayers.Wow, Sorry, Help, and Thank You.

What about you? Which prayer do you find the easiest? Which one is the most difficult for you?

2 responses to The missing prayer


    I read your post a couple days ago, and then ran across this quote: “Confession is not a pre-condition of forgiveness. It’s something that you do after you know you have been forgiven. Confession is not something you do in order to get forgiveness. It’s something you do in order to celebrate the forgiveness you got for nothing.” -Robert Capon

    It’s as though at the time that I’m confessing my sin, I’m really saying, “WOW! I can’t believe you would forgive me for [fill in the blank]. I am SO not worthy of your grace! But you gave [past tense] it to me anyway. THANK YOU!” [mind blown]

    So you pegged it pretty well. Wow, Sorry, Help, and Thank You. May the Holy Spirit help us always pray this way!

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