Q I read with much interest your recent column that includes the four kinds of prayers. I have never been a confident pray-er and enjoy some helpful prayers of others. May I ask if you could give me an example of each one of these types of prayer? Thank you very much.
— M, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, via email
A Glad to oblige. Here are some famous examples of thanks, gimme, oops, and wow! prayers.
A good thanks prayer:
Every time I eat bread I say this Hebrew thanks prayer:
“You are blessed O Lord our God, king of the universe who has brought forth bread from the earth.”
I like this prayer for bread because it is a simple thanks for simple food. Gandhi taught, “To a poor man, God is bread.” Thanks prayers take us back to the basics of life and to the life-altering truth that everything in life is a gift.
A good gimme prayer:
There are so many bad gimme prayers in which we ask God for things we can get for ourselves or for things we really do not need. The best gimme prayers are the ones where we ask God to give someone else something he or she really needs right now. The best gimme prayer is also the most famous prayer in the world, The Lord’s Prayer. This prayer comes from the New Testament from the 6th chapter of the Book of Matthew: 9-13. It is from the part where Jesus is teaching people how to pray:
“Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”
A good oops prayer:
Prayers of repentance and atonement are always good though they are often not sincere. Apologies are not for the time you get caught. Apologies are for the time you truly understand that you betrayed your best self. The greatest oops prayer is also the greatest oops song. It is a song sung by a man who had atoned for his role in the slave trade and it melts into a thanks prayer to God for giving him the grace to change his life:
“Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed . . . ”
A good wow! prayer:
Thanks and wow! prayers are almost the same but they are really different. Thanks prayers are between you and God. Wow! prayers are between the world and God. Wow! is bigger than Thanks. Here is a great wow! prayer that became a great wow! hymn. The prayer about the harvest and about how wondrous and how wonderful it is that God feeds us through the earth:
“Come Ye thankful people come;
Raise the song of harvest home,
All is safely gathered in
Ere the winter storms begin.
God, our maker does provide
For our wants to be supplied . . . ”
So there you have examples of four good thanks, gimme, oops and wow! prayers. Let me know your additions. I am still considering adding “Why?” prayers to the list based upon your kind comments.