An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Talking to God

I found an interesting suggestion for prayer recently. A minister recommends the following four steps:

  • Thanks
  • Gimme—asking for needs and wants
  • Oops—admitting mistakes.
  •  Wow—praise and adoration.

The first two steps are common prayer ingredients, but the third and fourth stirred new thoughts in my mind about talking to God as a parent.

I suspect for most people, “Oops!” for mistakes is more relevant than repentance for transgression. Violating an arbitrary set of rules does not equal sin in my book. Sin is intentionally harming others—I could expand that to intentionally harming any of God’s creations, though I do recognize a hierarchy. As Ken Wilbur says, it’s better to kick a rock than an ape, better to eat a carrot than a cow.

Normal people do not intentionally sin, yet all of us unintentionally cause harm on occasion. We hurt feelings with harsh or critical words—usually to gratify our own egos. We neglect saying kind words or doing kind deeds that might help a person struggling with problems—I’m not talking about failing to offer service beyond the realm of our capability. We all have finite amounts of strength, means, and time. I am talking about acting upon our own self-interest while ignoring or even trampling the needs and rights of others.

Buddhism calls negative behaviors “unskillful” rather than “sinful.” Labeling ourselves as sinners and beating ourselves up is as likely to make us defend our  unskillful actions as to actually improve our behavior. But when we realize we’ve behaved selfishly to any of God’s creations, we owe him an “Oops!”

The fourth step of prayer, “Wow!”,most intrigues me. The minister defined “Wow!” as praise. I have a problem with that. If I were God, I wouldn’t want to be praised. Praise embarrasses me—especially if it’s obligatory. I suspect God is free from the human need for ego food. While gratitude is always appropriate, God undoubtedly knows of his own goodness. But I do like the idea of “Wow!”—expressing excitement and enthusiasm for small miracles of the day—for gold, pink and coral clouds mounding into a perfect sunset, for an unsought flash of insight, for the softness of a child nestled on my lap, for the warmth of an unexpected hug—for friends, family, love, beauty—all that makes life a wondrous experience.

 “Wow!” is more than thanks. “Wow!” is an instantaneous expression of joy for a moment of being. And what better way to please a parent? I delight in an unexpected phone call from a daughter who wants to share the joy of watching her kids coasting on new fallen snow. Or from a son calling to say three frisky goats have just been delivered to his backyard, hopefully to eat his crop of pernicious bamboo. If God is anything like earthly parents, I’m sure he gets a celestial kick when we take joy in the wonders of life, great or small, and direct thanks to the source of all goodness.

Comments on: "Talking to God" (6)

  1. Courtney Brown said:

    I’m finally commenting – I’ve been a blurker for awhile and even have a link to you on my blog. I loved this post! If you don’t mind, I would love to share some of your ideas next time I teach about prayer in Primary. I especially liked your thoughts on “oops” and “wow”. Looking at mistakes and joys in that way makes so much more sense to me! Thank you!

  2. Have you ever thought of becoming a minister? You’re good.

    • You are very nice. Actually, I did consider divinity school when I first retired, but Mormondom doesn’t have professional clergy below the rank of General Authority. Since then, I’ve realized my religious views are too unorthodox to fit any established religion. I think I wrote my novel, in part, to air some of my philosophical thoughts.

  3. Dorothy J.D. Guinn said:

    I recently read that there are 2 different areas of the brain that register ‘gratitude’ vs. ‘other’ (depression, aggravation, sadness etc.) and only ONE can activate at a time. When gratitude or thankfulness is triggered in the brain it releases all manner of endorphins and other happy things in the body that promote general health and well being. When the other area of the brain is stimulated, this does not happen (and I honestly do not remember if there are negative things released such as cortisol, but it wouldn’t surprise me).

    Reading that, and adding it to the idea that the whole ‘blessings based on laws’ is actually a lot more automated than we may realize (I’ll save that for another post), it occurred to me that God is not such a huge ego maniac that He NEEDS my praise in order to feel good about Himself. I think the command to be thankful in all things is there because _I_ need it–and He knows it. Finding a shred of gratitude in an otherwise awful situation transcends and transforms me in the situation even if it doesn’t change anything else about what it going on.

    Gratitude/thankfulness in the form of Holy Cow! or Wow! is even more powerful. Sometimes they still comes as a whisper in the dark, but all of them can bless us. Are you familiar with Amy Grant’s song Better Than a Hallelujah?

    • Dorothy,

      Love the Amy Grant song–and I love your idea that Wow! or Holy Cow! can be a form of praise. Surely God values honest emotion more than trite words and phony phrases.

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