Single-Word Prayers

Aug 17, 2015

Since I moved to Colorado seven months ago, my vocabulary has shrunk. Most of it boils down to one word: “Wow!” Everywhere I look there is a nearby “Wow”: the sliver of snowy frosting on the top of the mountains in the middle of August, rolling meadows of wildflowers in purples, golds, and oranges, and the flaming royal blue, orange, and pink skies of dusk. All amaze with unexpected, dazzling miracles of nature.

In the face of such beauty and majesty, I can’t think of anything to say but “Wow.” Any attempt to articulate my awe in words comes out pedestrian and grade school. I have neither the eloquence or brilliance of a Mary Oliver, a Wendell Berry, or a psalmist. With a little embarrassed laugh I claim that for 2015 I have been praying in one-word tongues: “WoW, wOw, WOW.” But maybe these childlike, one-word utterances are not laughable, but a serious form of prayer. From praying in color for a dozen years, I’ve learned that prayer does not always require words. I can sit in God’s presence with my black pen, colored markers, and pray with lines and swirls and dots. From Colorado I’ve learned that sometimes the Spirit takes over and gives me the one single word of praise I need.

WOW collage resized

P.S. Anne LaMott talks about two other one-word prayers in her book Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. Although Anne obviously didn’t invent those words or prayers, she gives people permission to name those three simple words as prayers.