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, from Harrisburg, Pa.
A: Glad to oblige. Here are some famous examples of Thanks, Gimmie, 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 prayer for simple food. It is not a prayer for donuts or pizza or cake or chicken fingers. This is a prayer for the oldest food in the West. In the East the prayer over the most basic food would be a prayer over rice. 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 Gimmie prayer:
There are so many bad Gimmie prayers where we ask God for things we can get for ourselves or for things we really do not need. The best Gimmie prayers are the ones where we ask God to give someone else something he or she really needs right now. The best Gimmie 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 verses 9-11. It is from the part where Jesus is teaching people how to pray:
"Our Father, who is in Heaven, hallowed be thy name.(
Your Kingdom comes, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.
-- 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.
It was grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already overcome.
It was grace that led me safe thus far
And grace will bring me home
When we've been there a thousand years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days to sing God's praise
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Than when we first begun."
-- 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 great Wow! prayer that became a great Wow! hymn. It is a Wow! 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.
Come to God's own temple, come,
Raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God's own field,
Fruit unto his praise to yield.
Wheat and tares together sown,
Unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade, and then the ear,
Then the full corn shall appear.
Lord of harvest, grant that we
Wholesome grain and pure may be.
Even so, Lord, quickly come
To your final harvest home
Gather all your people in,
Free from sorrow, free from sin.
There, forever purified,
In your garner to abide
Come, with all your angels, come,
Raise the glorious harvest home!"
So there you have examples of four good Thanks, Gimmie Oops and Wow! prayers. Let me know your additions. I am still considering adding "Why?" prayers to the list based upon your kind comments. One of you suggested adding "Silent prayers." I have nothing to say about that.
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including "Religion for Dummies," co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman.)(c) 2017 THE GOD SQUAD DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.