I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
and praise your name for ever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall laud your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
Anne Lamott, in her book The Three Essential Prayers, writes about prayers of Help, Thanks, and Wow! I’ve prayed many prayers of Help and Thanks through the years, but I want to pray a lot more prayers of Wow! More looking up at the Milky Way and saying, Wow! More looking at a baby and saying, Wow! More looking at God’s beauty and grace and saying, Wow!
I know of a theology professor who rather than asking his daughter what she did each day, asks her what she noticed that day. He wants to encourage her to stop and pay attention to life’s many wows, to stir her wonder at God and His astonishing creation.
Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel regards paying attention to wow and wonder as important for our spiritual wellbeing:
Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin…
To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery in which we live. (Man’s Quest for God)
If Heschel is right about indifference to wow and wonder as the root of sin, then surely tedium, boredom, and dullness must be deadly. I still sing Amazing Grace, but does it still amaze me? I say I believe in Jesus but does the incarnate Son of God wow me? Do I ever sit in church feeling bored? I need more wow and wonder.
I think of the great king and psalmist David as a man who carefully nurtured wow and wonder. This man “after God’s heart” (Acts 13:22), writes many psalms of lament and thanksgiving, but also many psalms of Wow! We see David wowing at the heavens, the works of God’s fingers, the moon and the stars that God created (Psalm 8). He lies awake at night so he can ponder the wows of God’s goodness to him (Psalm 63). The psalmist Asaph also sets us a good example for nurturing wow in our lives:
I call to mind the deeds of the LORD; I will remember your wonders of old. I will meditate on all your work, and muse on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples. With your strong arm you redeemed your people (Psalm 77:11-14a).
Like the father asking his daughter what she “noticed” in her day, the psalmists likes to “call to mind…remember…muse…meditate” on God and His many wondrous works. Then he likes to speak, to articulate his wow and wonder: “You are a God who works wonders; you have displayed your might among the peoples.”
Following the examples of the psalmists, there are a couple of practices I find helpful for nurturing my wow and wonder: the Daily God Hunt, and the Daily Gratitude Journal.
Some people like to hunt for gold, some like to hunt for elk; I like to hunt for God everyday. In the Daily God Hunt I hunt for God’s presence with me through:
- An answer to prayer
- God showing Himself in His creation (beautiful sunrise, colorful flowers, exquisite design of a leaf, etc.)
- God being present to me in another person
- God helping me to do His work in the world
- Any evidence of God’s love and care for me
Then, in the evening, I think back over my day and identify the moment(s) when I found God and experienced His presence with me. I like to articulate those special “God Sightings” by sharing them with my wife and/or recording them in my journal.
The second thing I find helpful for nurturing wow and wonder is the Daily Gratitude Journal. This is simply taking time in the evening to write down three things for which I am thankful in my day. I find that doing this works just like the old hymn says it would: “Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done!” That’s true!
Grace and peace,