Thanks! Help! Wow! Here…. We’re talking about four essential prayers.
Sometimes we overthink prayer and make it harder than it needs to be. Sometimes
it’s as simple as saying one heartfelt word. Thanks! Help! Or today’s word:
Wow is the prayer of wonder, of amazement, of worship and praise! This is
the prayer our hearts offer when we see God do something amazing, when we get a
glimpse of His great grace and mercy and goodness, or when we see the beauty of
His handiwork in creation. Wow!
Anne Lamott says that this prayer, “Wow, is often offered with a gasp, a
sharp intake of breath, when we can’t think of another way to capture the sight of
shocking beauty or … an unexpected flash of grace. “Wow” means we are not
dulled to wonder.” 1
Not dulled to wonder. Children are not dulled to wonder, but as we get
older, we often lose our sense of wonder. “Oh that,” we say. “Yeah, I’ve seen that
a million times.” We can see a sunset without remark, or a newborn baby and our
only thought is that we’re glad it’s not ours. Dulled to wonder. But to lose our
sense of wonder is also to lose the motivation for worship. Perhaps this is why
Jesus said that we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of heaven. We
must maintain our sense of wonder, of awe and amazement—and worship.
I want to look at four things that make me say “Wow!”
1. Wow! When you see God’s works.
I love being outdoors. I love seeing God’s creation!
This is why I love backpacking! We see God’s creation as few people get to
see it, and you can’t help but stand there and say, “Wow!” This September, 5 of us
spent a week hiking 38 miles through the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park.
(Three pics—take about 4 seconds on each one.) It was one Wow moment after
another. I did have one small problem: my boots gave me a blister, and I hiked the
1 Lamott, Anne. Help, Thanks, Wow (p. 71). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
last 20 miles in some cheap water sandals! That’s also a “Wow!”—but a different
kind. But other than the blister, the hike was one long prayer of Wow!
This is also why I love riding my motorcycle. We go places that are just
stunning! Last summer, we rode through eastern Washington, central Oregon, and
northern California, to the Redwoods, and then up the Oregon Coast and past Mt.
St. Helens and Mt. Rainier on the way home. Wow! The summer before, we rode
through 5 national parks in Utah: Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef,
Canyonlands, and Zion! Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow! Being on your motorcycle
seeing these kinds of things is a worship experience. I love the bumper sticker that
says, “I’d rather be on my motorcycle thinking about God than in church thinking
about my motorcycle!” Forgive me! I’m here thinking about God!
I played golf in late October on the Oregon Coast with my lifelong friend,
Kip Jacob. It was almost 70 degrees and sunny and no wind. We kept saying,
“Wow! Wow! Wow!” It was all about the weather, not our golf shots. My golf
shots inspire another kind of Wow: Wow.
Pete Grieg, in his excellent book, How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal
People, writes, “No one stares up at the northern lights thinking, Wow, I’m
incredible! We are hardwired to wonder and therefore to worship.” 2
No one stands before the beauty of creation and thinks “Wow, I’m
awesome.” Just the opposite—we feel appropriately small!
Psalm 8 (p. 465)
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set
your glory in the heavens…
3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the
stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?
Have you ever looked up into a night sky and considered the vastness of the
universe, and thought, “What am I?”
ILL: My first experience with this was in high school on a backpacking
trip, sleeping under the stars high in mountains. The night sky was ablaze
with stars, and I felt so small, so insignificant. And—I saw God was so
BIG! He is awesome—in the truest and best sense of that word: inspiring
awe, wonder, worship! Then I realized that the God of universe, of
galaxies and solar systems and black holes, knows my name and loves me!
Let’s go back to Psalm 8 and pick it up at verse 5. He has just asked, “What is man
that you are mindful of him?”
2 Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (p. 49). The Navigators. Kindle Edition.
Psalm 8:5–9 You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned
them with glory and honor. 6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the animals of the
wild, 8 the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the
9 Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! What am I? Nothing but a
spot of dust, and yet you crown me with glory and honor. Wow! Wow!
ILL: I remember many years ago standing on top of Mt. Schweitzer on
skis on a clear day looking down on Sandpoint, and Lake Pend Orielle and
the mountains rising miles beyond. We stood there staring, mouths gaping,
and then Vicki Orsillo began shouting, “Author! Author!” Wow!
And it’s not just the huge things that overwhelm you that are Wow moments, but
every day is filled with small wonders: a sunset or sunrise, a beautiful flower, a
bird in flight, a baby is born, the first snowfall. Stop and wonder and worship:
ILL: Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
and every common bush afire with God
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. 3
Take off your shoes. You’re on holy ground—every day, everywhere. Open your
eyes, see and wonder…and worship: Wow!
2. Wow! When you see God’s salvation.
Exodus 14-15 (p. 59-60) tell the familiar story of God saving the Israelites
from their slavery in Egypt. When Moses demanded that Pharaoh let God’s people
go, Pharaoh only scoffed and increased their workload and their misery. God sent
a series of ten plagues, culminating in the death of the firstborn in every Egyptian
home. And finally Pharaoh relented. But no sooner had the Israelites left than
Pharaoh changed his mind and sent the army in hot pursuit. Pressed between the
Egyptian army and the Red Sea, Moses cried out to the Lord. “Help!” And God
split the sea and led Israel through to safety on dry ground, and then closed the sea,
drowning the pursuing Egyptian army. It was a God-sized miraculous salvation!
And what was Israel’s response? Wow! Look at Exodus 15.
Exodus 15:1–2 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: “I
will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. Both horse and driver he has hurled
3 Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, book 7, lines 821-824. Cited in Recapture the Wonder, by
Ravi Zacharias, Integrity Publishing, 2003, p. 127
into the sea. 2 “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my
salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt
Their response is worship—it’s a Wow moment that is met with a Wow
response. Wow God! When God saves us (or someone else) we can’t help but say
You know my favorite question to ask people is, “Tell me your story.” And I
love to hear how Jesus saves people and changes people. It’s always a Wow
moment for me. And they’re all so different.
ILL: The first time Richard ever came to church, he was telling me
everything he had done (and it was a lot), and finally in desperation, he
asked me what he should do. I smiled and said, “Start over.” Just start over
with Jesus. His mom told me years later that she was so impressed at the
grace in that statement. No recrimination for the past. No looking back.
Just start over and follow Jesus. Richard did, and became a changed man.
Wow! It’s that simple. Just start over with Jesus!
ILL: My friend Russ is a pastor in the Seattle area. He was home one day
a couple months ago and got an urgent call: “We need you at the office
now. Someone is here to see you.” That someone was a Muslim man who
had a series of dreams. In the first dream, he saw Jesus—he looked like
him, dark skin, dark eyes, dark beard; he had expected Jesus to have blond
hair and blue eyes. He was upset because he had always wanted a vision
of the prophet Mohammed, and instead he gets Jesus. The next night, in
another dream, he sees Mohammed bowing down to Jesus. Now he’s
really upset, thinks it’s the devil tricking him! The next night, in another
dream, he saw Russ’ church and a man wearing shorts and a baseball cap
on backwards walking across the parking lot. He thought it was a
homeless man, and wondered if this church helped the homeless. Jesus
said, “That is my servant Russell. Go find him and talk with him.” (He’d
driven by the church but had never been there and no idea who Russ was).
He drove to the church and asked for Russell. Russ listened to his story,
shared the gospel with him and he gave his life to Jesus sitting in Russ’
pickup in the parking lot. A few days later, he came back and was
baptized and has been coming to church ever since! Wow!
This story is being repeated all over the world. Jesus is showing up in dreams and
visions and Muslims are coming to Christ. Wow! Everyone’s story is unique, is
ILL: Anne Lamott, in her book Traveling Mercies, describes her
conversion to Christ after a life of addictions to cocaine and alcohol, an
affair that produced a child she aborted, and watching her best friend die of
cancer. During this time, she visited a small church periodically. She
would sit in the back and listen to the singing, but leave before the sermon.
During the week of her abortion, she spiraled downward. Disgusted with
herself, she drowned her sorrows with alcohol and drugs, crawled into bed
and turned out the light.
“After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me,
hunkered down in the corner…The feeling was so strong that I actually
turned on the light to make sure no one was there—of course, there wasn’t.
But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was
Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.
And I was appalled…I thought about what everyone would think of
me if I became a Christian, and it seemed an utterly impossible thing that
simply could not be allowed to happen. I turned to the wall and said out
loud, “I would rather die.”
I felt him just sitting there on his haunches in the corner of my
sleeping loft, watching me with patience and love, and I squinched my
eyes shut but that didn’t help because that’s not what I was seeing him
with. Finally I fell asleep, and in the morning, he was gone.
This experience spooked me badly, but I thought it was just an
apparition, born of fear and self-loathing and booze and loss of blood. But
then everywhere I went, I had the feeling that a little cat was following me,
wanting me to reach down and pick it up, wanting me to open the door and
let it in. But I knew what would happen: you let a cat in one time, give it a
little milk, and then it stays forever….
And one week later, when I went back to church, I was so hungover
that I couldn’t stand up for the songs, and this time I stayed for the sermon,
which I just thought was so ridiculous, like someone trying to convince me
of the existence of extraterrestrials, but the last song was so deep and raw
and pure that I could not escape. …
I began to cry and left before the benediction, and I raced home and
felt the little cat running along at my heels, and I walked down the dock
past dozens of potted flowers, under a sky as blue as one of God’s own
dreams, and I opened the door to my houseboat, and I stood there a minute,
and then I hung my head and said, … “I quit.” I took a long deep breath
and said out loud, “All right. You can come in.”
So this was my beautiful moment of conversion.” 4
Wow! Don’t you love Jesus? Doesn’t matter if you are a dog person or a cat
person—either way, He’ll pursue you until you let Him in!
4 Cited in Messy Spirituality, Mike Yaconelli, pg. 17-19
Anne’s story reminds me that my life would look very different if Jesus
hadn’t saved me when He did. I look back at where I was going, and look at where
I am now, and I whisper, “Wow!”
We took a look at Exodus; let’s go to the other end of the book:
Revelation 7:9–12 (p. 1066)
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could
count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne
and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm
branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs
to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 All the angels were
standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and
strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
Someday we’ll all stand in that crowd and sing that song: “Salvation belongs
to our God.” We’ll give him praise and honor and glory and worship because He
saved us. It will be a Wow moment!
3. Wow! When you see God’s power.
There are so many stories in the Bible of people seeing God’s power on
display and just being overwhelmed. Wow!
1 Kings 18 (p. 305-6) tells the famous story of the prophet Elijah
challenging the Israelites, “How long will you go on limping between two
opinions. If Baal is god, serve Him; but if the Lord is God, serve Him!” He
challenged the 450 prophets of Baal to a contest. The deal was that each of them
would build an altar—one for Baal, one for the Lord—and put a sacrifice on it.
Then they would pray and the god that answered with fire was the real God. The
Baal gang went first. From morning till noon, they danced, they shouted, they
cried—but there was nothing. No response. At noon, Elijah mocked them.
“Shout louder! Maybe he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling or asleep.” So
they shouted louder and even cut themselves until the blood flowed. Nothing.
Then Elijah built the Lord’s altar, put the wood on it and the bull and dug a
trench around it. Then he poured 12 large jars of water on it until everything was
soaked, and the trench was full of water. Then he prayed.
1 Kings 18:38–39 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice,
the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God!
The Lord—he is God!”
Wow! That’s what everyone was saying! “Wow! The Lord—he is God!
Wow!” When you come face to face with God’s power, you can’t help but
Or there is the story in Acts 3 (p. 937). Peter and John are following their
routine—they are on their way to 3 PM prayer at the temple. A man who had been
lame from birth was sitting there, begging for alms. Peter and John must have
passed him dozens on times on their way to prayer. But today was different.
When the man asked for money, Peter said, “I don’t have any money, but what I do
have I give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise and walk.” And Peter took
him by the hand and helped him up, and the man was healed! Look at what
happened in v. 9.
Acts 3:9–11 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they
recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called
Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened
to him. 11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished
and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.
Wow! What was the response? Wonder, amazement, astonishment—Wow!
Peter shared the gospel with the astonished crowd and thousands believed in Jesus.
God’s power has that effect on people. We wonder, we worship, we believe.
ILL: Pete Grieg tells this story in his book:
Raymond Edman was dying of typhus fever at the age of twenty-five
in the jungles of Ecuador. His doctor—a specialist in tropical
diseases—had advised Raymond’s wife, Edith, to start preparing for his
funeral. Men were already making his coffin. Edith was busy dyeing her
wedding dress black.
But that same day, three thousand miles north of Ecuador, in
Attleboro, Massachusetts, Raymond’s uncle Joe became deeply,
inexplicably troubled. He knew nothing of his nephew’s actual
predicament but couldn’t shake the sense that he was in some kind of
grave danger. Joe, who was attending a conference at the time, felt so
stirred that he persuaded its two hundred delegates to join him in urgent
prayer for Raymond to be “delivered from evil,” even though none of them
knew the nature of the evil they were fighting. The conference prayed
fervently…until the middle of the afternoon, at which point a great peace
settled on them. The sense of danger subsided. Somehow, they knew that
their prayers had been heard—that Raymond Edman, far away in Ecuador,
had been delivered from evil.
Meanwhile, Raymond had fallen unconscious and, in his comatose
state, became aware of a loving presence slowly entering the room, filling
the building. “I experienced a sweet sense of the love of God in Christ,
such as I had never known before in all the years of my life,” he recalled.
“I have no fear of dying.” He felt himself ascending with great joy, until a
quiet voice told him to return. To the amazement of those preparing his
funeral, Raymond Edman regained consciousness and was completely
Wow! But wait…there’s more.
In later life, he would become president of Wheaton College and a
mentor to a young evangelist named Billy Graham. “We will never know
the full impact of his life and ministry until we stand at the judgment seat
of Christ,” said Billy, “but I have to say that he was the most unforgettable
Christian I ever met.” 5
4. Wow! When you see God’s love.
ILL: I remember the first time I felt overwhelmed by the love of God. I
was at my first summer camp, sitting in a bonfire service at the end of the
day. We were singing some worship songs, and different students took
turns sharing what God had done in their lives. We finished with a song,
and during that last song I felt like God sat down next to me, wrapped His
arms around me and held me. I had never felt so deeply loved, and I sat
and wept. Wow!
I want that for each of you. I want you to experience God’s love so powerfully, so
personally, that all you can do is worship. Wow! Wow! Wow! I finish with one
last story from Pete Grieg.
ILL: As a long-haired student hitchhiking around Europe, I received a
dramatic vision late one night, on a cliff-top in Portugal, of thousands of
young people rising out of an atlas. It was an epiphany that eventually
gave rise to the 24-7 Prayer movement, but for nine years, I didn’t know
what to do with it. Nothing happened. God clearly wasn’t in any kind of
When at last the 24-7 movement was born, but before I’d fully
grasped that it was the fulfillment of that vision, I was invited to speak at a
conference in Valladolid (Va-ya-do-leed), Spain, and decided to lead the
crowd in our war cry: “C’mon!” (or “Venga!” in Spanish). On this
particular night, the packed auditorium just erupted with militant passion.
5 Cited in Greig, Pete. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People (pp. 187-188). The Navigators.
I gazed out in amazement at the sight of a thousand Spanish young people
punching the air defiantly, crying out for God’s Kingdom to come.
And as I did so, I was transported in my mind to a park bench not far
from the venue in which we were meeting. There I saw a long-haired
hitchhiker asking: “Where is the army of young people, Lord?”
Immediately, I remembered that I had been here before, hitching through
Valladolid just days after that vision, trying to make sense of what I’d seen.
Fast-forward almost a decade, and here I was again, and the Holy
Spirit was answering my question as if there hadn’t been any delay at all:
“Here they are!” he said, as I stared out in amazement at a thousand young
people doing a war cry. “Here’s the army I’m raising.”
I was still reeling from that revelation when the Lord told me
something else: “Pete,” he said, “you need to understand that I never forget
a single prayer you pray. You forget most of the things you ask me, but I
never do.” 6
Wow! Imagine a God who loves you so much that He never forgets a single prayer
you’ve prayed. Wow!