I wonder if people sometimes conceive of unanswered intercessory prayers as a case of God being an unhelpful concierge, as illustrated above in today's Pearls Before Swine comic strip.
Anne Lamott, who has just published her third book on faith, was interviewed in the San Francisco Chronicle the other day. She was asked, "I read somewhere that you say two prayers: 'Help me' and 'Thank you.' Which one do you say more often?" She answered,
I say them both equally. I also say a third prayer ... I go, "Whoa!" — in the most California way possible. Sometimes I say it when I step outside or when I look up — like I'm sitting in this hotel, and, I mean, it's like the Sistine Chapel here but in a Southern, Deep South kind of way. I was looking up before you called, and I thought, "Whoa!"I suppose "Help me" could be used as an intercessory prayer, although I don't think that this is what she meant by it, because later in the interview, she said,
I remember something that really affected me years ago, when Arthur Ashe died. I saw a quote of his that said, "I'm not praying to be healed. I never once prayed to win a tennis match, and I'm not going to tell God what to do now." But, you know, he was just praying for the willingness to trust and surrender — "Thy will be done," and all that. And that really affected me. That is so beautiful, so "money where your mouth is." You don't pray to win tennis matches. You don't pray for them to get your room ready sooner, just because you have a sore throat and possibly tuberculosis.I think that "Help me", "Thank you", and "Whoa!" all sound like good prayers to me. They are simple, they are honest, and they are to the point.