Anne Lamott said it memorably in her little book, published in 2012. (Riverhead Books, New York) There are three essential prayers. Help Thanks Wow. That’s the book’s title, and it’s the book’s thesis: “There’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple.” (p. 1)
A week ago I published my prayers in response to the Standing Rock situation, prayers which were a bit more detailed than the simple prayers Lamott describes. But they were all prayers for help. My prayer is that this story will end differently than most other stories about Native Americans and people of European ancestry. My prayer is that in this time of intensified racism and desecration of the earth, we will experience the dawn of a new way of relating to one another and to our precious common home, thanks to the water protectors. May the sacred, life-giving waters show us that we are one.
This week, “thanks” and “wow” are overwhelming my prayers. On Sunday morning the encampments by the river numbered 10,000 people, swelled by the arrival of veterans and others who rallied in support of indigenous peoples’ right to guard their water and land. Also swelling the crowd were interfaith leaders, responding to the request of Chief Arvol Looking Horse, spiritual leader of Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota people, to join him and others at the site, for prayer. On the blustery North Dakota prairie, they greeted the new day with united prayer. Across the country and around the world, the faith families of those represented at Standing Rock also prayed on Sunday morning.
And that very day, we received a stunning answer to our prayers. The Army Corps of Engineers announced that Energy Transfer Partners would not be granted permission to complete their pipeline without a full environmental impact study – a delay of at least 2 years. They listened to the water protectors. They listened to the tribal leaders. They heeded the regulations, and maybe even reconsidered the 1851 treaty between the Sioux Nation and the U.S. government which identifies the land as Sioux land, never ceded to the U.S.
It is too soon to say that this story has ended differently than other stories about Native Americans and people of European ancestry. The story isn’t over yet. But my hope is great that this week marks a turning point, that indeed the moral arc of the universe is bending toward justice and the prophecy of Zechariah (Luke 1:78-79) is taking place before our eyes. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Thanks. WOW. Thanks. WOW. Thanks.