|Published by Louise Adey Huish on Thu, 26 Mar 2020 00:00|
When we are upset, it’s sometimes hard to formulate our thoughts. I’ve long been convinced that God hears the simplest of prayers, and so I’m going to start by looking at four single-word prayers: ‘Help!’, ‘‘Thank you’, Please…’, and ‘Sorry’.
Let’s start with ‘Help!’ This has a long tradition in the Psalms, by the way. Here is an excerpt from Psalm 69:
Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up, even to my neck.
I sink in deep mire where there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters and the flood sweeps over me.
I have grown weary with crying; my throat is raw;
my eyes have failed from looking so long for my God.
Answer me, O God, in the abundance of your mercy
and with your sure salvation.
Draw me out of the mire, that I sink not;
let me be rescued from those who hate me
and out of the deep waters.
Let not the water flood drown me,
neither the deep swallow me up;
let not the Pit shut its mouth upon me.
Answer me, Lord, for your loving-kindness is good;
turn to me in the multitude of your mercies.
Hide not your face from your servant;
be swift to answer me, for I am in trouble.
Sometimes people feel guilty calling on God for help when they haven’t paid God that much attention previously – but the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us that like the father in that story, God always runs to meet us when we turn our steps towards home. So set aside any guilt you might feel about calling on God for the help you need.
One of my favourite quotations from the 14th-century mystic Julian of Norwich is this one. It is particularly good to reflect on when you are feeling ill or overwhelmed:
‘The best prayer is to rest in the goodness of God, knowing that that goodness can reach right down to our lowest depths of need.’
During my chaplaincy work I found that there are a number of short passages of scripture which are especially comforting, helpful or reassuring when you are feeling at a low ebb. Here are four of the best:
It is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.
2 Corinthians 4: 6-10
I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8: 37-39
Cast your burden on the Lord and he will sustain you.
Psalm 55: 24
Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour. Because you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you. Isaiah 43: 1-5
People nowadays can be particularly bad at asking for help, because our society puts a very high premium on independence and self-sufficiency. The present crisis demonstrates graphically how interrelated our lives are, however, and how much we all depend on one another, as well as on God. There is absolutely nothing wrong in asking for help, and – like God – most people are only too pleased to respond!