A short, sweet, and powerful prayer: God help me!

Prayer time: our kids were having a session of prayer in the playroom. They prayed for their health and families, amongst other things.

“Prayer is at the center of everything we do” is a CURE axiom you may have seen on our website. Perhaps, you secretly thought as you viewed this statement, you’d rather find something to do than to pray; you were seeking a way to offer real help to children who come to CURE centers for treatment. It’s a common—and secret!—response. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that most of us feel a bit inadequate when it comes to prayer, believing that others pray better than we do or that there are more effective ways to contribute to good causes

However we feel about our skill, prayer as an expression is native to us all. We are, in fact, born praying because we are all born powerless, proven early by wails that might very well translate as Help me! or Hold me! or Feed me!—short but effective supplications indeed. Wail long enough, and someone will come along to answer the prayer, if for no other reason than to end the noise!

We are born praying! Wails translate into Help me! or Hold me! or Feed me!

In earlier times, such simple requests (worded or wailed) would have counted as prayer since the term pray or prayer has not always been restricted to the religious realm. It was consonant with everyday language. In its most ancient form, the term meant begging or asking something of another being, human or divine.

Years ago, I was interested to discover that the word pray shares the same root with precarious. While we’ve sloughed off many King James words such as lo, verily, sayeth, and behold, it’s my guess that we keep the word pray because we as human beings know, if we’re honest, that we are precarious—fragile and in need a lot of help. In the words of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, we’re “mortal and liable to fall.” My own precarity is proved by the number of times I’ve prayed throughout my life, “God help me!” An unsophisticated prayer for sure, yet, as I read the psalms, a prayer prayed often and loud—and one that gets results.

Prayer is the cornerstone of our ministry at CURE. Here, Dr. Kachinga Sachizya prays in the patient ward in CURE Zambia.

Psalm 121 is one of those “help me” prayers, offered by a pilgrim beginning a journey beyond his strength. “I look to the mountains,” he prays. “Where will my help come from?” Perhaps as families traveled from outlying villages up to Jerusalem, they sang this prayer to remind themselves that mountains are no match for the One who created them: read the psalm and see what God gives in exchange for the felt need expressed.

Though humble, God help me honestly acknowledges our innate fragility and precarity. And God honors humble prayers: For he knows what we are made of; he realizes we are made of clay (Psalm 103:14).

Healing the sick and proclaiming the kingdom is a mountain of a mission that reaches beyond our capabilities and precarities and into the ocean depth of God’s resources and will to share. Prayer, therefore, must always be the center of all we do. “God help!” is a way of beginning.

P.S. Psalm 116 recounts help received from God. Recently delivered from death, the poet in the middle of his song asks how to repay the Lord for all his help. In the next breath, he answers his own question (I’ll call on the name of the Lord!) as if the best thing he can do is to keep on praying, always and forever, God help me!