For most of us, prayer bounces between a plea for help, a running conversation or to-do list with God, a reassurance of God’s power and presence in our lives, a wishlist or a shouting match with God, down to wondering if God has forgotten us.
One of the most common ways we pray is a prayer for help.
Eugene Peterson said, “Trouble is what gets prayer started.”
And that’s true.
We pray out of desperation. We pray because we aren’t sure what else to do. We rend the heavens in hopes that God will hear, that God will move. We pray through tears, mumbling and bumbling from a place of helplessness.
We pray for health, for healing, for relationships to be mended, for kids and parents and spouses to be saved, to be changed. We pray for jobs, for finances. We pray for those close to us who are destroying their lives. We pray for wisdom in decisions.
And in all this, we are often very helpless to bring about an answer.
So, how do you ask God for help? How does He hear?
Psalm 121 gives us the answer:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Here are four things we learn from this Psalm about asking God for help:
1. Admit your need for help. This seems obvious, but to ask God for help means we are admitting our need for help. We don’t do this naturally. We are naturally self-sufficient, self-assured people. We are raised to handle it, to get it done, to be fine, to not depend on anyone.
The writer of this Psalm is helpless and they know it. They need help.
2. Believe God can and will help. Know where your help comes from.
For many of us, once we exhaust our ability to fix something, we still don’t go to prayer. Maybe there is a book, a sermon, a financial move, a google search I can do, a person I can get advice from. Prayer for too many of us is a last resort.
When we get there, we say, “God, I don’t know if you can help. I don’t know if you care to help. So I’ll look around.”
3. Be patient. The writer of Psalm 121 reminds us to go to sleep. This communicates that sometimes our prayers will take longer than we think but that God will fight for us and work on things, while we sleep.
Sleep is one of the greatest pictures of faith in our lives.
The time that we worry, are anxious and replay conversations over and over in our minds is at night. We lie there, staring at the clock, thinking about our bank account, our job, our marriage, our kids, our parents. The problems we experience in relationships, worrying about college, bills, health, the list goes on and on. Yet, in that moment there is almost nothing we can do.
The people we are worried about are asleep, the people we would call for help and advice are asleep. The writer of Psalm 121 says, “Go to sleep.”
4. God is over all things. Why can we be patient and go to sleep? Not only because God is our help and never sleeps, but because verses 7 and 8 tell us that God is over all things.
He watches all things. He is not surprised by anything. Nothing catches him off guard.
It ends with a crucial word, forevermore.
Forever is a long time, and yet that is the scope of our God.
Psalm 121 is a prayer to give us confidence to ask God for help and confidence as we wait for that help to come.