Where Does My Help Come From?
The other day I went into the empty sanctuary of my church, sat down, and began to pray. It was quiet, and the late evening light created a kind of glow in the room that I wanted to imagine as the Divine presence.
So I prayed in the direction of the light, uttering some of the words out loud, irrationally hoping that somehow the prayer would be heard better if I directed it that way.
At first, I felt like I was praying through a barrier of some kind---like there was a canopy covering me and I needed to claw my way out of it. Prayer is like that for me sometimes.
There have also been some moments in my life when I prayed so fervently for something that I actually felt the longing for it inside of me, in my gut, or in my chest. The longing felt like a band tightening inside, or like a flutter as though my heart skipped a beat.
On that evening, the one word that I found myself uttering over and over again there in the gathering dark was simply, "Help."
That one word has been at the heart of so many of my prayers over the past several months. Sometimes it has been the only word I've been able to pray.
"Help," when my heart is breaking.
"Help," to know what to write when the words on the screen don't seem right.
"Help," when the challenges before me seem insurmountable.
"Help," when I need to forgive.
I read this amazing quote from Anne Lamott the other day, and it's been marinating in my head ever since. She wrote:
“Help” is a prayer that is always answered. It doesn’t matter how you pray—with your head bowed in silence, or crying out in grief, or dancing. Churches are good for prayer, but so are garages and cars and mountains and showers and dance floors. Years ago, I wrote an essay that began, “Some people think that God is in the details, but I have come to believe that God is in the bathroom.”
I absolutely love the way Anne Lamott writes and thinks, and this line is no exception. It resonates with me because it reflects my own experience with prayer, and that simple word: "Help."
The part that she doesn't unpack exactly is what she declares in her first line: "Help" is a prayer that is always answered." I've had to ponder that part for a while, but I think I understand it.
You see, when you get to the place where you finally give up trying to fix everything, control everything, manage everything on your own, and actually ask for help... your prayer has already been answered.
It's been answered because as a wise person once said, "God's address is always at the end of your rope." It's been answered because by asking for help you have surrendered, and your surrender is what God desires for you, not from you.
At that point, the outcome is immaterial to your growth. In fact, the ultimate outcome might not be what you desire at all. What is important is that you surrendered, and asked for help. What is important is that you realized that you can't move forward alone.
In those moments you desire God, and desiring God is everything. That desire opens up "the eyes of your heart," and you can finally see more clearly where God is present and at work all around you. And you are able to let go of your will and way, and prioritize God's purposes over your own.
May you ask for help today when you need it. May your prayers be a gateway to a new way of seeing and being. May you surrender your life and all that comes with it to a God who loves you beyond all love.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.