One of my most frequent prayers is ‘Help!’ It is also one of the most common prayers in the Bible. It is a prayer you can pray every day, in any and every situation. You can cry out to the Lord for help. God’s desire is for you to have a relationship with him that is real and from the heart.
Help in broken relationshipsPsalm 88:9b-18
Rejection is always hurtful – especially when it comes from someone you love or someone very close to you. Broken relationships are painful – particularly when we feel we have been ‘dumped’ by a ‘lover’, a ‘neighbour’ or a close friend. The psalmist feels that since ‘lover and neighbour alike dump me; the only friend I have left is Darkness’ (v.18, MSG).
He says, ‘For as long as I remember I’ve been hurting’ (v.15, MSG). The situation seems like one of utter hopelessness: darkness (v.12), feeling rejected by God (v.14), affliction (v.15a), terror and despair (v.15b). ‘I’m bleeding, black-and-blue... I’m nearly dead’ (v.17, MSG).
Yet there is one note of hope. The hope comes from the fact that, in the midst of all this, he chooses to start each day by crying out to God: ‘I call to you, O Lord, every day; I spread out my hands to you’ (v.9b).
Perhaps today you’re struggling with a relationship: in your marriage, workplace, church or with a close friend. However bad your situation may seem, there is always hope if you cry out to the Lord for help.
‘I cry to you for help, O Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you’ (v.13). O Lord, I spread out my hands to you. I ask you for help…
Help in the struggle with sinRomans 7:7-25
Do you ever find yourself trapped in bad habits or sins that you want to break free from but find yourself unable to do so? Do you ever find yourself deciding that you will not do something and then doing it anyway?
Paul writes, ‘I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise’ (v.15, MSG).
He goes on, ‘It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge’ (vv.21–23, MSG).
Paul says, ‘I obviously need help!’ (v.18, MSG). He cries out: ‘What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?’ (v.24).
Having said (in yesterday’s passage) that you are free from the law (v.6), Paul anticipates the kind of questions that will be raised about what he is saying. Is he equating the law with sin? (v.7).
He shows that it is not the law that is sin. Quite the reverse. ‘The law code itself is God’s good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel’ (v.12, MSG). It is we who are sinful. The law shows this by revealing what sin is, and that we cannot keep the law. Indeed, it even aggravates sin in us.
The next question follows from the previous ones. If the law is so good, why did it lead to my death? (v.13). ‘No,’ says Paul. It was not the law – but my sin – that led to death. If someone is condemned for a crime, it is not the law that causes the penalty. Rather it is the crime. All the law does is to set the standard.
Much ink has been spilled over this passage. The main debate is whether Paul is referring to his Christian or pre-Christian state. It is clearly autobiographical, but he is also talking generally about the condition of human beings living under the law.
Perhaps we should see this passage as describing the Christian not living in the fullness of the Spirit’s power, even though he or she desires to do so. It can be read as the human cry to live in the Spirit, heard again in the lives of Christians through the ages.
We know that God’s law is holy, righteous and good (v.12). We know that it is spiritual (v.14). Yet we find ourselves failing: ‘I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do’ (vv.14–15).
The difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of becoming a Christian is not that before, I sinned, and that after, I was sinless. No – the difference is that before becoming a Christian, sin was in character; it did not really worry you or me. Whereas after becoming a Christian, it is utterly out of character; I do not want to do it. It causes me pain and regret when I do. Not so much because I have let myself down – although there is that. But because I want to be pleasing Christ – and I have failed him.
If you are like me, you know only too well this battle with sin. Please realise that that is a key mark of the genuine Christian believer.
As Paul cries out for help he already knows the answer to the question, ‘“Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (vv.24–25).
Perhaps, the key to understanding this passage lies in the two words ‘I myself’ (v.25b). On our own we are slaves to the law of sin but this is not the end of the story. Paul goes on to speak about the great liberation that the Holy Spirit brings to our lives.
As I look at myself as a Christian in terms of belonging to Christ, I realise that I am not free to sin. As I look at myself as a Christian in the world, I realise that I am not free from sin either. But as I look at myself as a Christian empowered by the Spirit, I realise that I am free to overcome sin. To paraphrase John Newton:
‘I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I wish to be.
I am not what I one day will be.
But, by the grace of God, I am not what I once was.’
Lord, I cry out to you for help. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit today. I really need the help of the Holy Spirit to lead the kind of life I know you want me to lead.
Help for healingHosea 6:1-7:16
God wants to bring healing to our lives. The people knew that if they truly returned to God, he would heal them (6:1).
If you want God’s healing, you need to cry out to him from your heart. God’s complaint against his people in this passage is that, ‘They do not cry out to me from their hearts’ (7:14b). ‘Instead of crying out to me in heartfelt prayer, they whoop it up in bed with their whores’ (v.14, MSG).
The first three verses of chapter 6 appear to describe the painful process by which the Lord restores us to himself when we slip away from him. However, there is no acknowledgment of sin or deep repentance. It may be Hosea putting the people’s shallow confession into words: ‘Your declarations of love last no longer than morning mist and predawn dew’ (6:4, MSG).
What is clear is that God is interested in the heart, not superficial action: ‘I’m after love that lasts, not more religion. I want you to know God’ (v.6, MSG). He is concerned about a relationship with him that comes from the heart.
His complaint is that ‘none of them calls on me’ (7:7). There is an arrogance, an independent spirit in humankind that refuses to ‘return to the Lord… or search for him’ (v.10). He says, ‘I long to redeem them… but they turn away from me’ (vv.13–14). You can receive healing and forgiveness from God for all the things you do wrong – but you need to cry out to him from your heart (v.14).
As Joyce Meyer writes, emotional ‘healing does not come easily and can be quite painful. Sometimes we have wounds that are still infected, and before we can be thoroughly healed, those wounds must be opened and the infection removed. Only God knows how to do this properly. As you seek God for the healing from your hurts, spend time with God in His Word and wait in His presence. I guarantee you will find healing there!’
Lord, I want not only to know you but also to press on to know you better (6:3). I cry to you from my heart for healing, restoration and revival. Help Lord!
‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’
The dictionary says mercy is ‘compassion shown to enemies or offenders in one’s power’. Shakespeare said of mercy: ‘It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.’ Our world is in desperate need of mercy.
Verse of the Day
‘… I cry to you for help, O Lord’ (Psalm 88:13).
Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2014), p.1370.
Joseph Foulkes Winks (Ed.), The Christian Pioneer (Simpkin Marshall & Co., 1856) p. 84. Also in The Christian Spectator, vol. 3 (1821), p. 186
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.