Believing is first step to receiving help
As Jesus was leaving Jericho two blind men called out to him: "Lord, son of David, have pity on us!" (Matthew 20:29-34) They kept asking, believing he would answer them.
Jesus healed them. Why? Because he loved them.
Everyone has needs, fears, aspirations and questions, times people when people come to God most. The main criterion to receiving help and insights from God is to first believe he'll answer you.
Someone who's away at college, tackling a new job becoming a parent for the first time or experiencing illness often feels lonely, scared and incompetent. He wonders why he attempted such an undertaking. Will he make new friends and fit in or might his illness be healed? He beats himself up emotionally and wonders what to do and whom to talk with.
"I pray," he says, "but I don't hear anything. I still feel like I'm in the middle of a turbulent sea paddling a canoe, alone. If I could only internalize God's presence I'd be OK. Where are you, anyhow, God?"
All you need is to feel that God is near, he cares and that your predicament will become better. Eventually you can believe and say with conviction, "This too will pass."
Many religions chant songs, sayings and other encouraging words and scriptural passages. Sometimes saying something over and over will bring calmness and peace. An effective prayer I chant when I need peace or help is the Jesus prayer. "Jesus Christ Son of God, Have mercy on me, a sinner."
First of all, I don't like to admit I'm a sinner -- but everyone is. The Jesus Prayer isn't necessarily asking for the betterment of my soul, but for me, it's a plea for assistance and no one knows better than God what I need.
In my mind, asking for mercy seems to cover everything I could ask for: good health, cure for sadness, ease from feelings of loneliness or help for others. Admitting I'm a sinner humbles me before God and I feel he's more likely to respond. My belief is what makes the difference.
That prayer is always answered.
If the reply isn't exactly what I petitioned for, it's better, because God knows what's best and can supply what I truly want and need. Sometimes I don't even know what I should pray for, and that's when the Holy Spirit steps in and prays to God for me.
Another step you can take to tune in and hear what God is saying to you is to retreat to a quiet place, away from the noise of the world, dorm or workplace and be still. It's difficult in the world to have the time or space to wind down and renew yourself.
The same problem existed during the time of Jesus' ministry on earth. He said to his disciples one day when they were tired and run down "Come apart to a desert place and rest awhile." (Mark 6:30-32) If we don't occasionally come apart and rest awhile to regain our strength and emotional balance, it's quite likely that we may fall apart.
When you're quiet, you can better hear God talking and soothing your anxieties. He'll speak through an insight, person, happening, nature or another avenue, but somehow your prayer will be answered.
Better still, you will begin to absorb God's presence within you. Head knowledge does little to satisfy when you're down and seeking solace or discernment.
The answer is not always in the manner you would expect, but you can identify and be assured that your plea has been heard. Your battle has been won without you having to fight it. God did it for you.
When I'm scared and needing comfort, it helps when I remember that "The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, the God whom I trust." (Psalms 91:2)
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.