Asking Help from God through Prayer

by Dér Stépanos Dingilian, Ph.D. © 1997

Prayer is a dialogue between God and us. In prayer we tell God what is in our heart, mind, and soul, and we ask for specific outcomes. Ultimately though, in prayer we ask that God’s will to be done in our life. This is especially true at times of illness.

First, we need to ask God for help in order for our prayer to be sincere. Very often we ask our fellow human beings for help, not realizing that God has the greatest of resources. Most of all, God has the ability to change people’s hearts, something that we as human beings cannot do on our own. As someone pointed out, Moses turned to fellow human beings for assistance, and generally he received minimal help if not outright betrayal. However, he received help when he finally looked up, and saw the bush on fire, and heard God’s voice. We too need to look up to God rather than only look around us for help from fellow humans. This ‘looking up’ is accomplished through prayer.

Second, when we turn to God and ask for help because we are, say unhealthy, unhappy, bored, or have no purpose in life, what should we ask for? Should we say ‘Give us health,’ ‘Give us happiness,’ ‘Give us something to do,’ or ‘Give us a purpose in life’? Here is where prayer can become more complicated and longer lists of demands can emerge. If we are unhealthy and God gave us health, will we be happy? If we are still unhappy, what should God give in order to make us happy? . . . As you can imagine, requests to God become rather complex and long winded! Therefore, it is imperative to be short and specific in our prayers.

Appropriately then, the third point is: "What do we ask from God in order not to make our requests so long winded and complicated while assuring that our demands will be met?" The best thing to ask of God is this: ‘Let Thy will be done’! This is what we ask of God in the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ This is what Christ asked of God in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." [St. Mark 14:36] This is what St. Mary, the Mother of God also requested of God when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her with the news about her Conception through the Holy Spirit. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." [St. Luke 1:38] There is a prayer in the Armenian Church which states the following: "For You O God know that which we need and want before we have thought of it and better than we can ever imagine." When we trust God in our prayers and let His will be done in our life, then we discover peace, joy, and even health in life which we had never thought was possible! Why? Because God does not just give us one specific item, rather He gives us more. When we ask of a fellow human for a job, house, or car, that person may give that item to us. "You want a car, you got a car!" No more and no less! However, when God gives us a situation or an item in life, He also gives us the strength and the ability to maintain it. For example, when we ask God for a partner in life, not only does He give us a partner, but also helps us love and live with that person. If we ask for a car, not only does He give us a car, but also gives us the resources and the ability to maintain it.

This difference in giving also applies to health matters. A physician gives us a medication or a treatment to overcome a certain ailment. However, if a new illness arises, we are not protected against it. When we ask that God’s will be done in our life, not only does He send us the appropriate medical treatment, but also helps us become more insightful and appreciative of life. Regardless of the illnesses we face in the future, we learn to overcome them quicker and with greater ease. Through medical treatments we have the opportunity to overcome pains and be healthier for a moment in life. By asking that God’s will be done in our life, we extend this moment of physical health to an eternal life of health – of peace, joy, and fulfillment.

Is God hearing me? Sometimes though, we feel that perhaps God is not listening or responding to our prayers? "Cannot God hear my prayers? Does He not care about me?" When we have these moments, it would be helpful if we call up a friend or even an acquaintance. As we begin conversing with that person, let us keep track of the extent to which we are listening and paying attention to what the other person is saying. Are we fully attentive? Are we hearing the other person but not listening? Is our anxiety or worry getting in the way of us listening to the other person? The chances are that we are so worried that we are drowned in our thoughts, hardly paying attention to the other person. Likewise, the chances are very good that even though we are praying to God with great fervor, yet we are too worried an preoccupied to listen to Him. Likely, just as Moses did initially, we too are looking around us, rather than raising our heart upward and looking for God’s path to health and fulfillment. The Prayer for Guidance, based on a Lamentation of St. Gregory of Narék (11th century) is an excellent prayer to help us see beyond our immediate illnesses, and overcome them through the grace of God.

Summary In summary, whether in time of illness or health, praying to God for a specific blessing truly gives a sense of belonging to the Creator of the universe. As St. Nersess Shnorhali points out, "My longing is not for the gift, but for the Giver of the gift." In order to assure that the blessing will bring peace, joy, and fulfillment, it is imperative to ask that most of all "God’s will be done." Afterwards, all we need to do is to patiently and attentively listen and look for God’s guidance. As we begin to dialogue with God through prayer, it is then and only then that God becomes more present, involved, guiding, and empowering in our life!

As we begin to dialogue with God through prayer,

it is then and only then that God becomes

more present, involved, guiding, and empowering in our life!