I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. (New International Version)
Not a one of us gets off this planet without needing help – a lot of help! Even people who are in helping professions or who identify themselves primarily as helpers need help themselves.
There is no such thing as complete, total, and irrevocable independence. We humans are hard-wired by our Creator for community. That means we can only find our greatest fulfillment within interdependent relationships; and, furthermore, discover our highest happiness in a dependent relationship to God.
To need others, and especially to need God, is not a weakness; it’s a sign of strength. To have an awareness that help is needed allows us to make wise and confident choices. Only the fool goes it alone, believing they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. “God helps those who help themselves,” was originally said by Benjamin Franklin, not Holy Scripture.
So, the question becomes: To whom and to where do we go for help? Who do we consult? With whom do we collaborate?
The most important step any of us can make is to realize that our own personal resources, although important and necessary, are inadequate. Therefore, we must admit, “I need help with this.” The next step is to go to the right source for that help.
The psalmist insists that the Lord is our helper, our keeper. Keeping is a large part of helping. God as our Divine Keeper means that the Lord watches over us, guards our lives, and seeks to preserve us from harm, wrongdoing, injustice, and oppression.
The very identity of God is wrapped up in being a Protector, Guard, and Watchkeeper. The Lord shields and shelters us, much like a mother hen over her chicks. God watches over us, just as a watchman keeps guard over a city at night when the residents are sleeping. And since the Lord is everywhere present, there is a continual divine presence in all of our life journeys. The dangers of both the day and the night are no match for the God who is our Keeper.
The promises of safety in today’s psalm are not meant to suggest that those who walk in the shelter of God will never endure harm or that nothing ill will ever befall them. The Psalter knows all too well that the wicked are everywhere and that they thrive unjustly.
Rather, these divine promises are general promises—they are blessings God does for those who rely on the Lord, call upon God’s name, and seek divine help. We are to have a continual awareness of God’s presence in this world. Although we are not inoculated from pain, God is always with us in our hurt and bewilderment.
It can be hard to ask for help. Our pride, stubbornness, and independence might cause us to experience harm rather than seek assistance. Be specific about the help needed. The following are some “helpful” ways of approaching God by answering some basic newsgathering type questions. The goal isn’t to convince the Lord to help us, but rather to enable us in connecting with what we truly need and being specific about God’s assistance for us or for others:
Who needs help?
Be clear and specific if the help is for yourself, another, or a group of people.
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. (Matthew 8:5-8, NIV)
How will God’s intervention help?
God is an expert listener. Tell the story of what you have tried already and where you fall short.
Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:21-24, NIV)
Why are you asking for God’s help?
Explain what’s going on and the reasons why you believe the Lord is the One to help. Mention the divine attributes and actions of God, as well as your own personal connection.
Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.” (2 Chronicles 14:11, NIV)
Where is the help needed?
Is it a geographical location, a specific spot in the human body, or a place such as a building or home?
Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So, he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. (Luke 4:37-39, NIV)
When do you need help?
Immediately? Tomorrow? At a specific time?
O Lord, God of my salvation,
when, at night, I cry out in your presence,
let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol. (Psalm 88:1-3, NRSV)
What, exactly, is the need?
Spell out what you want in detail, holding nothing back. Don’t be concerned about the words or saying it right. Speak in your own plain language.
Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing!
The faithful have vanished from the earth!
Neighbors lie to each other,
speaking with flattering lips and deceitful hearts.
May the Lord cut off their flattering lips
and silence their boastful tongues. (Psalm 12:1-3, NLT)
The help you and I need is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth. We only need to ask, and it will be given; seek, and we will find; knock, and the answer will open to us.
I Cannot Do This Alone
A Prayer by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
O God, early in the morning I cry to you.
Help me to pray and to concentrate my thoughts on you;
I cannot do this alone.
In me there is darkness, but with you there is light;
I am lonely, but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;
I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;
I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me….
Restore me to liberty, and enable me to live now, that I may answer before you and before men.
Lord whatever this day may bring, Your name be praised. Amen.