#A PRAYER FOR EVERYBODY (during the renovation of the Tabernacle),
"Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!"
- Matthew 15:25
OUR text tells us of a case of real distress and it shows us how a woman prayed when in agony. It is a good thing, when young people begin to write, especially if they think of writing for the press, if they will, before they send away their manuscript, take their pen and strike out every superfluous word. Even as a general rule, for conversation or for correspondence, every word that we can do without is better omitted. As it is difficult to travel if we are encumbered with a great quantity of luggage, so is it difficult to make our meaning clear when it is crushed beneath the weight of too many words. Take your pen, then, young author. Sit down quickly and strike out all the merely ornamental words that you have written. And when you have got rid of them, you will probably have some respectable sentences left.
This woman had no need to omit any of her words, for she was not in a state of mind to utter a sentence that could be pruned of a single word. She was in such a condition that every word that came out of her mouth was like hot shot poured out of her heart. I had almost said that every letter, as well as every syllable and every word she uttered, was coined in blood. She speaks, at any rate, burning language, at blood heat, and the words, as they drop into my ears, come with a kind of overpowering force, so great is their intensity. "Lord, help me!" There is not a syllable to spare! The words are all short, simple, living, burning—from the first one to the last.
I like this kind of pleading and I commend it to you who are accustomed to pain and sufferings, or who have to do with this rough world, as many of you have. You find that in your time of distress, you have to throw away a great many merely ornamental things and you only keep what is real, solid, and substantial. Here is a woman who must deal in realities, for she has at home a real daughter, really tormented by a real devil. But she believes that before her there is a real Savior and she intends not to let Him slip away through any lack of intensity on her part! She follows Him with clamorous cries! If she is repulsed, she still pursues Him, and when, at last, He gives her what looks like a wry word, she will not believe it! But she adores Him, she worships Him and she cries out of the depths of her soul, "Lord, help me!" I want to speak especially about her prayer. We have begun with it and we will end with it. But before I get to the prayer, there are two or three other things I need to hold up for your admiration.
I. First, let us ADMIRE THIS WOMAN’S IMPORTUNITY.
I do not hesitate to say, although I am speaking in a large assembly, that there is not one person here who ever did experience such rebuffs or meet with such difficulties as this woman did. There may be some who would have a right to stand up, and say, "Ah, Sir, you do not know my experience—my coming to Christ was very difficult." I do not know your experience, my dear Friend, but I feel sure of this—your experience cannot be compared with hers, for, in her coming to Christ, she had to surmount greater difficulties than you ever knew—and greater difficulties than any of you are realizing now, even though you should be almost driven to despair by the obstacles in your pathway. This poor woman had three special difficulties.
The first was, that the Lord Jesus Christ did not answer her cries. "He answered her not a word." He was, Himself, the Word, and yet He did not give her the word she needed! Jesus is the blessed Spokesman of the Eternal, by whom God breaks the infinite silences and speaks to man. Yet, "He answered her not a word." He was in the habit of answering prayer, yet He gave her not a single word of response to her petition. He had never been known to turn away a sincere suppliant without a kind reply, yet He gave her not one word! But even then, though she had not a word from Christ to hang her hopes upon—not a promise, not a single word of invitation or encouragement— she still clung to Christ and would not let Him go until He blessed her.
There is not one of you, dear Friends, who can say that our Lord Jesus Christ has not spoken to you, for here is a Book full of His words—a Book, mark you, not a line of which this poor woman had ever seen! She lived in a region where the Old Testament was altogether unknown and the New Testament was not then written. But you have the Words of Christ in your homes! They lie upon the pew-ledge in front of you. You can carry them in your pockets where yet you go. A two-penny Testament can be had by everybody, so it cannot be said that Jesus Christ has not given you a Word. Then how often have you had good Words from Christ through the preacher of the Gospel! How often has He let fall handfuls on purpose for you, poor troubled Soul! You have had sweet Words, gracious Words
"Wonderful Words of Life"—
and plenty of them, too. Therefore I say that there is one point in which this woman’s difficulties far exceeded yours! And as she pressed on until she gained the desire of her heart, will not you do likewise? Do you not remember how the men of Nineveh hung on to nothing but this—"Who can tell?" It was a very poor 1ittle nail that they clung to—"Who can tell?" Yet they did cling to it and they found mercy!
There have been some who have found comfort in what God has not said—"I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek you Me in vain." So will you not find comfort in what He has said? Especially may you be cheered and blessed by such words as these—"Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool." "I will pardon them whom I reserve." "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Now, between "not a Word," and all these Words, what a difference there is, and so, what a difference there is between you and this poor woman! How much you have to help you! Come, then, to Jesus, come even now, pleading the promise, and you shall not go away without the blessing!
Next, this woman had another great difficulty, and that was that all the disciples were against her. They said to Jesus, "Send her away, for she cries after us. She disturbs us; we cannot hear Your exposition. We cannot be heard, ourselves, which is also very important. ‘Send her away, send her away.’ She has such a harsh voice. She does not speak our language. She talks in the tongue of Tyre or Sidon, and we do not like it. She is so troublesome! She is first bawling out after John and next she is calling after Peter—there is no keeping her quiet! ‘Send her away, send her away.’" Now, although this must have been a very secondary thing compared with Christ’s silence, yet it may have bred in her heart great discouragement and she may have felt in her spirit that she could not long hold out. Yet she did hold out until the blessing came!
Now, I venture to say that there is no one here who is seeking the Savior who has had Christ’s disciples against Him. O dear Heart, there are many in this house tonight who are not against you! They would do anything they could for you, to cheer you and bring you to the Savior! I know some who, when this service is over, will very likely waylay you in the aisles! They are always looking out to find persons who may be under concern of soul, to see whether they can utter a word of encouragement to them. They will not say, "Send her away!" They will want you to stay a little while and will talk to you very earnestly about your soul—and try to point out to you the way into life and peace. I am sure that you have not the difficulty that this poor woman had. If you had, I would still exhort you to imitate her importunity, but, as you have not, let her importunity shame you if you are in the least degree backward! And come you at once boldly to the Savior and say, "I must now find the mercy that I need! I cannot go away until I find it." God grant that many of you may make that good resolution!
There was, however, a third discouragement which must have been greater than the other two, and that was that when the Savior did speak, He said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." It was as much as saying, "I am not sent to this woman of Tyre and Sidon. I can do nothing for her within the bounds of My commission." And yet, when the woman heard that sentence, instead of being daunted by it, she came to Christ and worshipped Him, and said, "Lord, help me!" I may be addressing someone who has been thinking over the Doctrine of Election—a doctrine which ought not to give trouble to anybody, but it often does. It may be that you have said in your heart, "What if I should not be elect? What if the blessed things of the Covenant of Grace should not be for me?" I beseech you, do not be persuaded by Satan to stop there, but go to Jesus just as this woman did! She seemed to say to herself, "Whether this Christ of God is sent to a Tyre and Sidon woman or not, I shall go and worship Him, and cry, ‘Lord, help me!’" She heard that Christ was not sent to that country, but she seemed to say, "If You are not sent, Lord, yet I am still here. If You are not sent to me, perhaps I am sent to You. She felt that there must be some way of getting over the difficulty. She believed that, by some kind of ingenuity, even if she could not tell how, the difficulty could be removed! This glorious, loving Savior, into whose radiant face she looked, could not repulse her—she felt that He could not!
And, dear Friends, I can no more believe that Christ will repulse a sinner than I can look up to the sun and believe that it will ever freeze me! It cannot be—it is too bright, too full of warmth to turn me into ice—and I cannot look into the Savior’s face and believe that He will ever cast away a poor soul that comes to Him! So, somehow or other, this poor woman seemed to feel, "I cannot get over the difficulty, but I will go round it." That is always a wise method. For my own part, I have often learned what a joy it is to cast anchor under the lee of a great impassable thing that I cannot understand. I like, if I am traveling, to see the river open up and to find my boat gliding gently along between the surrounding hills. But if, all of a sudden, I find that the channel is entirely blocked up, I am just as comfortable if the sailor lets down the anchor and we spend the night under the lee of some big, towering rock! Why not? It is very well to understand things, but I do not know that we are much the better for understanding anything! Understanding sometimes puffs us up, but we are always benefited by believing. So, my Friend, when you come hard and fast against something which you cannot get over, do not try to get over it, but just pull up, right there, and say, "If it is so, let it be so, but, anyway, God is gracious, Christ is merciful and I am going to cast myself at the crucified Savior’s feet and trust in Him."
Now this woman, notwithstanding this terrible discouragement, after actually hearing the Savior say, "I am not sent to you," yet nevertheless persevered with her appeal. None of you have ever heard Him say that you are not among the elect. Why should you not be elect as well as anybody else? None of you have ever climbed to Heaven and found that your names were not written in the roll of God’s chosen—and you never will climb there to read it at all! All such things are hidden from your sight. Your business is to cling to Christ’s dear feet and never let Him go until He grants you the desire of your heart. That is my first remark—admire this woman’s importunity.
II. Now for a few minutes I invite you, dear Friends, to ADMIRE HER RESORT TO THE LORD HIMSELF. "Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!"
She is to be admired, first, because she turned away from the disciples. I could not help smiling as I read, just now, what the disciples said, "Send her away, for she cries after us." Poor soul, she never cried after them—she knew better than to do that! It was their own self-importance that made them think so. If she had begun to cry after them, their black looks would soon have stopped her from doing so. But she did not make such a mistake as that. "Oh, no," she seemed to say, "it is not after you that I am crying. Neither Peter, nor James, nor John can give me the help I need." So is it with us—we are not crying after the saints, as some poor souls are doing, hoping that saints, long since dead and buried, who have done with this mortal life, may make intercession for them before the Throne of God! No, we are not crying after them. If any of you are, I pray you cease that folly and cry to the Master! And let this be your cry, "Lord, help me!" Not, "Peter, help me," nor, "Mary, help me," but, "Jesus, help me!" "Lord, help me!" He can do it, but the saints cannot. They were poor sinners who had to be saved by Grace like the rest of us—and they are now singing to the praise of the God of Grace, but they have no Grace to give to us! Mind, dear Friends, that you never think of going to them, but go straight to the Master, as this poor woman did! "Then came she and worshipped Him, saying, Lord, help me!" She went away, also, from all prescribed paths. The Savior seemed to say to her that there was no way for her to come. He did but seem to tell her that the road at present was intended especially for the house of Israel and He had come to bless them beyond all others. But the woman seems to say, "If there is not a road open, I must make one. I will go over hedge and ditch, but I must find my Savior." Her heart was so strongly resolved upon coming to Christ that whether she came in the orthodox way or not, she must come! Oh, how I wish that some poor sinner here might be so stirred up with the same desire that he would say, "I must somehow find the Lord Jesus. If I have heard one minister and God has not blessed him to me, I will hear another. And if hearing the Gospel is not blessed to me, I will sit up at night and read the Scriptures. And if the Bible is not blessed to me, I will go on my knees and cry to God for mercy and I will never cease crying to Him till the mercy comes. For, somehow or somewhere, I must get it! I must find God in Christ Jesus, that I may obtain the salvation of my soul."
Yet once more, dear Friends, I admire this woman, and I hold her up as a model for your imitation, because she resorted to Christ. Away from the disciples and from all prescribed paths, she went to HIM. Yes, that is the beauty of it! "Then came she and worshipped HIM." She fell at His feet and her prayer was, "Lord, help me!" She did not prescribe how she should be helped, for she believed in His wisdom. She did not dictate to Him what He should do, for she believed in His judgment and prudence. All she said was, "Lord, help me!" She did not think that her case was beyond His power, for she believed in His almightiness, so she prayed, "Lord, help me!" She did not think her case could be beyond His pity, so she pleaded, "Lord, help me. True, I am only a Gentile dog but, Lord, help me. I am a Syrophenician woman but, Lord, help me. I have a poor daughter possessed of a devil but, Lord, help me." She pleads thus with Christ and it is amazing what such pleading can accomplish! Do not come here and merely repeat certain prayers! Do not go home to your closet simply to say prayers as if to nobody or to everybody, but get absolutely at the feet of Jesus and plead with Him, saying, "Lord, I will not let You go until You bless me," for that is the kind of prayer that opens the gates of Heaven, the prayer to which nothing can be denied!
III. Before I come to the closing portion of my discourse, I ask you to ADMIRE THIS WOMAN’S APPROPRIATION OF HER DAUGHTER’S CASE TO HERSELF.
I urge you who seek the conversion of others to follow her example. Notice, she did not pray, "Lord, help my daughter," but, "Lord, help me!" At first, she pleaded for her daughter and mentioned the circumstances of her case, but as she grew more intense and fervent in her supplication, there seemed to be no division between the mother and the daughter! The mother had absorbed the daughter—the great heart of the pleading one seemed to contain the one pleaded for with all her agony—"Lord, help me!" Do you catch the idea? When you are pleading with God for your Sunday school class, it is not simply, Mary, and Jane, and Sarah that you pray for, but you have incorporated all those girls into yourself and, therefore, you plead, "Lord, help me!" And you, my Brother, need to get to this point if you are really to prevail for your scholars, that you will not be asking for John, and Thomas, and William, alone, but you have so identified yourself with them, that if they are lost, it almost seems as if you are lost! And if they are saved, it will be another Heaven to you for each one of them to be in Heaven!
You know that when Elisha restored the Shunammite’s dead son, "he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child." Then, as it were, they became one, and then it was that the new life came through the Prophet into the dead child. And this is the way to pray for our scholars and our hearers. I am sure that if a minister wants conversions, he must identify himself with his people! There are people, nowadays, who make a difficulty about Moses praying for Israel, "If You will forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray You, out of Your book which You have written." And they raise questions about Paul being willing to be separated from Christ for his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh. Oh, but there is no difficulty in the matter if you once get to feel such an intense love for the souls of men that you would, as it were, pawn your own salvation and count it little if you might but bring the people to the Savior’s feet!
A man who has never felt that willingness does not yet know the true throb of a pastor’s heart—he has not been ordained to be a shepherd if he would not lay down his life for the flock, if it were necessary. When you get to that point, then the blessing will come. "Lord, help me—me, for, in my own proper self, I am one with these people for whom my prayer is put up."
IV. Now, lastly—yet it is the chief part of the subject—I want YOU TO ADMIRE THIS WOMAN’S PRAYER, ITSELF.
I began my discourse by pointing out to you its sententiousness, its freedom from superfluities. Now, again I bid you admire it for the same reason. Notice that it asks everything in one little phrase—"Lord, help me!" It seems to me to be a very comprehensive prayer, for although it uses but one very small verb, that verb means a great deal more than, at first sight, it appears to mean. When the woman said, "Lord, help me," she did not mean what we generally mean by help. That is, "Lord, do something for me and I will do the rest." She could not do anything towards the casting out of the devil from her child so, by that word, "help," she meant, "Lord, do it all," for that is the kind of help Christ gives! Have you ever heard of the poor half-witted being who, nevertheless, had sense enough to understand the Gospel? Someone said to him, "Well, Johnny, how were you saved?" "Oh," he answered, "Jesus Christ did His part, and I did all the rest." "And pray tell, Johnny, what did you do?" "Well," he said, "Jesus Christ saved me and I did all I could to prevent it." And that is about all "the rest" that any of us ever do! We do not really help in the matter of our salvation, for we cannot—it is Christ’s work from first to last—and Divine Grace must have all the praise for it. Blessed be that Sovereign Grace of God!
But that word, "help," meant just this—"Lord, will You do all that is needed? I am in a dreadful fix. I cannot cure my poor child and I cannot pray aright about her. You have almost shut my mouth by that last word, ‘I am not sent,’ yet, ‘Lord, help me!’ Teach me what to ask for! Teach me how to ask for it! Teach me what to think of next! Teach me what to do next. Never was a poor creature in such a plight as I am, Lord. Get me out of it! Save my poor daughter." It was asking everything in a phrase which did not, at first sight, seem to mean much—"Lord, help me!"
And, if you notice, the prayer was one which brought Christ and the poor woman together—"Lord" and "me." And here is the link—"Lord, help me!" Some of you poor creatures want to get to Christ by doing something for Him! You have undertaken a very heavy task—you will never get to Him that way. The only way is for Him to stoop down and do something for you—then you shall go into partnership and have fellowship with one another. And if you agree to this arrangement, He will find everything that is needed and you shall have it all given to you, gratis! Those must be the terms—that He, from first to last, must do all, and be all, and have all the glory! If you will agree to that condition, the company may be started at once—and what a blessed company it shall be! The Lord and yourself linked together by that little word, "help"—"Lord, help me!" If you are to succeed as this woman did, you must imitate her perseverance even in spite of Christ’s apparent refusal to help her.
This is a lesson which is taught us in many other parts of the Word of God. She that wins her suit with the unjust judge is the importunate widow who will not be refused. He that gets the loaves at midnight is the man who continues knocking till his friend awakens himself and gives him all he asks. O Beloved, plead thus with God! Plead earnestly, plead for your salvation as you would for your life! Lift up the cry—
"Gracious Lord, incline Your ear,
My requests vouchsafe to hear!
Hear my never-ceasing cry,
Give me Christ, or else I die! Wealth and honor I disdain,
Earthly comforts all are vain.
These can never satisfy,
Give me Christ, or else I die!"
And you shall surely have Christ, for He never finally refuses to listen to such pleading as that.
Lastly, dear Friends, I commend this prayer to you because it such a handy prayer. You can use it when you are in a hurry, you can use it when you are frightened, you can use it when you have not time to bow your knees. You can use it in the pulpit if you are going to preach, you can use it when you are opening your shop, you can use it when you are rising in the morning. It is such a handy prayer that I hardly know any position in which you could not pray it—"Lord, help me!" Often, when you are brought to some great emergency, you may use it and feel as if it were the best prayer that was ever composed. Do you suffer much? Do you sometimes fall back upon the pillows feeling that you cannot bear any more? Does it not seem natural, then, for you to pray, "Lord, help me"? Do you often lie awake at night? Have you counted the clock round in your seasons of suffering? Oh, then, I know that you will feel that this is a good prayer to offer in the middle of the night—"Lord, help me!" Do you wake up in the morning just as weary as when you went to bed? Are you gradually losing strength? Are you slowly wasting away? Do they tell you that you will soon be gone? Oh, then, as the clock ticks, I think it may remind you of this prayer, "Lord, help me! Lord, help me! Lord, help me!" It is a sick woman’s prayer—a sick child’s prayer—a sick man’s prayer. It will suit any of you at such times.
Or are some of you losing a great deal of money just now? Is business very bad? Are you out of a job? Have you walked up and down the streets and worn your shoes out, and yet found nothing to do? I think this prayer will suit you at this moment and all day tomorrow, "Lord, help me! Lord, help me!"—for He can, you know. The keys of Providence are not taken out of His hand yet. He knows how to deliver the righteous out of all their troubles. Go to Him with this prayer, "Lord, help me!"
Are any of you very much tempted from without by surroundings that are peculiarly dangerous? Are you tempted by Satan? Are any of you exposed, just now, to some very special trial? Have your feet almost gone? Have your steps wellnear slipped? Now here is a prayer that will hold you up and keep you from falling—"Lord, help me! Lord, help me!"
"No," says someone, "you have not touched my case yet" Perhaps you are going to a new job, or you are just undertaking fresh duties and you wonder how you will be able to fill the sphere which was occupied so well by the one who went before you? Well, do not enter upon that new sphere without this prayer, "Lord, help me!" If you pray that prayer from your heart, you will be encouraged—you shall play the man and do well for God and for His Truth. Possibly you are already in a situation where you are under great strain. Where, perhaps, your physical strength is overtaxed and your mind is depressed by the wear and tear of a cruel servitude. Well, if you cannot get out of it, pray the Lord to help you in it, and let this be your constant cry, "Lord, help me! Lord, help me!" It is wonderful how He can aid and direct His people!
And you, young Brother against the door, you came just inside, hoping to get a message that will guide you in your present difficulty. Here is that message! Go home and pray about it. Cry to God about it and you shall have direction. And let this be your cry, "Lord, help me! Lord, help me!" And He will help you. Is there a dear little girl here who wants to find Christ? I give her this short prayer to pray tonight, "Lord, help me!" Is there a gray-headed man here, leaning upon his staff, who has not yet found the Savior? Then, as you sit in that aisle, cry, "Son of David, Jesus Christ the Lord, do help and save me!" And He will! This prayer will do to live with. This prayer will do to die with! It is a prayer for those who usually worship in this place. It is a prayer for the people in the streets all around. It is a prayer for everybody and a prayer for every place wherever you may be—"Lord, help me!"
Blessed be His name, the Lord will answer this prayer! He has helped His people! He is still Israel’s Helper! He will be their Helper even to the end! Therefore put your trust in Him and go forward with confidence into the future. And may His gracious Presence be with you forevermore! Amen.