Jesus went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that region came out, and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all.
And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
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Prayer is our ongoing conversation with God throughout our lives. In prayer we are invited to bring our experiences, thoughts, questions, hopes, doubts, struggles, and dreams to God with honesty and with confidence. It doesn’t need to be rehearsed, prepared, or filtered. We can say as much or as little as we like.
I tend to overcomplicate prayers. I often try to work out my thoughts, feelings, opinions, and plans before I bring them to God — as if I had to be put together before I could pray. But it’s not necessary. In today’s Gospel we see an example of how we can approach God in prayer. In this passage a woman boldly comes up to Jesus, kneels before Him, and says, “Lord, help me.” (Matt 15:25) He sees her exactly as she is, listens intently to what she has to say, and accepts her. With her simple request we can learn a lot about who Jesus is, who we are, and how we can approach prayer. By calling Him “Lord,” she acknowledges that He is God and she is not. She asks for help, recognizing that she cannot help herself, and she asks for His presence in her life.
We live in a society that rewards self-sufficiency. Our world celebrates and rewards a strong work ethic, a do-it-yourself-er, a self-made person. Asking for help can be incredibly challenging, making us feel weak and inadequate. Our focus on self-reliance can make us feel like complete failures when our lives are, inevitably, blown apart by something unexpected. The events of the last six months have certainly shown us there is a lot that is beyond our control. And on some level I think most of us have always known our hopes, our dreams, our plans for our lives can all come crashing down in a moment — with an unexpected medical diagnosis, an abrupt end to a relationship, a phone call with surprising news, a market dip, or a slip on the ice.
The truth is, it can be incredibly freeing to acknowledge, like the woman in this passage, that we are limited. We are not and we never will be God. We need His help. We are finite. But we are known and held by a God who is not. Through prayer, we are invited to sit with the God who sees us just as we are, who loves us unconditionally, and invites us to boldly ask, “Lord, help me.”