Short Prayers and Cries for Help

Suggestions for getting help

The greatly maligned short prayer! Is it really legit?

When we need help, we should ask for it. If we only ask for help, something has got to be wrong. What kind of friend only pops up to scream out for help? The mooching kind, perhaps?

Yet, I’m here today to give you the good news that a short prayer to God for help, is not a prayer in vain. A sincere plea for God’s rescue or mercy is something that God has honored to seeking petitioners in the Scriptures.

The shortest prayer recorded is from Jesus’ disciple who feared drowning–Just 3 words:

“Lord, save me,” Simon Peter. (Matt 14.30)

In reality, a saving prayer is the most important kind.

This tells us something about the benevolence of the Living God. Pagan gods of old needed much formality, and a host of preparatory rituals, and highly respectful observances, and rites so the petitioner could escape enormous fury from the deity. Yes, (false) deities are a lot like people when it comes to wanting plenty of respect. The Living God–the One who hands down deserves the utmost respect–in an unexpected twist, accepts “prayers on the fly”. What a gracious and humble God.

Another short and ancient Christian prayer came to be a Western staple after being mentioned its importance to the Eastern Desert monks, by the Abba Isaac of Scete, as written in The Conferences by St. John Cassian. I highly suggest reading this interesting and enlightening devotional classic. (click link) The power of this short prayer, and its uses are fleshed out very well.

Here’s a tiny portion: In order that the vigour of this courage may, by God’s grace, continue in me still longer, I must cry out with all my powers, “O God, make speed to save me: O Lord, make haste to help me.”

I’ve also thanked God with short prayers. What short prayers have you used?

…Out of curiousity-How often do you say short prayers? (once per hour? per day? per week?)

…Or what % of your prayer life might be of this brief sort?

Your responses are valuable. Thank you!

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12 responses to “Short Prayers and Cries for Help

  1. Doug Jackson

    “A man or a woman, afraid with any sudden chance of fire or of man’s death or what else that it be, suddenly in the height of his spirit, he is driven upon haste and upon need for to cry or for to pray after help. Yea, how? Surely, not in many words, nor yet in one word of two syllables. And why is that? For him thinketh it over long tarrying for to declare the need and the work of his spirit. And therefore he bursteth up hideously with a great spirit, and cryeth a little word, but of one syllable: as is this word “fire,” or this word “out!”
    And right as this little word “fire” stirreth rather and pierceth more hastily the ears of the hearers, so doth a little word of one syllable when it is not only spoken or thought, but privily meant in the deepness of spirit; the which is the height, for in ghostliness all is one, height and deepness, length and breadth. And rather it pierceth the ears of Almighty God than doth any long psalter unmindfully mumbled in the teeth. And herefore it is written, that short prayer pierceth heaven.” – The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 37

    “Short prayers pierce heaven.” – Well-said, Lisa!

  2. Well-referenced as always, Doug. What a good book, too. Brilliant. Thank you!

  3. I like the Orthodox “Jesus Prayer:” Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

    • Gylnn, have you read “The Pilgrim”?
      I’ve said this as a a spiritual practice and just as you, enjoyed it. Sometimes I will coordinate my breathing with the words (quite soothing). In that case, I might only say it as, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” As a meditative practice, this particular discipline has helped me (by God’s grace) to overcome obsessive thoughts, and resist specific areas of temptation, (though I didn’t do it for those reasons at the time).

  4. Becky Jackson

    The passage in Ephesians 4 that says we are to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds” led me to use a breath prayer: “Lord, renew my mind.”
    I prayed this because Paul didn’t explain how we are to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and yet that exhortation seemed very key to me.

    God answered this prayer in profound ways in my life and my cell-phone banner still reads, “Renew my mind.”

  5. I have found short, conversational prayers to be highly effective for me. God wants to be intimately involved in our lives and He came among us as a friend. Paul tells us to pray unceasingly, and talking to God throughout our days about how we think and feel always gets his attention.

    “Thank you Jesus” is a great way to start. Showing your gratitude for his saving sacrifice tells God how important He is to you. Tell him of your hopes and fears; then ask him for help in your life and in the lives of others.

    Keep it simple and personal. Then you can find true love, joy, purpose and peace.

  6. Sharon Herbster

    There was once when I prayed probably the most significant short prayer of my life. I received a phone call from a North Carolina Highway Patrol Officer on March 1, 1999, telling me that my daughter was involved in a serious auto accident and was “still alive”. When I hung up the phone, I prayed, “LORD; PLEASE LET HER LIVE!” To make a long story short; she did live and miraculously recovered from a severe head injury. I am convinced that it was that short prayer God heard that made all the difference in my daughter’s life. Five little words prayed from the depths of my soul; the desperate and ferent prayer of a mother for her child.

  7. Bobbie Hall

    By now, you probably know that my son Max was hit and run over by a SUV when he was two. I was not there when it happened…my husband was. He saw Max get hit and then run over. His cry when he saw this was…”Jesus…help him!”

    It was some months later that my husband came home from a prayer meeting. He told me that while he was praying…God told him that because he (My husband) had called out to Him (God) that He had restored his son back to us.

    I believe that prayer is conversation. Communication. Relationship.

  8. Sharon Herbster

    I can’t help but notice the similarities in the testimony from Bobbie Hall and my daughter’s accident. In both cases, I believe it was not the size of the prayer, but the intensity of the person praying it. Like the woman with the issue of blood who grabbed hold of the hem of Jesus’ garment as he passed by.

  9. warwickfuller

    My prayer life is built around these short prayers. My longer extended prayers are built off of these little prayers. They mirror each other in a way that i think shows the convesational side of my relationship with God.

    There are tons of storeis that i’m sure would show the effectiveness of the short prayer. But I think it has less to do with the length, but just the fact that prayer does occur. I’ve been asked if my reformed perspective keeps me from praying for certain things, or for things at certain times… but prayer is a sign of my honor to God and of my reliance on Him more than it is of me asking for things.

  10. Dan Masshardt

    You haven’t taken it far enough I think. Are words even always necessary for the one who knows our hearts?

    Rom. 8:26    “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. ”


    But to answer the pracitical question, I find that in a higher intensity of situation, my prayers get shorter. “Lord, help me.” “I need you”

    It seems to me that more than the words, the heart is crucial. And it seems that one posture of the heart that God honors is desparation.

    I want to be desperate for God.

  11. Short prayers can reveal our utter dependence on God our Savior. The depth and authenticity of our relationship has to do with the heart (not the words or appearances, per se), as Jesus said.

    Friends, thank you for revealing your thoughts, and relationship with God. This has been beautiful to read.