One morning, when I was a young child, I was sitting in the kitchen, watching my mother prepare breakfast. Unexpectedly, the grease in the skillet in which she was frying bacon caught fire. Flames shot into the air and my mother ran to the pantry for some baking soda to throw on the blaze.
“Help!” I shouted. And then I added, “Oh, I wish it was time to pray!” “It’s time to pray” must have been a frequent household expression, and I took it quite literally to mean we could pray only at certain times.
The time to pray, of course, is any time—especially when we’re in crisis. Fear, worry, anxiety, and care are the most common occasions for prayer. It is when we are desolate, forsaken, and stripped of every human resource that we naturally resort to prayer. We cry out with the words of David, “Help me, O Lord!” (Ps. 70:1).
John Cassian, a 5th-century Christian, wrote of this verse: “This is the terrified cry of someone who sees the snares of the enemy, the cry of someone besieged day and night and exclaiming that he cannot escape unless his Protector comes to the rescue.”
May this be our simple prayer in every crisis and all day long: “Help, Lord!”