Asking for Help
A woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto [Jesus], saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord … my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” – Matthew 15:22 (KJV)
Mental illness is coming out of hiding. A parent openly asks for prayer requests for their twelve-year-old daughter who “got a bed finally in the children’s psychiatric hospital.” In the old days, some euphemism would have been used. As with teen pregnancies, the child would have been sent away and then quietly allowed back into the community, after visiting her “grandmother” or “aunt.”
Matthew records the woman from Canaan, “out of the same coasts,” as being free enough of stigma to ask Jesus for help with her daughter, “grievously vexed with a devil.” The language is different, as is our medical understanding, but the openness is shared. The father who asked for prayer for his daughter could have been from the same coast as the woman from Canaan.
When we prepare to ask for help, often the first prayer is, “Please let me be strong enough to ask for help.” Then the next prayer is, “Free me from shame for asking for help.” Next, we ask for help. We might be surprised if the congregation, the community and God come through and give help. They might not, of course; way too many go by neglected. Still, asking for help is the first step to getting it.
Help us, O God, to ask for help, to tell the truth and to come right up to you and say, “We join those who come from the coasts.” Amen.
Donna Schaper is Pastor at the Orient Congregational Church on the far end of Long Island, New York. Her newest book is Remove the Pews: Spiritual Possibilities for Sacred Spaces, from The Pilgrim Press.