Help! (The Quintessential Pilgrim Prayer)

Pilgrim under a Roadside Cross, Mansilla de las Mulas, Spain

Pilgrim under a Roadside Cross,
Mansilla de las Mulas, Spain


“Help!”
Is there a pilgrim anywhere
who hasn’t uttered this prayer?

Pilgrims want help.
Physical help.
Emotional help.
Relational help.
Spiritual help.
Every kind of help imaginable.

Looking outward,
glancing inward,
hoping,
wondering,
we ask,
“Will help come?”

Pained minds,
shaken spirits,
broken hearts
question,
“Holy One, can You help?”
“Are You interested in helping?”
“Why aren’t You helping?”

We wait.
We wait longer.
We wait still longer.
If and
when we can,
we whisper,
“help”
again.

We bathe
our fears,
discouragements,
hurts,
powerlessness
in longings
for Your help,
O God.

There are times that
“Help…”
becomes our plea for mercy,
carried on every inhalation,
every exhalation–
sacred deliverance,
our heart’s deepest desire.

Sometimes
we are surprised
by the provision
that arrives
unexpectedly.
And we give thanks.

Sometimes
we are overwhelmed
by feelings of rejection.
We yield our expectations
to the confusion of despair.

Sometimes
we find courage to
wearily wait with “Help”
on our tired lips.

Will help come?
Where will help come from?
Might we become the help we need?
Has help arrived without being recognized?
Is help what is needed after all?
Can these questions
and others like them
direct us,
or will they mislead us?
It is hard to know.

Help!
A one-word prayer
inviting a pilgrimage
to the sacred center
of our experience
of The Help(er)
beyond us,
within us,
near us,
and far from us.

Will we travel
with “Help” as our companion?
Or, are we too afraid,
discouraged,
and disoriented
to find the strength
to go on?

What if
the “Help” we so want
also
wants our recognition?

What if
“Help”’s touch
sometimes
feels like contact
with another person?

What if
“Help”’s desire
involves our surrender
as well as our deliverance?

What if
Help embodies
both justice
and miracles?

What if
the “Help” we await
has been waiting
all our lives
and is still waiting
for us to
recognize
that the distances
that separate us
are illusions?

What if
“Help”
is something we need
and Something
that needs us
to change our understandings
of “it”?

From within our lives
we reach out for
“Help!”

Unaware,
we are invoking
Transformative Power
that is already acting,
but not predictably.

Weary pilgrim,
pray,
“Help.”
Then,
give up,
if you must.

Help
will be the ground
you will return to.
Perhaps you will be
reformed.

©Jill K H Geoffrion
Please do not copy any part of this poem without written permission.


Psalms 42:9-11 (NRSV)

I say to God, my rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?”
As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.


Mini-pilgrimage

Begin by asking yourself, “How have my understandings of God, My Helper, been changing in the last year? Don’t be satisfied with a simple answer. Think and pray deeply.

When you have the clarity you desire, consider the New Testament Scripture found in Hebrews 4:15-16 (NRSV):

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Finally, write out a prayer that begins, “Help…”